CES 2006: Chief Gadgeteer’s CES Day 1 Report

Wow, yet another huge Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas – 2,500 exhibitors, 130,000 attendees, 1.5 million net square feet of exhibit space and 4,500 of us media types. Day 1 was hectic and we were left wondering why this monster isn’t more like a week long instead of just 4 days. Notable things today included CNET’s Next Big Thing announcement, a panel sponsored by Popular Science on where certain technologies were headed, some cool gadgets at the “CES Innovations Design & Engineering Showcase Honors” along with a few other interesting gadgets and gizmos along the way.

CNET’s Next Big Thing

Every year at CES, CNET hosts a conference where they announce what they think the next big technologies will be for the upcoming year. The also polled the audience as to their thoughts on the subjects. This year, they nominated Mobile Content, the Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD Format Battle, and Home Entertainment Networking as the 3 noteworthy technologies. First up, Mobile Content. They felt this encompassed any content, audio/video/games, that was stored or played on a portable device. For example, devices like MP3 players, cell phones and portable games (ex: PSP, Nintendo DS) fall into this category. The audience thought that television was the content-type that would be the most popular on these types of devices. Think Verizon V-cast and Sling boxes.

On the subject of Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD, the consensus among both the audience and the CNET panel was that the battle for format dominance was likely to delay the mass adoption of any one standard. Of course, either option would be a significant improvement over the current DVD format. With either, you would get High Definition capable movies, much larger storage. On the other hand, consumers would need to purchase new DVD players and possibly new content.

Last in the CNET list, Home Entertainment Networking considered technologies and devices that consumers could use to integrate and control their digital media, both audio and video, throughout their homes. The panel mainly looked at PCs running Windows’ Media Center edition versus other networked devices like TiVo’s and DVRs and networkable DVD players. I felt that they failed to exclude the aforementioned Sling box. One of the members of the panel was a user who (like the majority of the audience) felt that current technology was such that there were too many different ‘standards’ that didn’t integrate along with existing devices being too difficult to set up and use. Of course, this is just an interesting challenge to me!

Popular Science Panel

The panel sponsored by Popular Science was a bit dry, as some of the panelists (all representing companies) delved a bit too deep into their own product lines instead of discussing the technologies themselves. However, some interesting points were made. One panelist felt that wireless devices will just “work” in about 10 years. By this, he meant that there won’t the need as there is today for prior knowledge and set up time, but will be more plug-n-play as there is with USB devices today. Another subject covered was that of batteries and power. Currently, the popular battery choice for portable devices is Lithium Ion, and they peak around 600 to 700W of power. The company represented on the panel said they were working on a 2500W Lithium Ion battery that would come in under 2lbs, and have charge/discharge lifecycles in the thousands, rather than 400-500 times. The last interesting note was that of Solar power being captured by a thread like material that could be potentially woven into clothing and other wearable items. While currently still in the lab, it is forseeable that this could become available within 10 years or possibly less depending on demand and the money thrown at the problem.