Field Notes from CES 2013

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The Consumer Electronics Show met expectations again this year, bringing to light relevant technologies from vendors both large and small. It went on record (again) as the largest show ever – covering 1.92 million square feet and drawing over 150,000 attendees. It’s actually hard to take in the show because of its scale and numbers, but I found that, if you weed through the 20,000 new products and technologies introduced, you’d find some gems, revealing a very interesting future for the electronics industry. The following points highlight those technologies I found to be most relevant to interactive media.

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Display Flexibility!

I’m not talking about how many things your TV or device can do for you, what I’m most excited about are the technologies introduced featuring displays that are literally bendable. We’ve grown accustomed to displays which are flat – both large (flat screen TVs) and small (every phone on the market). What we began to see at this year’s CES is a break in that trend. On the large side, we saw the curved OLED displays from LG and Samsung. The OLED display technology is inherently thin and flexible. How people choose to employ this will vary (wrapping displays around columns?), but the trend in big flexible displays is exciting to say the least. On the smaller end, we saw supporting technology for flexible displays from Corning (Willow Glass) which will offer the much needed protective features of Gorilla Glass while still supporting smaller displays.

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The Big Picture, But With Detail

Last year at CES we saw the first trickle of Ultra High Definition displays in the form of various prototypes and demos. This year we got our first look at the large displays which will be available on the market which support a native resolution of 3840×2160 pixels. While these displays were impressive, it left many attendees concerned about the lack of content available at this resolution. While this may not be ready for prime time (broadcast TV has some catching up to do) these displays will have an immediate impact on how we create and display interactive media. Today, we are already creating and driving many interactives at this resolution (or higher), we just haven’t had the tools to show them on one display until now. In the past, we have been forced to drive our high resolution interactives across four or more displays to achieve resolution and scale. Now, with the advent of the Ultra HD display, we will be able to attract people from a distance (with the scale) and deliver high resolution content (detailed images and small text) with one display. 3M even brought a demo of an 80” multitouch Ultra HD display in the form of an interactive table surface. Now that’s huge!

More Sensitive Devices?

We’ve been seeing various forms of depth sensing cameras and 3d sensors for several years now and this year’s CES confirmed that they’re not going away. This genre of sensors will soon become standard fare in all consumer devices, both big and small, resulting in more responsive interfaces and a new awareness of intuitive, gesture based inputs. Prime Sense, one of the industry leaders in this field, was noticeably missing from the exhibit floor, but if you ventured off the beaten path to the nearby Las Vegas Hilton, you were rewarded with a hands-on look at their newest, tiniest model yet: the “Capri.” Now we can see how this type of sensor will be finding its way into laptops, tablets and even smaller mobile devices. Leap Motion was also present but without a booth to show off their wares. It’s okay, we got our Leap Motion device in the lab now, and can’t wait to start playing with it.

—Matt Arnold, Lead Integration Engineer

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