CES 2014

The Consumer Electronics Show 2014
CES is a mind blowing collection of everything from ordinary everyday things to incredibly awesome objects, but also from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Although many others will report on what the industries are putting forward to entice consumers, my approach is more from the consumer's perspective and looking for things that are valuable and improve the user experience. Also obviously looking for technologies, products, services or ecosystems that let the consumer drive change a bit (or radically!) by just intuitively seeing the value and changing the way they do things a bit. I am especially interested in bringing to the surface anything that has the potential to produce technology enabled, consumer driven change.
At CES this year I was specifically researching the emerging areas of Personal Mobility - APPcessories, Wearable Technology, Smart (AR) Glasses, mHealth/Fitness, Augmented Reality, Personal Cloud, 3D printing and the consumer mobility end of Infotainment and Transmedia propositions. So my mission was simply to find innovative stuff and update myself on the art of the possible in these sectors and possibly discover some new emerging market sectors of interest. I also attended two Press only evening events, Showstoppers and Pepcom (Digital Experiences) on the 6th and 7th. There are always a lot of Innovative companies showing at these!

Thanks to Pete Wassell at Augmate and contributions from the companies who are the real veterans in head mounted displays, there was a very nice and informative showcase at the entrance to the Eureka Park in the Venetian. I have personally been monitoring this sector for 15 years so this was a bit of a nostalgic experience for me. I was involved in the very early days with Reflection Technology who broke early ground. Then Microvision launched their Nomad product which sported a Virtual Retinal Display and in cooperation with Metaio, sold this into the automobile industry as a repair mechanic's aid. If you think Google Glass is a breakthrough product you only have to look at what Vuzix (called Icuity then) and MicroOptical (myvu) launched in the late 1990's to see that this headworn display technology has been around for a while from these early innovators. The difference from then to now is that the belt or backpack worn PC that drove this is now completely headworn and in the case of the M100 from Vuzix, is a complete open platform Android OS device, so the Applications software can come from several sectors in parallel. So the Journey from HMD's of…
Keeping an eye on things around the home so that you can be somewhere else. And being able to watch, listen and talk back is being more important now to our "virtually There" lifestyles. A very nice and versatile device to keep an eye on your home, inside and out, regardless of the conditions. Unfazed by tough weather, Canary Flex is designed to withstand rain, snow, heat, or cold. Canary Flex keeps a record or let’s you Watch Live what’s happening inside and outside of your home, whether it’s catching a burglar approaching your front door, seeing special moments of your children, or witnessing your pet getting into mischief. Alerts, real time video, and two way conversation with whoever is at your door, or anywhere around the house, inside or out. Easy to deploy and connect. Also an optional casing for use away from home with long battery life and connectivity via cellular. Great for keeping an eye on your boat, vacation home, etc.
Google was not really showing anything at CES 2014, but there were plenty of people wearing Glass! Glass got mixed reviews when I asked some of them their opinion and what they were using it for at CES. Most were not really using, just wearing! One young girl told me she was doing a study for University on reactions from the public about people wearing Google Glass in public! Another at a bus stop proudly wearing, but intensely working using his Smartphone. Thank you Google for kicking off the awareness campaign, but the good news is there are both ready to deploy products and amazing new technologies to fuel a value driven range of business opportunities. In some way I suspect Google welcomes all entries who can deliver this enabling technology as we all know that they just want to get closer to our eyeballs to support their real strategy.
