CES 2017 opens with Unveiled.

Walking…lots and lots of walking.  Crowds.  Noise.   Hype?  Yeah.  Such is the nature of CES, the annual orgy of tech that descends upon Las Vegas each January.

This is the 50th Anniversary of the event, which debuted as the Consumer Electronic Show in New York in 1967 with just 117 exhibitors showing off black and white televisions, radios and not much else.  It wasn’t even legal to own your own phone back then,  “Bell System Property, Not For Sale”  Only the boomers remember that one.  It was a BIG DEAL if your friend had a color TV to watch the few offerings from the two or three channels via rabbit ears or a rooftop antenna.

So far there’s not any huge breakout never-before-seen product being revealed this year, and there’s not likely to be an iPhone Moment here.  Apple has not deigned to be part of CES for several years now, and Microsoft backed out a few seasons back to have more control over their launch process as well.  What we have seen is incremental improvements to product lines.

As I write this, Brenda is experiencing frustration trying to get a pair of headphones embedded into a fabric headband to stay connected.  The controls are not intuitive, the bluetooth pairing process is somewhat awkward, and the wires are very thin and may be prone to failure.  Far too many product hopefuls fall into the trap of rushing a poorly thought out design into production.  It might look good on the designer’s screen, but fail miserably when in the hands of the consumer.  And there we have the point of the exercise and the reason that at least 80% of what we have seen so far will never see the retail shelf.

Official Proof that BoomerTech Radio is, in fact, a bona fide Tech Media.  YAY!

Badges?  We don’t need no Badges!  Uhm, yes we do.  Media people operate on vast amounts of caffeine.  The organizers of CES recognize this fact.  Also lots of alcohol.

Nothing says High Tech like a humongous ice sculpture through which drinks are poured.  Open bars were generously scattered through the Unveiled event at Mandalay Bay.  

After walking for what had to be at least a mile through the caverns of Mandalay Bay Resort…NOT an exaggeration…we finally gained admittance to the Unveiled event along with roughly 1500 members of the press and hopeful exhibitors..

Some product lines, like offerings from Linksys, Lenovo and drone manufacturer DJI, were clearly defined improvements over existing products…

Other displays, such as the French company that proudly showed the “Lovebox” a way to “send secret messages to your love” were a bit harder to nail down as to how useful they might actually be.

Many things that debut at CES solve problems you didn’t even know you had.   It’s been reported that VR headsets can make you physically ill with motion sickness because your inner ear and your eyes disagree.  ReliefBand, originally made to help people on boats stop heaving their guts out over the side…also known as chumming for fish…had a presence with a new product that promises a drug-free prevention measure for upchucking all over your computer when you have had the goggles on just a bit too long.

The device purportedly works by stimulating the medial nerve in the wrist, which according to the literature, blocks the “I’m gonna hurl” messages from your unhappy tummy.  Brenda tried it, but the only thing she actually noticed was that it zapped her a good one when she tried to remove it.  We did, however score a prototype model, to evaluate in a more nautical environment.

Finally…when it comes to solving problems you didn’t know you had…nothing so far seen can beat “42Tea”  Because humankind has been making tea for roughly 4000 years, but apparently we just can’t get it right without resorting to a connected gadget that tells you precisely the correct temperature of the water and how much Earl Grey you should use via a smartphone app.  And there is it, CES offering the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything…with apology to fans of Douglas Adams.


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Trends to watch. — 1

So far, nothing totally new and unexpected at CES, but Unveiled is in about an hour.  The Consumer Technology Associaton, which produces the show, did have some interesting trends to look at for the upcoming year:

