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Connected Devices, 3D Converge at CES

5 Jan, 2011 By: Chris Tribbey


LAS VEGAS — Before the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) had even officially started, Sony Electronics CEO Sir Howard Stringer likely summed up the theme of the Jan. 6-9 convention: “The next evolution is upon us, the marriage of the television and the Internet,” he said during the company’s Jan. 5 press event. “It’s clear consumers are ready for it. [And] 3D and Internet TV are poised on the same path.”

Where 2010’s CES was 3DTV’s coming-out party, 2011’s is seeing consumer electronics companies build on 3D and debut a slew of new connected devices and services, from Sony and Time Warner Cable teaming up to offer Time Warner VOD directly to Bravia HDTVs, sans cable box, to Cisco Systems’ ambitious Videoscape project, which would build a digital TV and online video network architecture with service providers, allowing content to be viewed on any device, including mobile, on any network.

LG Electronics took a stab at competing with Google TV products by debuting a set-top box that adds Internet connectivity and applications to any HDTV with an HDMI input. The SmartTV Upgrader has a full Web browser.

Panasonic debuted its Viera Connect, an open platform enhancement of the company’s IPTV offering that allows for two-way interactive gaming, social networking and video streaming. It also allows for personalized IPTV with dozens of third-party applications, including Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, Skype and Ustream.

“Viera Connect builds upon our initial successes with our Viera Cast IPTV platform and takes connected TV to a whole new level of interactivity for consumers,” said Merwan Mereby, Panasonic Corp. of North America VP. “Viera Connect breaks the boundaries of the walled garden structure of initial IPTV programs and delivers an unprecedented, more robust, two-way interactive set of features for consumers to enjoy directly through their Panasonic Viera HDTVs.  

LG Electronics unveiled its Smart TV service, which provides instant access to content and a full Web browser, and Yahoo! Introduced its new “broadcast interactivity” feature for its Yahoo! Connected TV platform. Yahoo’s feature will launch with ABC, CBS, Showtime and others before the summer and allows programmers to create apps that let viewers vote, get more information about shows and characters, and make e-commerce purchases while watching their shows. No more calling in to vote on “American Idol.”

“Our collaboration with leaders in television and brand advertising, combined with the innovative technologies we’re pioneering, signals the beginning of a new era of highly personalized, Internet-enhanced television,” said Ron Jacoby, VP of Yahoo! Connected TV. “Imagine an immersive, real-time TV experience that brings people even closer to the programs and brands they love by enabling them to play along while they watch their favorite shows.”

While connected devices got the most attention on the eve of CES, 3D was no slouch either, with most every major consumer electronics company debuting new 3DTVs and 3D Blu-ray players. LG, JVC and Vizio all debuted 3DTVs that use passive glasses instead of active shutter glasses, and Sony showed off an autostereoscopic 3DTV.

Samsung’s BD-D7500, the world’s thinnest 3D Blu-ray player, was among the 3D show stoppers Jan. 4, and three of the 3D Blu-ray players the company debuted can upconvert 2D content to 3D.

“The increase in available 3D content in 2011 will result in more people embracing 3D. In the meantime, people can enjoy the breadth of features offered via Samsung’s Smart Blu-ray and the option to up-convert content with our 2D-to-3D conversion,” said Sangchul Lee, SVP of Samsung’s visual Display Business. “As more people look to upgrade their home entertainment systems and embrace a rich, immersive 3D experience, Samsung is able to offer a wide range of options that support their needs today and into the future.”

Panasonic brought out three new 3D Blu-ray home theater systems — the SC-BTT770, SC-BTT370 and SC-BTT270 — all with universal docks for iPods/iPhones, and three new 3D Blu-ray players, the DMP-BDT310, DMP-BDT210 and DMP-BDT110.

“Panasonic’s 2011 Blu-ray Disc Player lineup incorporates the successes of its 2010 line, while adding innovative features that meet the demand of consumers and new trends in technology,” said Richard Simone, Panasonic VP of merchandising, imaging and entertainment products. “Features such as the Touch-Free Sensor, Home Screen Wallpaper and Skype allow consumers to easily personalize their entertainment experience to fit their lifestyle. And now the consumer can enjoy the benefits of Skype from any HDTV.”

Sony debuted 16 new 3D-capable and 22 Internet-connected models and announced it would launch a 24/7 3D channel this year: 3NET. On the 3DTV front, Panasonic unveiled 14 new 3DTV models, including both plasma and LCD-LED

In other CES news:

• Digital video company DivX said its DivX HD certification had been granted to Broadcom's BCM7208 HD IP set-top box and BCM35230 connected DTV SoC platforms, allowing for playback of DivX Plus HD MKV video files.

“Broadcom is a Fortune 500 company, and its adoption of DivX Plus HD technology in set-top box and digital TV platforms and support for DivX TV are important wins for DivX,” said Matt Milne, DivX EVP and GM.

• Cisco’s Videoscape is a new cloud-based platform that would act as a gateway for the integration of voice, linear and online video, high-speed data, Wi-Fi and network traffic routing. A set-top box would support pay TV, broadcast, premium channels VOD and the Internet, and would move video content to HDTVs, mobile devices, smartphones and more.

“We see tremendous opportunity with IP video services that offer consumers interactive, Internet-like experiences using both the TV and the PC,” said David Thodey, CEO of service provider Telstra. “We worked with Cisco to deploy a Content Delivery Network that quickly proved to be a key differentiator for Telstra and means we can provide products and services with a more consistent and reliable video experience to multiple devices.”

• Sound company DTS showed off the world’s first 11.1 sound system, Neo: X. Meant for 3D content, gaming and music, the system uses a “semi-spherical” sound field with speakers at different heights.

“This technology is a must-have and delivers an unprecedented multi-dimensional audio experience, even with existing multichannel soundtracks,” said record producer and composer Patrick Leonard.

• DarbeeVision unveiled its Darbee Box, a set-top that works with a display and source, like a Blu-ray player, to deliver a 3D image without the need for glasses.

“For consumers looking for the ultimate visual experience on their televisions, the Darbee Box is a must-have,” Paul Darbee, DarbeeVision’s founder and CEO. “We’ve invented a practical solution in silicon so that now it is possible to enjoy the amazing benefit that comes from embedding 3D depth cues into 2D images. The TV viewer using the Darbee Visual Presence Box will notice that objects appear to possess a strong sense of depth separation and roundness.”

• Microsoft said it had sold more than 8 million Kinect devices in its first two months at retail and announced that Hulu Plus would be coming to the Xbox 360 in the next few months.

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