CES 2012 - the goods
My attendance at this year's show was completely unplanned and my time short so didn't have the opportunity to dig too deep. The #1 thing I was interested in this year was the Glasses-Free 3DTV's. If it isn't already evident, I'm a huge proponent for stereoscopic 3D and the large role I see it playing in the future of media consumption. While wearing glasses doesn't bother me at all, I completely sympathize with the overwhelming majority of viewers who would rather not have to put on goofy glasses in order to watch tv. That said, autostereoscopic displays - those that utilize a 3D effect without the use of glasses - is the next evolution of the technology and will hopefully make 3D content consumption more appealing to a wider audience.
I did a quick walk-through the whole space from north to south, stopping only at the booths I knew would have the product I came to see - Toshiba, Sony, Microsoft, Intel, Canon, Samsung, Panasonic, and a few others.
From what I saw, the themes this year are - giant LED tv's that are getting thinner and lighter, 4K displays and projection, internet enabled / voice and motion controlled "smart tv's", and 3D in every conceivable flavor.
I had blogged a bit earlier about a 55" Glasses-Free 3DTV from Toshiba that looked very promising. The first thing I did was find this TV and yes indeed, it is very promising. I saw a handful of new glasses-free TV's from various manufacturers and on a whole, this technology is light years beyond what was shown even 9 months ago at NAB. It's not perfect yet but definitely on the right track and probably about a year away from really being ready for a strong entry into the market.
(Please excuse the crummy iPhone pics)
Of any company at the show, Toshiba put the most empahsis on 3D; especailly Glasses-Free, with several TV's and laptops on display.
Here's the aforementioned 55" Autostereo 4K TV showing Coraline in 1080p.
So here's what I think - the technology isn't quite there yet but well on its way. The images actually look very dimensional and the cross talk is minimal. It's a very pleasing, very convincing effect but there's room for improvement. There are supposedly 9 comfortable viewing angles in which the 3D can be fused (if you're off-angle, the picture looks like a normal 3D image with your glasses off). However to really the get the best effect, you need to be right on top of it or to the immediate right or left. The viewing angle, while an enormous improvement over what I saw last year, is still pretty unforgiving.
Toshiba even put footprints indicating the best place to stand for the full effect.
These TV's were actually quite comfortable to look at. For autostereo - the bigger the better. The 3D Gameboy thing gives me a headache as did all the tablets and laptops I saw at the show. A big display, being on axis, and a comfortable distance from the screen are key to having a good viewer experience. The problem is still that the lenticular filtration that makes this possible gives itself away very easily. It's a significant improvement with the Toshiba TV but there is still some work to do. On a big screen seen from far away, it's barely noticeable. On a small screen seen up close, you can really see the filters and it's both distracting and unattractive. On a whole, I don't think this technology is quite ready for market. Though perhaps this time next year, it may be ready for roll out.
Toshiba Glasses-Free 3D 15" Laptop (not so easy on the eyes)
Some more info on the 55" 4K Glasses-Free 3D Display:
Sony had some very interesting stuff on display, most noticeably this -
Personal Stereoscopic Headsets. I knew this was on its way.. It's just such an obvious application for the the medium. These headsets are comfortable to wear, comfortable to view, and are the equivalent of a 150" 3D home theatre screen. While primarily intended for gaming use, the applications of this technology are limitless - augmented reality being one of the first that comes to mind.
Sony had a few Glasses-Free 3DTV's as well, both a 46" and 24". About the same as the Toshiba really though like I said, the bigger the better and the small Sony TV really hurt your eyes after awhile.
A company called TCL (The Creative Life) who I had never heard of had some interesting wares on display - a very nice 37" Autostereo TV, Holographic TV concept, and a truly odd application of circular polarization - A Dual Display TV where 2 people sitting side by side can watch totally different content at the same time on the same tv. So you and your significant other can snuggle up together on the couch with your glasses and headphones and watch totally different shows while enjoying quality time together.. Interesting. I'll leave it at that.
This TV from TCL actually had the most pronounced depth of any that I saw. It seems that because of the way lenticular displays work, a stereo window where the depth is mostly behind the screen plane, seems to be more gentle on the eyes and easier for the brain to fuse. I think the content playing on a lot of these screens had the convergence adjusted so that the stereo window was more prounounced. Not this one though, the stuff they were showing was very strong in the negative stereo space and the effect, though not entirely comfortable, was interesting to see on a glasses-free display.
Dual Display TV - for those who just can't settle on what to watch. It uses the exact same polarization technique that 3DTV's use only instead of one wavelength corresponding to one eye, it sends it to both. Consequently you can view two completely different things on the same screen.
Holographic TV - this was just a concept but interesting nonetheless. Don't know much about how holographic technology works but to see fully dimensional objects on different planes was fascinating.
With everyone trying to catch up to 4K, why not think a few years down the road to 8K?
Here you go - 8K LCD TV
Last year at NAB, NHK (Japan's national broadcaster) was showing a 8K UHDTV (Ultra HD) concept camera. Resolution like that is obviously best appreciated natively so Sharp came up with this concept display in which all 7690x4230 of the camera's pixels are displayed one-to-one. It may sound cliche but words can't really describe this kind of resolution in motion pictures. This display could very easily be a window for the viewer to peer into a totally life-like video respresentation of the real world.
ACTIVE VS. PASSIVE 3DTV:
As for the Active Shutter vs. Passive Display war - the market is cleanly divided into two camps with LG being the biggest proponent of passive technology. All of their new TV's are passive 3D and in my opnion, look so much better than any Sony or Panasonic Active Shutter TV. At their booth they handed out passive glasses and you could just freely walk around, checking out all of their TV's, including an 84" OLED, without having to put your face in active glasses mounted to the floor. It's just better.
Canon C300 -
I got to play around with this a little and it's a very nice camera. Being a colorist, I can't get beyond the 8 bit color but other than that, I think this camera is a winner. It has some very nice functionality and the image is fantastic. The coolest thing I saw at Canon wasn't on display but rather a video they presented showing an iPad interfacing with the C300 and EF lenses. With this app, you have total remote control over focus, iris, and all the menus and fucntionality of the camera. That is just awesome.
And JVC's handheld 4K camcorder aka "Falconbrid". I saw the prototype last year at NAB and 9 months later, it looks very close to roll out.
It's the real deal - a 4K camcorder. Having resolution like this is great, but the emphasis really should be on a large, quality imager and strong codec which I don't think you'll find in this camera. For the money, the 4K camera to beat is definitely the Scarlet but for ENG applications, this little cam could find its market. Who knows, maybe lens adapters will make a comeback ;)
That's all I've got. Very exicting stuff but what I was able to get to obviously only scratched the surface. It seems like there has been such an explosion of new wares in the past 9 months that I'm starting to think that this year's NAB could be a little sleepy. It seems like most of the major players have already released their flagship products that will carry them through the next few years. Who know though.. Just have to wait and see.