The new Voice of Computing:   Just as the mouse-driven Graphical User Interface (GUI) took computing from a strictly business to a home technology, so Voice Input and Response will make the hardware much less visible.  Interestingly the 50th anniversary of CES is just a year after the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.  We grew up watching Captain Kirk talk to his computer and have it talk back.  But as recently as 1994, the ability of a computer to understand the conversational spoken word with accuracy was pretty much…zero.  Finally this year, Digital Assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Home and a host of others have now achieved “Human Parity” meaning that the comprehension of the spoken word is about the same as a person.  This ability to process spoken commands and context sensitive inquiries has increased by leaps and bounds in just the past three years. After all, consider how many arguments have started over a misunderstanding of words between flesh and blood?  Nowhere to go but up.  It’s predicted that there will be 5 million “Home Robots” by 2020.  We still don’t have Jarvis (Of Iron Man Fame) But we are slowly edging toward that reality.  To be fair, to get to Mandalay Bay, where today’s events are being held, we used Google Now on my Samsung phone to navigate here with a single command “OK Google, Navigate to Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas”.   Think about that just a few years ago the computational power to turn that phrase into turn by turn directions and get us there taking into account traffic conditions, is something that could not be conceived of.  Totally hands off.

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We Are HERE!   We arrived at Mandalay Bay early in order to find an actual parking space and check out the facility before tonight’s Unveiled Event.  As you can see, CES is largely run by vast amounts of coffee.  Security is quite tight at the event, with the usual roller bags or backpacks that are handed out replaced by rather small clear vinyl bags that might be handy for makeup or knitting supplies but not heavy things with sharp edges.   Given the events of the past year, I can understand the paranoia and attempts to head off a horrific incident, but honestly, TSA-esc impositions are going to have a very chilling effect on the quality of coverage.

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Ready, set…..

Tomorrow the media people, this old reporter included, will be falling all over each other to get the latest news on the latest goodies, gadgets and gizmos out to a world that … well … has become, shall we say — *gasp* jaded by too much shiny stuff?

Yes, CES Unveiled, the showcase of new consumer technology products that has become almost a parody of itself, will be held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, two days before the official opening of CES2017.  As a teaser, here is a great article from Engadget on some of the things that experts (which I most assuredly am not)  are expecting to see.


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Viva Las Vegas?

We rolled into Sin City last night after a 14 hour drive from Redding.  Yes, we could have flown instead, but seriously, it’s just not worth the hassle these days, not to mention the fun of being crammed into a flying sardine can after being herded like cattle through the TSA.  Journalists carry a plethora of scary looking and expensive electronics these days.    Transportation around LV during the show is problematic at best as well.  Anyway, we are here, safely settled into our Vacation Rental  By Owner apartment( VRBO is lesser known than AirBnB but in our opinion is a better deal) .  Today is get settled and oriented, Tuesday is the opening round with Unveiled, where a lot of new goodies are shown off for the first time to a hungry horde of press.  So anyway, we are here, and so far so good.

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Get Ready! The Annual Madness in Vegas

As the year closes out rapidly, Brenda and I are starting to pack for Las Vegas for the crush of humanity and tech that is CES.  Ever since the days of BetaMax and Walkman, when Sony was the undisputed leader in consumer electronics, CES has been where the world at large has gotten a first glimpse of the latest and greatest.  This year, 160,000+ attendees from manufacturing, sales, startups, installers and of course those in the Messy Media will be cheek by jowl to find out what’s the next Big Thing.  We will be broadcasting Live for our Saturday January 7th show from the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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Facepalm of the week:

Every time Brenda and I attend CES, there are a few products that stand out as…well…cringe-worthy and which beg the question, “What were you THINKING?”   Amid the flood of promotional emails in my inbox comes this gem.  Now…the concept of the product, a textured case so you don’t drop your $800 brainphone onto the unforgiving ground is a good one.  But the ad campaign behind it is clearly a product of Millenial Thought Process.    Ooookay…wrong on HOW many levels?








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4G LTE Extender from Samsung / Verizon.

I stumbled across this product courtesy of our friend Jack Rebney, rather, his son, Bjorn.  See,  we’ve talked about Jack a lot on the show.  Jack is blind.  Jack does not let that detail impact his desire to live an independent life at the tender age of 87 because Jack takes stubborn to the level of an art form.   Jack has a love/hate relationship with technical things, as do many of his generation.   He spent much of his long career in broadcasting working WITH cutting edge tech as a television producer, but all he really cared about was did the thing work, and who was responsible if it did not. 