One of the first commercially available of the Smart Glasses is from Vuzix who is specifically targeting the professional, industrial and prosumer sectors with this product. Also seen from Vuzix at Showstoppers and on the CES exhibition floor was their next generation lens technology which could be the beginning of consumer appropriate see-through Smart Glasses. These enabling technologies will only take hold if a large number of valuable industrial and eventually consumer applications become available. A wearable camera and near eye display coupled to context awareness enabling sensors, plus an open Android Applications platform able to store or connect to relevant information is a killer combination for enabling a wide range of valuable professional and industrial use cases. There is a ready market for this device. Desk-less, hands-free work environments are the killer sectors. Making this unobtrusive, fashionable and even undetectable is the key to wide spread consumer use, simply because the value propositions already exist and are a high value subset of what smartphones are taken out and used for now, but will extend well beyond that when the consumer friendly, wearable technology becomes available. Vuzix is breaking important new ground in both areas with their commercially available M100…
Panono is a throwable panoramic ball camera which captures everything in every direction for amazing 108 megapixel, 360° X 360° full-spherical panoramic images. It has an unprecedented 36 cameras that trigger simultaneously in the air to deliver images that capture every detail in every direction with a super-high resolution of 108 megapixels. 11cm in diameter and weighs 480 grams and connects over WiFi with iOS and Andriod Apps.The Panono Camera is available for preorder. 
Epson brought to CES 2014 their next generation product with several industrial and professional applications examples being shown by partners and software developers on their booth. Like Vuzix, their open OS for development is Android, so existing platforms and applications can be run directly with only slight modification. Their Smart Glasses do this via a separate tethered control box and battery, so not as totally self contained and wearable as the M100, but in the industrial applications they are addressing, this is probably acceptable. The important aspect to note is that in both the Vuzix and Epson cases, SDK and APIs that enable a standard Android OS are the core offering. Expect a proliferation of Apps to appear based on valuable use cases. Very encouraging again to see not just technology, but valuable applications such as medical, maintenance, gaming, etc. with fairly simple to use UI’s On show from this company.
LUMUS has been working on core display technology for some time now and year on year, seems to produce better, brighter displays and this year at CES didn’t disappoint. The display is rich in colour yet lens is reasonably see through. LUMUS is producing the lens technology and as far as I could tell, not yet a full packaged product with OS, SDK, sensors, applications, etc. They state that a one-eye solution is most viable and are targeting military and high end industrial manufacturers and VARS to produce the final product. Shown are their prototype implementation of the display technology, and monocular packaging. Probably not a product for broad applications for a while, but the display technology did catch my eye.
Very encouraging advances on show at CES 2014 from three further candidate Smart Glasses display technologies.   GlassUp – Projection on coated lens, currently Monochrome   Optinvent – Another approach to see-through lenses that has lots of promise.   Innovega iOptik – Uses special contact lenses to produce very wide FoV see-through experience and potential to address some near eye focus challenges.   As with Lumus, these are display technologies with potential, but not full featured applications development platforms like Google Glass, Vuzix M100 and Epson BT200.
Virtual Reality, 3D, head tracking and HD video are coming now in smaller packages which are much more wearable. Whether laying back just watching a movie or especially when jumping around  playing an action packed video game this is good news. The latest from Vuzix builds on many years of experience and delivers a comfortable large screen experience (stated by them as 55° FoV) and has head tracking, 720HD, 3D and compatibility with a large portfolio of games as with earlier models. Existing products (1200 series) available now, but the V720 coming in second half. I saw and tried the Avegant Glyph at the press only Pepcom event. Reasonably nice unit, comfortable and the screen experience was okay, but couldn't focus my left eye so couldn't get the binocular image together. They said this was a problem with the prototype, but can't give this high marks without seeing the optics working properly. At this point it appears to be video viewing eyewear and not a VR games platform. Didn't get a clear idea of availability and what their initial products will be, but definitely one to watch. They are having a Show 'n Tell session in London next month, so…
Those who feel a bit self conscious wearing a GoPro on their helmet or hat, especially when on the street, might be interested in glasses that have somewhat concealed cameras on board. These have been in the Spy Tech category in the past. But given that a high percentage of the demos by the Google folks of Glass and some of the emerging applications for Smart Glasses (such as real estate agents creating a house tour) seem to be mostly about video capture, it was interesting to see so many camera glasses at CES. Most of these have simple button controls and autonomously store quite a lot of video or still images to be downloaded via USB or SD card. Of note in this category of Smart Glasses are these four shown - Epiphany, XOEye, Orcam and Liquid Image plus one company who I couldn't find at CES, but reviewed recently - Nemesis (product SunnyCam). Each one has features that differentiate (e.g. Liquid Image for SCUBA divers!) but are fundamentally concealed cameras that you wear on your face.
