Tim: The Consumer Electronics Show is something you can predict every year because some kinds of electronics are really categories into themselves, like TVs that are slightly bigger, somewhat cheaper, slightly thinner or with a somewhat greater resolution. And that’s great as all those slightlys compound over the years, but bigger changes like the move from CRT to flat panel technology, they are less frequent.
So it’s fun to seek out some of the wackier ideas on display, many of which are shown off at a sort of pre-show called CES Unveiled, where a relative handful of companies have on display everything from robots to search engines to household sensor arrays, even NPR was on hand.
Here are a few of the things I spotted around the unveiled show floor.
First, is the navigation device from Schwinn, it’s meant to give riders an easy way to get around by bike using GPS or without taking their eyes off the road.
Interviewee: I am [Scott Rice] with Pacific Cycle, and we’re here at CES introducing the new Schwinn CycleNav bicycle navigation device. It’s turn by turn, visual and spoken directions specifically designed for cycling.
It works off of your smartphone. Simply download the app on to your Android, iPhone or Outlook phone, put in where you want to ride to. Then we’re going to show you the routes. You’re going to get multiple route options, you simply hit start, put your phone away and CycleNav kicks in. So CycleNav is going to both give you the speaker voice directions and the visual signal directions. Turn by turn navigation down to 50 meters.
Tim: Now what’s the back end?
Interviewee: The back half?
Tim: The back end, map support?
Interviewee: We use MapQuest so it’s basic. We’ve tailored the mapping data specific for bicycles, so it preferentially chooses bicycle paths, bike lanes and bicycle from the roads.
Tim: What’s the connective technology between?
Interviewee: Okay. Low energy Bluetooth technology, so your phone basically stays in stand-by mode, we’re not draining the battery. The CycleNav device itself has about 10 hour battery life.
Tim: And are these on sale right now?
Interviewee: March, so we’re going to be launching them in March, it’s going to be available retail in March for $59.99. You can go to schwinnbikes.com for more information and they are also going to be available at retailers like Walmart, Academy, Meyer and other fine retailers.
Tim: Why does Schwinn Bicycle have
Interviewee: Any bike, any model, any brand, CycleNav will work with, so lithium ion -- rechargeable lithium-ion battery technology. They get about 10 hour life and simply just recharge it, hooks up to your Micro USB connector.
Tim: Kickstarter gets more visible every year as a development matrix for new products. What I liked is a light bulb design to go gracefully through power failures.
Interviewee: Hi there. My name is Suman. I’m the founder of [HI FI Systems]and we created a very unique LED light bulb. This LED light bulb looks like a normal light bulb and it works like a normal light bulb every day, like you can turn on and off the way every light bulb works. But the unique thing about this light bulb is when power goes out, there is a power failure, it still works like a normal light bulb, so what it means is, even there is no power, you can turn on and off from the same wall switch without making any change. Only thing I have to do is replace your existing bulbs with this light bulb. So, I will do a demo.
So, this is the main power. This is our light bulb, [smart chart], that’s a normal light bulb. Now when power goes out, your whole house will be dark except our bulb. It will remain on, but not only this much. Now, you can still turn off from the same switch and turn on even there is no power. So, our technology senses what is the switch position regardless there is a grid power or not.
Technology, what we do, we send a very small signal with code and this signal does three things, first it finds out if there is a grid power or not, then it finds out what is the switch position and then it finds out it’s a two-way switch or three-way switch and based on that, it makes the decision it should be on or off and it does it in less than a millisecond. So, it’s just working all the time and makes the decision what it should do.
Tim: How long will the bulbs stay on?
Suman: It will stay on about four hours, continuous use, in a power failure situation.
Tim: And although TV may be an example I gave about incremental change, SEIKI was on hand with a TV upgrade that I think is pretty cool. It’s an up-converter in a cable to make old media better suited for new TVs.
Interviewee: What we are looking at is a new technology from SEIKI, we call it the U-VISION, up-scaling technology. It is usually Technicolor, 4K, which means it’s been approved by one of the biggest Hollywood post-production houses in the world that says this is a great product. What it does is actually take your standard definition and also your HD content at home and beautifully up-rezzes itor up-converts into 4K so that you can watch it on your 4K screen and have a better digital entertainment experience.
What we want to do is make 4K adoption a lot more practical and easier, so that you can buy a 4K TV and enjoy it at home with the current content that you have. We know a lot of movies are shot in 4K, but they are not available and with that, we are waiting, basically it’s a waiting game for a lot of the content providers, motion picture studios who provide the content. They have to be assured that this is what people want, but we are very confident that it is the next standard of TV, and with that content will follow. We’re also hearing some great news from YouTube, Netflix and also Amazon saying that they’re going to shoot a lot of content in 4K.
For SEIKI it was very simple. We knew that there was a big demand from our current 4K customers that they want a better up-scaling technology. We found it and a partner of ours which called Marseille Networks, and they provided one of the world’s best video processing chip available for 4K. We thought to put that into the TV, but that would mean that our current customers will not have access to the technology, so what we decided to do is put it into a HDMI cable, we call it an active technology cable, so that you could actually have the cable and use it with various other TVs, doesn’t have to be SEIKI and other source devices that these up-rezzing content for 4K.
Tim: Now it’s got a chip inside, how is that powered?
Interviewee: It’s powered by USB, so you have to make sure your TV has a USB port, plug it into HDMI and have your USB port into your – one of those service ports, but it’s powered, and have that available and then you can power the processor to do the up conversion to 4K. It’s very simple to use. If you have just standard definition content like 480 or 720p content, it will actually up convert it to 1080p and give you a lot of enhancements. It does real time detail enhancement, adds restoration, so like characters on screens look a lot better, noise reduction, so it cleans up a lot of the images at the same time.
But what it really does, it take 1080p content and upscales it beautifully to 4K Ultra HD content. The HDMI standard that we currently support is the current standard which is 1.4; as far as supporting the future standard, those standards has to be clarified first and what that’s going to be and what’s going to require and we do have a product roadmap for this technology, so we will support any of the future technology from HDMI that’s a standard in our future usage of products.
So you can look forward to usage into with all the supporting technology for the next generation of 4K TVs. It will be available on online retailers as well as our old website. The price point is at $39.99, but the great news is that if you’re already a SEIKI customer with a 4K TV, we’re going to provide one of these for you complimentary, provided that you give us a serial number that we can match it to, so that you can have the experience at home.