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CES 2014: wearable cameras, connected everything

A number of interesting cameras debuted at CES. Among them: Liquid Image showed off a $200 wearable mini-cam (the Ego LS, pictured) capable of streaming video live over the 4G LTE network. It's light enough to be worn on the body for action sports or reportage.

The Ego LS will work with a $200 4G network module with carrier Verizon in the US from June and possibly Vodafone in the UK later. Video can be recorded in HD at 30 frames a second or transmitted over 4G in the lower resolution format WQVGA. The streams can pass through a cloud service direct to a website or out to social network sites.

Panasonic also sported a wearable camera, this one capable of 4K, and confirmed that its high-end 4K Varicam would be shipping from NAB. Panasonic further said it was developing a digital single lens mirror-less camera compatible with 4K video.

Sony debuted a $2,000 4K Handycam for pro-sumers to help stockpile 4K content. Company CEO Kazuo Hiari talked in vague terms of an advanced stills camera in development comprising an array of image sensors to provides focusable post-capture metadata. Background, foreground, focus, depth of field and logorithmic data are some of the elements users will able to manipulate after the image has been captured.

Arguably the most intriguing camera came from chip-maker turned gadget developer Intel. Its RealSense 3D HD camera is described as “the world’s first integrated 3D depth and 2D camera module that helps devices ‘see’ depth much like the human eye.” It has the ability to detect finger level movements enabling accurate gesture recognition as well as facial features for understanding movement and emotions.

It's also tiny so it can be built into devices like smartphones and ultrabooks – from vendors including Acer, Dell and Fujitsu.

Tablets and smartphones are the largest consumer electronics product categories and there are now moves to link them up with other screens and connected devices in and out of home. Samsung, for example, launched the Smart Home platform to enable users to control and manage devices from refrigerators to smart TVs and digital cameras through a single application. Sony debuted a cloud-based network intended to give access to unspecified live and VOD content across Sony gear from Xperia phones to PS4s (in the US only so far).

As with all attempts to create a single platform unifying devices, the stumbling block is connecting kit from different manufacturers. Very few households come equipped as a purely Sony, Samsung or Apple zone. That's why Technicolor has devised Qeo, an attempt to get all manner of equipment from all manner of vendors to talk with each other.

Among the most intriguing developments in this area is a Multi-Link Screen feature which Samsung is introducing to its 2014 TVs. It enables viewers to view a split screen or a quad screen for checking the internet via web browser while still watching live TV and having an app store or EPG up. Bare in mind we are talking screen sizes in excess of 50-inches so the display real-estate is large enough. The screens also need to be UHD and be powered by a quad core processor but this has the potential for the creation of contextually aware social apps, for example, by automatically providing related information during broadcasts. The split screen can also stream YouTube so viewers could be served relevant video clips side by side with the on-air programme. The advertising or second screen content creation opportunities are huge although Samsung says it has no plans to release an SDK.

Connecting your tablet to your fridge so a digital shopping list can be updated when you run out of milk may not be everybody's cup of tea but it does seem inevitable. Indeed, if we believe Cisco chief John Chambers we'll soon be connecting not just homes but whole cities and then countries. If we do that, he declared in a keynote address, then the world economy could benefit to the tune of $19 trillion in a decade.

"The internet of things will be 5-10 times more impactful in one decade than the whole of the internet has been to date. 2014 will be transformational point for the internet of everything,” he said.

Posted 09 January 2014 by Adrian Pennington

CES 2014: from 4k to bendable TVs

If you believe Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, then streaming 4K to the home couldn't be easier.

“You can 4K stream over WiFi if you want to,” he said of the VOD provider's forthcoming service which will require just 15Mbps of in home bandwidth. “This is very practical,” he added.

Hastings appeared at the Consumer Electronics Show at the press conferences of both LG and Sony trumpeting their respective new Ultra HD TV line-up and the ability for customers to watch House of Cards 2 or a remastered Breaking Bad in 4K.

The ease of getting 4K over the internet has other net giants like YouTube, Amazon and Microsoft Xbox in the box seat for the launch of services. Cable companies are also salivating at the prospect.

“We like applications that take a lot of bandwidth,” said Tony Werner, CTO, Comcast. “We have the capability to do it. We think it’s highly manageable all the way through. What's more important is getting the content cycle to start.”

Broadcasters are notable by their absence at this year's CES. Few if any have been rolled out to talk about new 4K ventures.

According to Tom Cosgrove, CEO of Discovery, IMAX and Sony linear channel 3Net, though, broadcasters aren't far behind.

“You will see non-traditional platforms take a bit of a lead but in a couple of years there will be a fair amount of content available on all the sources we have today,” he said. “Things will even out. It's really a matter of how far and how fast prices of UHD sets to the home can reduce.

Among the 20,000+ new product launches at this gargantuan tech fest are inevitably some which are just flying a kite for business. Curved, transparent and flexible screens for example are exhibited mainly just to show what is possible.

Samsung, for example, is touting the world’s largest curved UHD television, with a 105-inch screen and cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio – just because it can. It also showed a Bendable TV concept which can switch between a curved and flat screen at the touch of a button. Apparently this curve makes the viewing experience more cinematic.

Panasonic is featuring a massive OLED video wall with both concave and convex panels. “This is a business solution unless you are the head of a hedge fund,” quipped Joe Taylor, chairman and ceo.

It's not just TV screens that are getting bendy either. Samsung's G-Flex mobile phone is designed to curve around the user's ear piece for better audio.

This year CES is also about wearables, a new product category which the Consumer Electronics Association predicts is set to explode. In part this is due to the rising installed base of smartphones and tablets which provide the hub displays for connected services and wearables like health and fitness wrist-worn sensors.

Around 1.5 million smart watches will sell globally in 2014. “This is a very nascent market which is still looking for a killer app,” observed Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the CEA.

Other items of note: Sharp is exhibiting an 8K glasses-free 3D screen using Dolby's autostereo technology. The output resolution is 4K.

Posted 08 January 2014 by Adrian Pennington
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