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CES Day Two: AfterShokz, Yale Locks, DTS, 4K Blu-Ray, and More

I hit the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall first. This used to be home to many of the audio exhibits but now houses lots of computer, phone, tablet and other accessories. One great thing they have started doing is trying to do a better job organizing the show floor into sections. For instance, the South Hall has areas for Connected Home, Digital Health, Electronic Gaming, Lifestyle, Wireless Devices, etc.

Day two of CES 2013 began with a breakfast meeting with high-end headphone and portable audio guru HiFiMAN. However, I believe that my colleague, Dennis Burger, is going to cover this so I’ll leave it to Dennis to give you all of the details on that event.

I hit the Las Vegas Convention Center’s South Hall first. This used to be home to many of the audio exhibits but now houses lots of computer, phone, tablet and other accessories. One great thing they have started doing is trying to do a better job organizing the show floor into sections. For instance, the South Hall has areas for Connected Home, Digital Health, Electronic Gaming, Lifestyle, Wireless Devices, etc.

I started my wandering South Hall travail and quickly ran into OmniMount, where their always awesome PR maven, Betsey Banker, gave me a great tour through the booth. OmniMount is making a big push in the JustStand, standing desk movement – I recently received one at my own work, and hope to provide a review later – and they showed several models featuring Ergotron’s patented Constant Force Technology, which allows for easy, one-handed adjustment. (To promote standing, Betsey was giving out whoopee cushions!) Also a new ultra-low profile traditional articulating arm mount that tucks back very close to the wall when not extended.

From OmniMount I headed over to AfterShokz, manufacturer of headphones that utilize bone conduction to produce sound.

I’m familiar with this technology because A) my cousin on SEAL Team 7 has described using it on ops and B) I received a pair last year at CES. The phones don’t go over your ears but rather rest on the bone just in front of the ear, so you can hear outside sounds and even carry on a conversation while music is playing. This new model is infinitely cooler because it is Spec Ops black and not neon orange, and it features improved sound quality and an in-line mic to be used with a cell phone. I use my AfterShokz all the time while out walking or bike riding so I can enjoy music and still hear what is going on around me.

I took a quick walk through the gaming area just because my soul is not completely dead. I saw this booth from Stern Electronics featuring pinball machines designed for the home market. I have always wanted a pinball machine, and these are nearly half the weight and half the price of commercial models but include all the fun. Tell me you wouldn’t want an Avengers or Transformers pinball machine!

Yale Locks was demonstrating in the Z-Wave Alliance booth and I got a nice demo of their different smart locks. This seems to be a product category that is gaining a lot of traction and it was nice to see so many different options including some with capacitive touch and a new model expected to come in Q3/Q4 featuring NFC.

The Yale NFC locks will feature an app that will keep track of multiple lock “keys” allowing users to simply touch multiple locks with the same phone for quick entry. Very cool!

Then, a crowd of people attracted me to the MakerBot booth, where I saw the future! The Replicator 2 is a desktop 3D printer designed for prosumer 3D printing that creates 3D models out of PLA Filament. A wall of Replicators were churning out miniature statues at the rate of one per three hours per machine. Watching the robot arm scan back and forth slowly building/creating the statue was mesmerizing, and reminded me of how I used to stand and stare at a dot matrix printer. I’m not sure what I’d even use this thing for but it was so cool just to watch it work. Enjoy the video here:

From there I headed into the Central Hall, home of the Video Giants. My first stop was to swing by the DISH booth and inquire about the new Hopper With Sling. Actually, my question was whether my existing Hopper system could perform the awesome new transfer videos to iPad feature. Sadly – but expectedly – the answer was “no.” The new Hopper With Sling includes the built-in chip which renders video for mobile viewing, and this isn’t able to be added to the gen 1 Hopper. So, anyone wanna buy a slightly used, well-cared-for Hopper system…?

