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BBC Blue Room at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012

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Lindsey Suter Lindsey Suter | 16:30 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

Large white tent by a road lined with palm trees.

CES: the calm before the crowds

2012: my first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I hop off the plane with ambition to reach as many of the 3100 gadget filled booths as possible, hard to do in a few days as there are over 20,000 new products alone. The place is epic, five ginormous halls spread over miles - ouch my feet hurt.

I'm information gathering for the @BBCBlueRoom - our consumer media technology lab - our 'micro CES'. We look at year-on-year trends to determine the impact of new consumer technology on the BBC and wider broadcasting industry.

It looks like a squat square red telescope, but is really a camera.

Lytro camera

Before we get to the hype let’s focus on a couple of new products and trends that are creeping up on us from the back door. The light field camera from Lytro being the first. This is the point and shoot, cube shaped camera that captures the entire light field, as opposed to just a single plane like most conventional cameras - snap first, decide what to focus on later. The results therefore give the photographer the option to change the story emphasis in post-production. Could this be the next big thing in cameras?

Voice and gesture was ubiquitous at CES and something we are going to see a lot more of in 2012. Products like the uWand remote from Philips, oddly termed the 'touch remote', yet with no elements of touch screen technology. Just point the remote and use gestures to control multiple devices from TV, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players.

SoftKinetic brings interesting developments in the world of 3D gesture control. Their depth sensing camera enables the user to control gaming, movies and TV with motion control and can be used on computers at close range – could this be a contender to the just recently launched Kinect for Windows?

Long horizontal black sensor strip, in a black frame, on a perspex stand.

LG Gesture Cam is another entry into the gesture controlled TV space

Video-sharing start-up Shelby.tv also ventured in to the world of gesture with their new mobile app Touch Play. The app, essentially a remote-controller for content on Apple's Airplay, uses various swipes and taps which enable the viewer to change channel, watch later, play and pause.

If eliminating the keyboard is what the world wants, then the world is going to be a happy place. Many of the major television manufacturers are introducing voice search, LG and Sony via the remote control, and Samsung enabling us to talk directly at the TV.

Will these emerging user interfaces transform how we interact with the digital world? Possibly, yes. But after getting hands-on at CES it’s clear that refinement is needed to prevent us reaching for the traditional remote once again. If it’s going to work it’s got to be responsive and intuitive.

In-car tech featured heavily at CES this year with some interesting innovations and concepts. Apps were everywhere, connecting phones with proprietary vehicle platforms. Ford Sync provides voice control and, when combined with a smartphone, it extends functionality giving the driver access to podcasts, social networks, and more.

Electronic car dashboard

Kia: Concept Car

Kia had a futuristic approach. Their beautifully designed User-Centred Driving concept car featured augmented reality ‘heads-up’ windscreen navigation, infra-red cameras to detect driver awareness, and near field communication for the ignition. If this does become more than a concept then it is certain to give other leading car manufacturers a kick up the boot.

TV showing leaves behind water droplets

LG OLED TV display

Size mattered big time in both product and resolution at CES this year. Sharp unveiled an 80" LED TV delicately poised on top of a tiny Smart car in order to emphasize scale. They also showcased their stunning 85" 8K LCD TV, 'Super Hi Vision' or full 7680 x 4320 resolution. That’s over 33 million pixels! Samsung and LG with equally vibrant and packed press launches, both unveiled ultra thin, super sharp picture displays with 55” OLED TV’s. Sony gave us a six million points of light sneak preview with their 55” Crystal display TV, with picture quality seeming even more vivid than OLED.

Is it time to raise the question; how real do we crave the images before us to be?

Finally, I would like to share with you a product of beauty and one which I make no apology for naming my personal favorite...drum roll and enter the iHome iP4 Boombox. With a nod back to the 1980's, this retro stereo comes stacked with woofers, audio tweeters and equalisers. There’s a dock for iPhone/Touch which through the iHome Radio app gives access to thousands of internet radio stations. Plus there’s an FM radio onboard, aux line-in jack and best of all is the colour...

Plastic moulded into the shape of a 1980s boombox.

iHome Boombox

Goodbye CES, until next time...

Lindsey Suter is a Technology Demonstrator.

You might be interested in the BBC Blue Room on Twitter and BBC News coverage of CES:

 

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