Dry Case keeps your phone or camera dry to 100 feet by using vacuum sealed technology. Has facilities for headphones and mike jack and is crystal clear for taking photos. Comes with a bulb to pump out all the air and a buoyant armband as well to keep it afloat should you turn it loose while in the water. Dry Case has waterproof headphones and mike and several styles of waterproof and floating bags and backpacks. Some with strong suction cups on them to attach to you ski or surf board. Impressive stuff for extreme sports types. Or normal people too. As a rower/sculler on the Thames I can see the value of both the phone cases and the backpacks, not just for splashes, but the occasional capsize!  
As reported by the BBC the word "selfie" has been declared the most important new word of 2013 by the Oxford dictionaries. How relevant to have a product that is an APPcessory to your smartphone that is easy to carry, but extends your reach so you can take that all important "selfie" or to get your camera above the crowd. It even has a button by your finger to snap the picture with! it's from Looq Systems
olloclip lenses for iPhone were one of my favourites from last year at CES and they pleasantly surprised me this year when I saw them at Showstoppers with a whole range of new lenses and multi-lens combinations. The ones that most impressed me were the Macrolens combinations, 7X, 14x and 21X all in one package. Also a new telephoto plus polarizing filter combo and a 4-in-1 fisheye, Wideange and two Macro combinations. With a few of these in your pocket you can capture just about anything on an iPhone. The combination of the wide angle plus the new Pano capability in the iPhone camera App makes a powerful combination to capture 360° or panoramic scenes. Well done olloclip!
Since most of us can't get through the day on a single charge of our smartphones, we all seem to be carrying auxiliary batteries, which themselves have been getting smaller in size and bigger in the amount of power they punch. Problem is, carrying the long version of the USB cable that comes with the phone is that it takes up too much space on my person, so these key chain-sized cables are just the ticket. These two Caught My Eye at CES!
While strolling through the Gold Pavilion at CES I ran into this company called BarcodEye. They are writing Android Applications for the Vuzix M100 Smart glasses. This App simply takes to your line of sight the information associated with a barcode, QR code, etc. that the M100 camera picks up in your direction of glance. Simple, but very effective way to read barcodes by just looking at them. Many applications which require hands to be free to do other tasks will benefit from these types of applications plugins. Since the M100 runs Android these can be easily adapted from Smartphone Apps or written from scratch.
I have been a big fan of Scanadu for quite some time, following their progress and have pre-ordered a unit, but I was able to get an update from co-founder, Sam Lounis De Brouwer at their table at Pepcom. Very knowledgeable both from the technology and medical applications aspect. So often lacking in tech companies I see where they wax lyrical about the technology, but often don't understand the user value side of the equation.  This discussion with Scanadu has left me with a very warm feeling about the sector in general and the dominance of Scanadu within it. 
Looks like SanDisk is starting to think outside the dongle! This is effectively your Personal Cloud in your pocket. And can be shared across iOS, Android devices and to PC & MAC as well. On iOS this all works well over iCloud, but having web connectivity is a must. So the two things that caught my attention on this is that it could save you from buying the iOS devices with the biggest memory, you could get away with less (£$€) and that wide area connectivity is not needed to keep all your devices sync'd up. I see the value, but have lots of questions as to how seamless this is for the user. Only answered when the review unit I have been promised arrives. I will update....
CES did great job of laying out specific "Tech Zone" sectors for all the companies innovating with technology in emerging areas of consumer lifestyle to be grouped together so one could visit and see many products and products all together. This helped me with discovery of many types of eye-opening tech, but also showed how crowded some product categories were as well as helping to find gaps in what is available, or that the pieces are in place but for example, the ecosystem or end user value propositions are not.
