What’s Old is New Again at CES 2016

There was much (OK, perhaps too much) to see and do at this year’s Consumer Electronics event in Las Vegas. On the display side, 4K content and new delivery standards (i.e. Ultra HD Premium) took center stage but one strikingly evident fact also remains. That is, the continuation of both auto-steroscopic and glasses based 3D displays plus a definite resurgence of projection technology, particularly short-throw and LED projectors was featured by some of the iconic CE brands in the space.

For starters, LG showed (yet again) a 3D display wall in the CES booth that relied on its passive polarizer glasses. This system delivered an impressive 3D image that accomplished no less than placing the viewer amidst floating objects in direct and peripheral view with a jolt of realism that bordered on an immersive CAVE experience. UHD played no small part in the delivery of this improvement, and was also at the center of a second 3D technology shown by StreamTV Networks, both in their CES press event and on the show floor.

Sony showed this LED projector that is powered by the track. Source: SechristAutostereo (no glasses) 3D (AS3D) was touted by StreamTV with the announcement that their UHD 60″ Ultra-D TV is in production. It came with a pitch delivered by CEO Mathu Rajan and company, with an optimism that could have been a throw-back to 2010 and the early days of HD 3D displays. Rajan announced a new development partnership with ODM manufacturer, Pegatron, while game guru Zach Lehman gave an impressive pitch on the benefits of 3D in the gaming space. This included the promise of a new AS3D desktop monitor for 2016 with details to be released later this year. Lehman also announced support for the popular Unity platform for AS3D delivery on the game developer side. CEO Rajan did inform me that he expects at least 1M 3D sets selling globally in 2016 with a lion’s share of that market being in China.

Speaking of China, its KDX brand was also on hand with a “Smart” AS3D technology using eye tracking and was shown in everything from TVs to smartphones. This is KDX’s 3rd generation lenticular (what it calls eye lens-shaped) lenses that include dynamic (adjustable) range and depth real-time. The company said its partners include both Philips, (who pioneered work in real-time 2D to 3D content conversion) and Dolby, so look for more details in the upcoming CES coverage from Meko.

The Sony press conference traditionally caps the exhausting official Press day activities that include a bus ride to the iconic CE maker’s long-time CES home in the Central Hall. Here, among all the emphasis on its “studio to consumer” delivery capabilities, Sony offered little guidance on how it will pull profitability out of its, now historic, losing streak in televisions. The company did present its short throw projector, previously shown at CES ’14 and ’15. This plus its prototype overhead LED projector mounted in track lighting were present in its prototype home arena.

LG, too, had its short show projector on display, the PF1000U that throws a 60-inch image at 4.3″ from the wall, and available now for $1,300. This along with a new line up of LED-based “LG Minibeam” line of battery-powered projectors, using a triple wireless (zero wire) connectivity solution according to the company. Other brands present in projection include Viewsonic, Panasonic, Asus, plus other mainline China brands.

LG projector PW line with WiFi and BT connectivity battery powered for a no wires effect in LED lit projection, Source: LG

Other examples of “by the wayside” technologies in revival came with a surprise appearance of Kodak in the popular Tech West hall on the south side of the mammoth convention center. The group was showing off its newest 8mm film camera and archival system, with headlines “Welcome to the Analog Renaissance.” The company boasts that its film solution offers unique technology that cannot be duplicated in digital. “There are some moments that digital just can’t deliver.” Kodak also said its analog technology is the best way to archive images with a proven shelf live that exceeds 100 years.

Crossly (others?) also reached back into the days gone by analog with technology including some compelling vinyl record players in beautiful compact carry cases that rivaled high end Louis Vuitton and Coach brands in both materials quality (wood finish and leather etc.) and styling.

So with this analog resurgence, the continued presence of 3D technology, particularly AS3D and revival of short-throw and small yet powerful LED-lit projectors, a lesson may be learned about the staying power of an idea even when its eclipsed by newer digital – dare I say? – contraptions. On the other hand, other categories such as mid-range projectors may have their useful product life cut short by the dominance of flat screens.

Sometimes the market catches up to the idea that new isn’t always better, That comes when brands are willing to commit to the long term, moving against the tide in what some might call acts of foolishness, but which others may see as acts of bravery. – Steve Sechrist