TV Technology Innovations at CES 2010
New innovations emerge every year at CES, but this year seems especially flush with big news from the major television manufacturers. And the big news isn’t about size. Panasonic did show a whopping 152-inch 4K2K plasma, but it wasn’t the company’s biggest news. After years of “my TV is bigger than your TV” battles on the CES floor, this year’s show was a refreshing change. So in an effort to ease digestion of all this complicated food for thought, we’ve rounded up some of the best new TV innovations from CES 2010. We also throw in some predictions on how these innovations will impact the market.
3D to the home finally appears to be on an unstoppable trajectory. With the finalization of the Blu-ray 3D spec and news of 3D content coming from DirecTV, ESPN, Discovery and others, 2010 is bound to be the year when people seriously consider putting on goofy glasses to watch TV at home. Panasonic, LG, Toshiba, Samsung, Sharp and Sony all showed a variety of 3D-capable TVs.
Prediction: There will be more technical hurdles to come, issues the manufacturers hadn’t thought of, and marketing challenges in a time when consumers are hesitant to invest in new technology. Adoption will be slow and will remain in the early adopter market for several years.
Major projector makers did not have any announcements for CES about 3D compatibility, but hopefully CEDIA Expo 2010 will change that. The Adult Entertainment Expo, which was held in Vegas simultaneously with CES, had no 3D announcements.
We’ll see a lot more streaming content options on TVs in 2010. Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, Philips, LG and others all showed connected TVs and Blu-ray players with more streaming content partners and better interfaces.
Samsung even launched an App Store in which consumers can select from a large list of apps - some free, some for a charge. Consumers are getting accustomed to receiving more content from a greater variety of places, and the products of 2010 will allow that with greater ease.
Prediction: Open platforms and ease of use will allow TV apps to proliferate. Cable companies will need to be innovative and aggressive to combat this threat.
One of those IP apps is Skype. The ability to make free IP-based video calls from your couch to Skype users around the world may make some people cringe. On the other hand, imagine the excitement of a Skype Picture-in-Picture call with overseas friends while watching Olympic events on the main screen. Skype calling will require a Web camera with a microphone plugged into the television, which will be available as an accessory.
Prediction: Video calls from the couch will reveal that many more people own Snuggies than ever imagined.
We’re not completely sure if this one is merely a gimmick or a truly ground-breaking innovation, but Sharp has introduced a fourth color, yellow, to the traditional red-blue-green pixel structure on some of it’s new televisions.
Sharp is calling the technology QuadPixel and claims it can reproduce about a trillion colors. Sharp wants people to think of QuadPixel as as big a deal as 1080p or 120Hz. We’ll have to hold our judgment on that for now.
Prediction: If QuadPixel really is as good as Sharp says, other manufacturers will devise their own ways of achieving the same thing. Also, Crayola will release a crayon box with one trillion colors which will have to be delivered with a fork lift.
All the major TV makers seem to be in agreement that the public doesn’t want to plug things into their TVs, they want to send those signals wirelessly. Wireless HDMI has been showing up in products for a few years, but hopefully 2010 will be the year when the technology works as promised, cutting down on the cable clutter without sacrificing picture or sound quality.
Another kind of wireless making its way to TVs this year is WiFi. More sets will allow wireless Internet connections, either through a built-in WiFi receiver or an optional USB dongle.
Prediction: This will allow for simpler and more creative TV installation. Also, people in apartments with thin walls will figure out a way to hijack your TV signal as easily as they hijack your WiFi.
Edge-lit LED displays aren’t new this year, but for most of the big TV makers, it seems to be the dominate way to light up an LCD TV without using CCFL lighting. In most CES booths, the edge-lit LED sets were flagship models.
Full-array backlit sets have the potential to create a better picture, especially with local dimming, but at least three of the makers have overcome that issue with local dimming technologies for edge-lit TVs.
LG, Samsung and Sony all showed TVs that featured variations of this technology. Unfortunately, none of them had full details on how the technology worked or how many zones of dimming the sets had.
Prediction: If local dimming on edge-lit sets works as promised, it will take over the LED LCD market, at least until something better comes up that can also compete on cost and design factors.
Last year the TV buzz was slanted toward thinner products. That continued this year with the smallest being an LED-based LCD TV from Samsung at only 0.3 inches thick, which is the thickness of a pencil.
These ultra thin TVs, due to their lack of space for plugging in cables, naturally leads to the next innovation - wireless HDMI.
Prediction: Home Depot will offer a new product: Liquid Nails for Flat Screen TVs.