At an age when most of his peers, even the ones with perfectly good eyesight, are living in some form of assisted care facility, Jack lives mostly by himself in a fairly remote part of the Oregon coast, perched on the side of a hill — and about a quarter mile out of the reach of cell service.  Jack does have land-line, and surprisingly, DSL service at a decent speed.  But for his occasional visitors, the lack of a signal can be a problem since jobs and family communication ( which is a very critical thing at present, for personal reasons I won’t go into) can be an issue.

These days, there are a number of tech products that can enhance the quality of life and safety of people like Jack that work via the Internet, more on that in a future post.  

Now Brenda and I have a parallel situation, being non-urbanites who live on the ragged edge of cell coverage near Redding, California.   Text messages are delayed or lost altogether.  Calls to our phones are missed or garbled.  In order to get a connection, you have to step outside the house, go to a particular part of the yard, and depending on the weather and possibly the phase of the moon, hold the phone just right to get a call connected.  

A couple of years ago, we purchased a Winegard “Cell Booster Kit” consisting of a directional antenna on the roof, some coax cable, a wall mounted amplifier, and a second antenna that is supposed to bring the signal into the house.  It has never worked quite right, and is not 4G signal comparable, which has become more and more of an issue.  We still trek outside to make or receive our cell calls.  

This weekend, during a gathering at Jack’s house to celebrate his birthday, his son asked me to take a look at this accessory he’d picked up at his Verizon store, because he could not get it to work.

The name is somewhat confusing, because at first take, it appears to be a similar product to the Winegard, or a Wi-Fi Extender in that it takes a marginal wireless signal and amplifies it to a usable level.  The key being that you have to have at least a certain level of signal from a cell tower. It has to have something to amplify in other words.

This product works somewhat like the mobile hotspot in reverse.  It connects to the Internet, usually on a DSL connection, which in some parts of the country is the ONLY option there is, out where cable or fiber is nothing but a distant dream.  Once connected, it mimics a cell tower that your (currently only Verizon) phone will happily connect to.  From there on it behaves like a Voice Over IP connection, sending your call through Verizon’s network of servers and then on to the world at large.  It even has a GPS antenna to facilitate Enhanced 911 services.  Setup does take patience.  For some reason it’s VERY prolonged and a call to Verizon’s customer service line was required to get the unit activated.  Once that was done, however, the Extender worked as promised, creating a cell connection that will cover about 7500 square feet.  The very minimal documentation says you have to be within 50 feet to connect, but we found that the range to be that or better.  

We’re going to try one of these at home to solve our problem of dodgy wireless service, and will report back.

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Plans for 2017, big changes coming.

Brenda and I have been talking for quite some time about taking things to the next level with this experiment we call BoomerTechRadio.  Reaching out to other broadcast outlets and adapting our format to be podcast friendly and in fact posting podcasts.  We’re excited about the possibilities and expanded audience this will offer us, starting with a intense week during CES 2017 from Las Vegas.  It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s time to take things Pro.  Look for more posts here on the site and show notes as we begin our podcast outreach.  

Brenda and I think we offer something a bit different when it comes to our takes on all things “Goodies Gadgets and Gizmos” from the perspective of “Analog Living in a Digital World” and we hope that listeners to both the broadcast show and podcast episodes will find reasons to listen, come back for more and tell their friends about a unique offering amid all the noise and confusion.  Come with us as we take our next steps.  

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Updates to the show:

If you don’t already have it, put Flipboard on your mobile device, arguably one of the best news aggregators out there.  We use it for researching story ideas from a number of resources, along with Apple’s iOS News App, which is more usable under iOS 10 than previous offerings.

Speaking of the latest iOS, I personally held off updating the iPad Pro until just last night, as is my habit of letting the dust settle at least the first bug fix update being issued.  So far two good.

Brenda and I have registered for the 2017 CES in Las Vegas, so we’re looking forward to a few days in Sin City, running from place to place to try to get just a glance at what’s in our future of goodies, gadgets and Gizmos.

This weekend (10/8) We plan to have Rachael Hatch, from The Institute For The Future, back as a guest to talk about the upcoming Maker Faire in Redding and some ideas on the connected technologies that are constantly evolving.

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