CES 2014 Roundup
With the annual Consumer Electronics Show come and gone for another year, it’s time for us to look at the best and most interesting bits of news and technology. We’ve already looked at the Valve-endorsed Steam Machines and Sony’s PlayStation Now cloud gaming service but there’s so much more to CES than those two things.
So here are five new pieces of hardware and software that I thought were the most interesting.
Oculus Rift Crystal Cove Prototype
I almost feel sorry for early adopters of the Oculus Rift who have the prototype/beta/dev kit hardware. The folks from OR were at CES this year with a brand new prototype that’s better than ever. It was so good that it won Engadget’s Best in Show award.
The Crystal Cove OR headset has a 1080p OLED screen in front of you for a better picture. Motion blur is all but eliminated by the device. And this version of the OR has a small camera in front of you that’s used for depth tracking. That camera isn’t supposed to ship with the final OR device but is just a temporary solution for depth tracking the headset.
Growing up, those virtual reality headsets seemed to be a bit of a joke. Big, bulky and not any better than a TV. Now, the Oculus Rift has made VR cool again. Maybe, just maybe, this will catch on and be a massively popular peripheral. If I was Sony or Valve, I’d be keeping an eye on this. Imagine a slew of OR compatible PS4 games. It would sure beat the hell out of a Kinect.
Razer Project Christine
I built my desktop and it wasn’t exactly an easy experience, even for someone that’s reasonably competent with technology. Parts don’t always fit quite as well as you’d hope. Wires go everywhere. You’re not quite 100% sure that it’s all going to work until you hit the power button. It wasn’t the most fun experience I’ve ever had in my life.
Razer’s CES tech demo for this year was a modular PC with various components that can be easily swapped in and out. In other words, it’s a custom-built PC for people who don’t want to or can’t sort out all the individual parts, pieces and wires. I’m not sure I can and I built one. Project Christine takes all those parts and puts them into individual pods that plug into a tower.
The idea is to cut the cost and complexity of PC hardware upgrades, specifically upgrades of gaming PCs. The idea is that the modules are literally plug-and-play. With the motherboard running along the tower, certain modules are compatible with certain ports so you can’t run six graphics cards, for example. There is supposed to be a tonne of customization options, though, you a final product would allow everything from a more modest rig to something that would compete with PC Gamer’s Large Pixel Collider.
While last year’s Project Fiona made its way to market as the Razer Edge gaming tablet, Project Christine isn’t quite ready to hit retail shelves. I’d imagine that the project would get some fine tuning if enough people were interested. I certainly am. If the cost is right for the tower and modules, I bet many more PC gamers would jump at it too.
One of the few devices from Star Trek that hasn’t become reality is the tricorder. The do-it-all handheld scanning device was largely a pipe dream until now. Thanks to $1.6 million in crowdfunding and $14 million in venture capital funding, we’re closer to the tricorder than ever with the Scanadu Scout.
The Scanadu is a small device that goes on your temple and beams data to an app on your smartphone through a Bluetooth connection. The device almost immediately reads your body temperature and heart rate and, within a couple of seconds, your oxygen level, blood pressure and electrocardiogram. The app also tracks readings over time and also does alerts if you have a bad reading.
It’s not quite at that Star Trek level yet but pushing for Star Trek technology has driven innovation for years. The fact that the Scanadu is a crowdsourced quantum leap in body scanning technology. You have to hook up someone to a rather large, complex looking series of devices as hospitals do now, the Scanadu does everything but seems much simpler to use. Hopefully, the FDA gives this thing approval for use because this could be the next big thing in medical technology.
Sharp 8K 3D TV
Just when you were plotting out your purchase of a 4K (not Ultra HD, that’s not true 4K resolution), Sharp goes and changes the game. Their party piece at CES was an 85-inch 8K glasses-less 3D TV. While Sharp unveiled the world’s first 8K TV last year, they came back this year with a glasses-less 3D compatible TV.
While no one is going to rush out and buy an 8K TV when 4K resolution viewing is almost non-existent at this point in time, it’s supposed to be a great picture. I’d hazard that, as was the case with 1080p HD, as companies work on their TVs, the pictures are just going to get better.
And for the more technically inclined, Sharp says their 8K TV features a resolution of 7680 x 4320 which is 16 times the pixel resolution on 1080p HD pictures and four times the pixels of 4K. So the future’s future is almost here. Almost ridiculous, don’t you think.
While it’s announcement and format wasn’t that surprising to people who have been keeping tabs on it, the announcement of the WWE Network generated quite a bit of discussion and excitement on Wednesday night into Thursday.
The WWE Network’s closest comparable would be Netflix. It’s a fully digital network that will be delivered online (through WWE.com), on mobile devices (through the WWE app), and streamed to TV-attached devices such as PlayStation consoles, the Xbox 360 and Roku boxes. Xbox One and smart TV apps will get access this summer.
What makes the WWE Network so intriguing is that it will combine on-demand access to the WWE’s video library with original programming and live streaming of their pay-per-views for $9.99. The UFC streaming app won’t feature pay-per-views as part of their package but PPV is also a far bigger portion of their revenue than the WWE’s. Their Raw and Smackdown shows will still be available only on TV but will get live pre- and post-shows.
While the value proposition is certainly there considering each WWE pay-per-view costs $50 and they run 12 per year, there’s a substantial risk taken by the WWE. Reports indicate that they need 1 million subscribers to break even (though that number has been around since they were planning an actual TV channel so it may not be accurate). McMahon and co. are going to need a significant chunk of fans to sign up. Then again, if you buy the pay-per-views every month, why wouldn’t you?