DTS was just down the way from DISH and my purpose for visiting them was two-fold. Mission one: get the new DTS demo Blu-ray. (Accomplished! Features several awesome demo tracks including “Dredd’ which is Neo:X optimized in 11.1 audio!) Mission two: check out the Headphone:X demo. DTS new technology is designed to deliver a fully-immersive, 11-channel surround experience using any set of headphones.

In fact the phones used in the demo were sub $100 models. According to Geir Skaaden, DTS senior vice president of products and platforms, “Imagine having the ability to experience the latest action film in any movie theater you choose. Now, imagine taking that experience with you anywhere, anytime.” The demo was incredibly convincing, delivering one of the best surround headphone demos I’ve ever experienced. In fact multiple people in the demo (raises hand) actually took their headphones off, not believing that the sound we were hearing was coming strictly from the phones and not from external speakers! Hopefully this technology will make its way into products soon. Here’s a video describing the tech: 

After I left DTS I walked for a bit and saw somebody doing card tricks. I enjoy some close-up magic so I ventured over and what do you know? I stumbled right next to illusionist David Blain!

He did several card tricks and he is exactly like you see him on TV. “I’m gonna see if I can try something here…” He tore up several cards and had them reappear crumpled in people’s hands. No levitating this time….

The folks at IOGEAR demonstrated a cool Bluetooth desktop docking station, but the thing that really caught my eye was a new wireless 5×2 HDMI matrix. This lets you easily set-up and install a simple two room HDMI distribution system, with the primary zone fed a direct HDMI cable feed from the matrix and the sub-zone being feed wirelessly. (They claim a range up to 100-feet.) The system handles HDMI 1.4 including 3D and will sell for $399.

The Video Giants—LG, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sony, Sharp, Samsung—have booths that are more like fortresses at CES, so I figured I might as well tackle a couple of them today. LG seemed to be everywhere I turned so I grabbed a set of passive 3D glasses and headed through the MEGA video display wall, a massive 20 x 7 grid featuring 122, 55-inch LED TVs showing an overwhelmingly huge 3D image. The sets has a bezel-to-bezel measurement of just 5.3mm making for an incredibly immersive and overwhelming display.

Inside the booth the story was OLED and UltraHD with multiple areas set up to display both technologies.

LG was displaying the world’s first OLED with a curved display, which I’m not entirely certain I understand the purpose of. With a large front projector, a curved screen improves geometry by eliminating pincushion, and offers more brightness. But in a 55-inch direct view, I think that it would just make for a more narrow viewing environment… So, make of it what you will, but LG has the world’s first one… I also watched the 84-inch UltraHD 4K set for a bit, which was showing some 3D video, and the images were stunning. The set delivered some of the most convincing 3D that I’ve seen, with incredible depth and detail and color. And

since it was passive, it was also very easy on the eyes.

Obviously a glutton for punishment, I wandered around for a bit and then headed over to Sony. I was semi-familiar with the layout of the Sony booth from the press event on Sunday night—what feels like weeks ago already. One of the things that really captured my eye from last year’s CES was the Crystal TV; a prototype true LED display that produced a stunning picture with incredibly deep blacks. Unfortunately Crystal didn’t make the show this year. I did notice this new logo presumably coming on future discs:

The logo says “Mastered in 4K Blu-Ray” and it describes it as, “Get the greatest possible 1080p High Definition picture quality. Using 4K masters with expanded color, selected Blu-ray Discs from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have been optimized for upscaling on Sony 4K TV for 3,840 x 2,160 pixels for a near 4K experience.” Unfortunately, I think this will probably mislead the general public into thinking that they are buying a true 4K product…

Sony made a big deal of the new Xperia Z phone at the press event, so I thought I’d check it out. And…damn! That thing is way cool! It is based on Windows 8, but the camera on the phone is totally amazing. Compared to pictures that my iPhone5 takes, the Xperia Z looks like it’s a medium format Hasselblad! Even in low-light, the Xperia Z takes amazing pictures, and will definitely be a great selling feature of the phone.

John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.