So everyone reported on Wearables as the feature of CES 2014, but I just couldn't believe how little variety there was in the functionality and also noted how ugly they all were! this picture is of the showcase of an Asian manufacturer who manufactures a large number of the step counters and Smart Watches for brands that I saw and tried on their booths too. How many companies can survive, all marketing a single sensor device? Especially since Fitbit and Nike seem to have captured 2/3 of the sales so far. i was personally wearing four different step countersa CES and all of them were telling me that the eight miles a day I was averaging cruising the exhibition halls was making me healthy. Not taking into account other factors like what my body was actually telling me, not to mention what I was eating and drinking. The user experience, ease of use, and interpretation of what it all means is still lacking for the average consumer to get interested IMHO. So I am not going to list and review a lot of wearable devices. But a few did stand out as being innovative and better equipped to serve mankind…
As I said lots of devices - over a hundred that can be considered to be called products and almost all are step counters of some description (accelerometers). The focus on lifestyle, fitness and medical is important to note as these are the areas which have potential to have real value to consumers.
Well what about watches?I didn't have time to see all the watches! They are all trying to jam too much Tech into a package that looks ugly and is too big. Not to mention the problem of battery life. it took 15 years to see enough utility in the mobile phone to learn that it should be religiously charged every night.  Watch batteries last  four or five years. How can people get their hands around charging a watch every three to six days. when I see so much technology and features jam packed into something called a watch, it gives me nightmares of the past working with tech companies just putting in everything because they could. And they didn't exactly know what people would find useful, so didn't want to take chances! Seeing big companies like Qualcomm in the game though, and producing software platforms rather than science projects tells me that this is going to start coming good this year.  I have been wearing a Pebble watch for about three months and found it large, difficult to keep charged and buggy (e.g. Notifications seem to go in and out of operation). But lately now that there are third party…
There was a well produced and very entertaining fashion show at CES this year focused on wearable technology. Many things caught my eye, but the emphasis was much more on fashion than than utility and consumer technology for my liking. Of course all the clothing that sparkled and garments with screens built in so that they could be whatever they wanted to be fit the occasion very well and was entertaining.  Next year I would like to see business and lifestyle enhancing technology blending in or invisibly being worn on the catwalk with descriptions of super powers and augmentations that happen without it being glaringly obvious. And where were all the Smart Glasses? Well, I just don't think Smart Glasses are ready for the catwalk yet. Maybe next year? This is the year of industrial and professional applications for these. Small enough to wear, but still a bit too big to wear out.
The FIND by SenseGiz is a tag which can be used to prevent losing or misplacing objects like keys, bags, pets, phones etc. You can hook it or stick it to any item that you want to find immediately or do not want to lose. If you leave that item and start going away, your smartphone app will give off an alarm alerting you about the item left behind. The FIND comes with a phone protect mode as well, where the FIND in your bag or pocket starts beeping if you have misplaced your phone. Or you can use the app to FIND any item whenever you need it! The FIND app is supported on iOS and Android phones. So simple, yet so many uses.  Available soon for about $20. each.
Innovation, yes. And uncanily similar to some items I have seen in the first person shooter gaming world, but a bit frightening for my liking. Military snipers tool maybe, but a little uncomfortable about this being featured at CES! http://tracking-point.com/precision-rifle
The small (1" diameter) Ozobot 'robot' gaming pieces bridge the physical and virtual online world with robots that respond to what they see beneath them on the tablet screen or tabletop or both. Basically, they move themselves! An interesting new innovation that could bring tabletop social gaming back to life. Devices and Apps not available until later this year, but I will be looking forward to trying this one. The fun will come when lots of games and Apps appear. see video of basics here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xFjTXQ8uho  
Well, this caught my eye mostly because I saw it, examined it, and couldn't figure out what it was for until Nick Norton, the VP of Marketing explained and handed me a folio of info on the product and the whole topic of hair growth. Being slightly folically challenged myself, I took a closer look. Basically a helmet you put on, listen to music, possibly catch a few winks while your scalp gets showered with red light laser and LED sources which apparently stimulate hair growth.  Uses low-Level Light Therepy (LLLT), but takes 16 weeks to have significant effect. Not sure about this one, but it did Catch My Eye!

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