2012 International CES Musings – Day 1
There! That’s the official name for the show that the press office requests that we use. From now on, here, because I say so, It’s CES or 2012 CES.
Tuesday was my day to fly into Las Vegas (most crowded flights in my memory) so I didn’t really hit the show floor until about 3 PM. I just did a quick run through the upper floor of the South hall because it was convenient. There isn’t much in this area that directly involves audio, but I’ve learned to keep my eyes open for things that are potentially useful tools or gadgets for someone working in audio. Here are a couple of things that caught my eye.
One of the more common web searches for audio techs and studio gear users is for a manual for a device long out of production. A number of pieces of classic gear like Neve channel modules and Teletronix limiters have been scanned and posted by helpful people, but there’s always something you want that you can’t find, or something that you have that you’d be willing to share if only you had a better way to scan it than page by page with a flat bed scanner. When I go to industrial computer shows, I love watching those automatic book scanners but they’re big and expensive.
One side effect of the eBook revolution is that once people find a way to scan books in their own collection, there will be a lot more free copyright violations on the web. To fill this nich, there’s the ImPress, the (so they claim) world’s first personal automatic book scanner. It’s a v-shaped stand with an automatic page turner, image scanner, light source, and imaging processing software to save in PDF or ePub format. That’s the good news. The bad news is the guy who showed it to me, when I expressed an interest in scanning manuals for 50 year old gear, admitted that it may not be gentle enough to handle old, dried-out or dog-eared pages. The other bad news is that they only had a non-working prototype at the show so I couldn’t see it in action. But it’s coming along. Nothing on the HoverCam web site yet but check back there now and then if you’re interested.
More and more studio and performance applications are coming along for the iPad and iPhone. Ever drop one? iBallz has a clever protection scheme that consists of four rubber-like balls, slotted to fit the corners of an iPad. A cord strung through the balls holds it all together and in place. It protects the iPad or similarly sized tablet devices from drops on a corner, face, or back. It looks a little silly, but it might save the show.
I have a bit of a personal interest in an “Internet radio,” something that I can keep in the garage or other places in the house where there isn’t normally a computer, just to listen to streaming radio programs that I like, just like terrestrial (real) radio. When you think about it, this is really a pretty complex process, and the products on the market today (Livio is one of the bigger makers) geneally make the user experience more friendly by tying in with an aggregator so you can search one source for the programming you’re looking for. That’s OK for some, but I just wanted to be able to enter a URL for a stream and get it to play, just like I do with a computer, only without the computer. This has been either very complicated or impossible with all of the few that I’ve played with.
I had a nice chat with a gentleman from Pure who had never tried what I wanted to do, but we gave it a try. It actually worked, but it involved going to the station’s web site, obtaining the streaming URL by playing the stream in Media Player, pasting that URL into the “Add a station” part of their companion comuter program, and then updating the station list in the radio. So as far as I’m concerned, we’re not there yet. One of Pure’s models has a pretty graphical user interface (the guts are there, it’s the user interface that isn’t, yet), so it might not be too far off course to build a basic Internet browser on it. Maybe next year.
On the way out here, I read a short piece in the United Airlines in-flight magazine about the Lytro Light Field camera and image processing technology. It’s too complicated to try to explain here, but there’s some good info in the blog portion of the company’s web site. Its coolest feature is that you can take a shot and after capturing the “light field,” focus on selected parts of the image. In a sense, it makes auto-focus obsolete. As a camera, it’s probably oriented to the point-and-shoot users, but as a technology, it might have some interestig applications. I was chatting with a friend who was musing that it might be useful for web page photos. His example was to demonstrate different mic positions or different mics on the same source, you could focus in on the mic while hearing its output. (I’ll bet you never thought I’d get around to talking about anything audio here) Unortunately, the company wasn’t exhibiting at the show. They were having an off-site demo at a party to which I wasn’t invited (and when I checked, it was sold out anyway) so I don’t have anything to report live. But check the web site. There are some neat interactive examples there.
Finally, a real audio product, the Zagg Audio Acoustic series headphones. The schtick is that the housing, instead of being made of metal or plastic, is made of wood, exotic and audiophile woods at that. Their contention is that since acoustic music sounds good in a wood room, the’re putting the wood room right in the headphone, and the wood resonances will enhance the sound. To me, they sounded like another colored headphone, but the’re really pretty.
The usual first day show stats are in, and as expected, they’re pretty upbeat. A record number of exhibitors, more than 3100 companies showing over 20,000 products in 1.85 million square feet of exhibit space (up by 200,000 from last year). Obviously consumer electronics is alive and well.