Consumer Electronics Show - Days 2 and 3
Last night I got back to the hotel after midnight, stomach full of all-you-can-eat sushi and eyes fluttering in an attempt to stay awake that proved futile. So, here is the compressed Days Two and Three review of the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. As it happens, today was a short day for me with only a handful of notable experiences anyway, so all you’re missing from my mini-review is ramblings about the great muffins from the media room.
Day Two of CES began with an intimate demo from DTS (Dedicated To Sound). I got to wear virtual reality goggles that took me to a movie theatre and then a concert while I wore headphones with DTS technology. The cool part of this was that the sound was so advanced that it stayed put while I spun and looked around the “room”; the virtual speakers are stationed in the back of the virtual theatre, so the sound coming from them stayed in the back of the theatre regardless of where I was looking. If you have a speaker blasting Soren Bryce in the back left corner of your room, the sound stemming from that speaker will ALWAYS come from the back left corner. The headphone technology abided by that law. Next, my group listened to a variety of speakers and compared the quality of sound coming from each set. Of course, the 11-piece set sounded significantly better than the single-speaker system, but I was impressed by the horizontal speaker that gave the Jason Bourne clip we watched the same wide, encompassing surround sound that the 11-piece set did.
Next, I listened to the most expensive headphones that I could ever possibly get my hands on. The Sennheiser HE 1 headphones ring up at a stunning $55,000 with a base comprised of silver, gold, platinum, and Carrara marble. They cannot be removed from the base, but the entire package is so aesthetically perfect that the idea of yanking them out and sticking the jack into an iPhone is ludicrous and perhaps even offensive. I listened to a rendition of Hallelujah that sounded like honey and a Norah Jones song that sounded like a hug. The demo was in a glass room and people took photos of my group and me as we experienced the headphones - it’s tired phrasing, but yes, it was an experience - but I was the happiest fish in a little luxurious tank. Unfortunately, Norah Jones is now ruined for me from any other headphone. The HE 1 headphones actually sounded better than if the artist sat next to me and breathed the lyrics into my ears herself. Sorry, Norah.
I then went and got my ears scanned by a 3D laser. Echobox is an audio brand that has amazing titanium headphones that are advertised as indestructible. Not only did I get a pair of these Finder X1 earbuds, but the laser scan in both of my ears is sent to a 3D printing place off-site that will create custom earbuds that will fit over the Finder X1s and into my ears perfectly for an audio experience unlike any other. I am incredibly excited to receive my 'snugs' in the mail.
I swung by the Polaroid booth, but their new camera was less than impressive and it took about fifteen minutes of fiddling and trying different cameras before I was able to get any picture printed. Now, I don’t know if this is designer error or if some of the other thousands of people at the show handled them poorly, but overall I was not ‘wowed’ by the company’s efforts. That being said, Polaroid will have a fancy 3D printing pen on the market soon that streams out filament so that the user can create wire sculptures. I didn’t get to try it out, but it is much cheaper than the usual 3D printing items on the market and the employee wielding it did not seem to have any trouble with it.
Now, Day Three. Today was much more relaxed for me because there were only two booths I had left on my list to see. I started out the day with the NASA booth, where I met former astronaut Donald Thomas and watched a demo of a new miniature explorer vehicle, remote-controlled and the size of a hand. The little robot is called PUFFER, or Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot, and it’s a folded origami of microchip robotic technology laden on Nomex fabric (fire-retardant, highly durable fabric). PUFFERs cost only about $2,000 to make, a miniscule amount of money compared to the Mars Rover. Its little size is perfect for exploring the caves and recurring slope lineae on Mars that NASA doesn’t want to risk sending more expensive technology into. The goal is to release several of these robots about 100 meters from whatever NASA wants to explore, so they can be controlled by their parent and charge themselves via solar panel as they explore. The great thing about these PUFFERs is that they can fold in on themselves and still move around; I got to control a prototype of the machine and even with the wheels almost completely folded in, the PUFFER could still navigate terrain. It was incredible. From what I garnered from the representatives from both NASA and JPL, they believe that the incoming administration is interested in Mars exploration and the exploration of outer space in general. NASA, JPL, and DJ Hannah are all excited for the future of mankind in outer space, so we’ll see what happens and how Nasa will planet.
Aside from seeing the fantastic LG tunnel display, the most exciting part of Day Three was the ROLI presentation featuring the Wu Tang Clan’s RZA. RZA was interviewed by the company’s CEO and founder, Roland Lamb, before he joined Parisi on stage to demo the newest ROLI technology, the Block. This little square device connects via bluetooth with the ROLI app, allowing users to create beats and tracks with a mix of tactile interaction and pre-set sounds on the app. Users can combine the Blocks with accessories and charge them via magnetic circuits all around the system, allowing for an endless combination of Blocks so that everybody can find an arrangement suitable for their style. I failed miserably at creating anything worthwhile, but the interface was certainly easy to use and if I wasn’t so distracted by trying to get my 36 Chambers CD signed I would have paid more attention to the device. It’s very affordable at a mere $179 US. Even with the added accessories and trackpads, the Block is much easier to use than a lot of the expensive, outdated DJ equipment of years yonder and it feels a lot more intimate that just pressing fingers to glass screen. I got the CD signed, by the way.
After lunch, I poked around the outside tents and looked at the phenomenal amount of guitars on display at Gibson. I played an acoustic, semi, and electric and was impressed with the sound and feel of all of them.
That wraps up CES Days Two and Three. My step count yesterday was 19,664 and today was 19,451. When I get back home on Tuesday, my Fitbit will be disappointed to see this streak end and have me back at an unimpressive 10,000.
I am very grateful to KAMP Radio for giving me the opportunity to apply for CES and am thankful for CES for accepting me. Thank you to Scott Tharler, my media mentor and helicopter buddy whose confidence rubbed off on me, and my Uncle David, whose companionship at the sushi restaurant and whose advice were/are both invaluable. Especially, I must thank my dad, Raphael Isaac, for spending the whole show by my side and encouraging me to stand by the back door of the booth when it seemed as if I would never meet RZA.