A stroll around CES: Here the science center’s future is reality.
Now that Ericsson’s major appearances at 2013 International CES are finished, I took my first stroll around the Central Hall, where huge brands like Polaroid, Panasonic, Sony, and Samsung (and Ericsson) are all competing for the attention of attendees. As I walked through — admittedly a limited tour but anyone who comes to these trade fairs knows the limited ability to absorb more than a few minutes of the brightness and the massiveness of the messaging – I kept mentally thinking how similar it felt to our family Christmas vacation, when we visited the Helsinki Science Center Heureka.
So now I have justified a reason to tell you about our holiday vacation. We took one of those enormous boats from Stockholm to Helsinki. The dimensions on the ferry are not unlike the dimensions in these convention centers. The ceilings are high, the noise is a few decibels above what’s pleasant, and you’re kind of trapped in the same zone for a determined amount of time.
The floor space at CES is larger, obviously. During my short walk, with a colleague, we circled back a few times in search of one exhibitor. There were lots of huge TV screens (110 inches! For your home!) all staring at us. There were shells of cars, electric cars, golf carts moving people from one hall to another. So, yes, we got lost in a proverbial closet. Do I need to tell you how often I went looking for our berth on the wrong end of the boat?
Back at CES, it does ring true that connectivity is the common thread among all the latest gadgets. The word “share” is all over the place – and projection, sensing, and access to information are all basic ingredients. My colleague and I passed a company that offers projectable ads with sensors that react to people’s movements. Example: Four boxes with language choices are projected onto a screen. Simply indicate with your arm which language to choose – NOT a touch screen. (Why interesting for advertisers? A way to interact and personalize for buyers without getting too close, is my guess.) This reminded me of the science center. At Heureka, the family visited “The future.” Projected characters at airports, information centers, and health centers all asked us multiple-choice questions. We answered by waving our arms.
Behind the Ericsson booth there is a place called Vuzix. They make augmented reality glasses, so that if you were in a new area and sought information, you could make selections on a menu projected to you within the glasses in order to find a good local restaurant and directions to it, for example.
The next booth we visited was Sony. I’m going to spend some time on this one, because it was mind-blowing. You walk into the booth and all around you is a “horizon” film screen, like a band around the top of the booth. It’s gorgeous and immersive. It’s like the IMAX at the science center, but it doesn’t cover the ceiling and you don’t have to sit in the chairs that lean back so far. The biggest crowds were around new Playstations and the OLED screens. The colors attack you, they are so bright, and nearly disturbing. When we went to see the Hobbit in 3D and 48 frames per second, the adults in the family were taken aback. The children in the family were perfectly happy.
As I walked back to my Ericsson comfort zone, I thought that CES is showing commercial products that the science center uses to stimulate our imaginations. Seems perfectly natural when I compare: My boys did not wonder about the technology in the science center – it was an invisible enabler for them to think about shaping their own lives in a networked society.