February 22 2011
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CES 2011: The Great Future of TV and digital content debate rages on …

As we exited the  registration  hall at CES 2011, we were handed a hefty book called ‘Screen Future’. We were jet-lagging and very tempted to ‘recycle’ it quickly as we weren’t too keen to lug this heavy tome around with us. But by the end of the day we were glad we had hung onto our copies as the debate about ‘TV and the other screens in our lives’ was bubbling away furiously inside the Las Vegas Convention Centre.

We will bring you more news on our views on ‘Screen Future’ in due course, but Amazon describes it as being about the people, technology, and economics that are shaping the evolution of entertainment. Blending social and computer sciences, media history, and engaging conversations with industry experts, the author provides an informed and illuminating vision for what happens when TV and entertainment are transformed by the power and intelligence of computers.

Written in a relaxed and approachable style, Brian David Johnson takes us inside the technology and explores how our TVs,  phones , cars, computers, and all the devices we love are being connected and reshaped into personalised entertainment platforms.

‘Screen Future’ explores the hard questions behind today’s headlines and buzz. Is this the end of broadcast TV? Are the days of cable and satellite providers numbered? What role will government need to  play ? How do we pay for it all? And most importantly, what do consumers really want?

‘Screen Future’ is both a comprehensive analysis and an entertaining tour of the technical, economic and cultural implications of a future that’s coming faster than you might think. TV will never be the same again.

Inside the Central Hall of CES, we were struck dumb by the sheer number of TV screens that were on show. It was truly bewildering, almost overwhelming. The most prominent TV’s demanding our attention were those of the 3D variety. There were TV’s using both active glasses (powered) and passive glasses (like Polaroid sunglasses) all vying for acceptance. Having tried them all, we still couldn’t determine which system worked best.

Sony, LG, Samsung, Sharp and Panasonic are all providing both active and passive glasses solutions but can they really convince us to ditch our HD sets for 3D ones? Do we need 3DTV when consumers are not really using their HD TV’s to their full potential? Do consumers realise that you can watch 2DTV on these screens too? Glasses-free would be better wouldn’t it?

Only one glasses-free 3DTV is commercially available on the market in Japan. Made by Toshiba, this technology aligns two images very closely within the screen, tricking the brain into thinking they are one 3D picture.

Sony has a glasses-free TV waiting in the wings for release sometime in the next five years. Chief Executive Officer, Howard Stringer, announced in his keynote speech that the company would  continue  to work on both ‘with and without glasses’ 3DTV formats. Stringer reminded the audience that Sony has surprised sceptics time and again with technologies such as colour TV, Trinitron technology as well as HDTV.

With regards to what we’ll be viewing in the future, Sony Entertainment will be providing content through a 3D cable TV network (3Net), a joint venture with Discovery and IMAX. They are also producing 3D camcorders, 3D cameras and even 3D computers so we can view user-generated content too. ESPN, the US’s largest and most popular sports channel will launch a 3D viewing (in the US only) from February 14th. But the problem is that 3D TV feels like lots of flat layers moving around multiple flat planes sliding around in front of you.

There are other issues too. An active set of 3D glasses will process the flickering images in rapid succession combining the images into a 3D display. There are obvious limitations to these type of glasses i.e. weight, cost, the number of batteries you will need to buy to power these energy-hungry pieces of eyewear, the comfort factor and not least the potential headaches caused by the flickering effect. The angles you can view the 3D display are limited with active glasses. You cannot turn your head 90 degrees or the image goes dark. That makes it impossible to lie on your side to watch 3DTV.

However there may be a solution just around the corner. Hungarian minnow,iPONT, was founded in 2003 as a software and web development company and has been working hard on a glasses-free technology that can view 3D images from anywhere in the room. The current rafts of 3D displays use stereoscopic displays, which are images that project out of the TV, looking like a double image. iPont have developed ‘Autostereoscopic’ technology which in the next few years may well become a selling point for 3DTV’s everywhere.

There are other ways of keeping us entertained. Sony has launched Sony ‘Internet TV’, a web-enabled BluRay player powered by Google TV. This will bring HD quality content to your screen and has a familiar Playstation-type remote control and keypad.

Buy a Boxee Box and Major League Baseball, NHL Hockey, High Definition Vudu Movies, NetFlix and Pandora can be streamed to you. You can Rent movies, buy and use Apps, browse Flickr, Vimeo, and Facebook as well as view personal content such as songs, photos and videos.

Then there’s Apple TV comprising a very small digital media receiver designed to play IPTV digital content from the iTunes StoreNetflixYouTubeFlickrMobileMeor any Mac OS X or Windows computer running iTunes onto an enhanced-definition or high-definition widescreen television.

So how do we watch TV on iPads, Galaxy tabs, Motorola’s new XOOM, not forgetting all those Smartphones?

We could go on and try to answer this, but won’t because suffice it to say the debate will continue to rage as screens and content jostle for attention. Books like ‘Screen Future’ make TV a truly fascinating thing to watch (no pun intended) and a little easier to understand just what is happening to our favourite waste of time.

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Posted by PDD

Languages spoken: Global.
The last thing that inspired me: Design and Innovation.
My dream project: A project that makes a difference in the world.
My obsession: Develop successful, award-winning and world-first products and experiences.