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The Big Bet ….and other matters

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Ahh … CES again. 2018. A return to Mecca (aka Las Vegas) to get a glimpse of the future – and that we did – and more on that later.

We were able to confirm a “trick” we thought we sensed last year. This year’s experience assured us it was valid.

The day before the show officially opens is called “Press Day”. Some 5,000+ with “Media” badges crush into inadequate size ballrooms to hear either Japanese, Chinese or Korean CEOs announce their corporate strategies and product lines in broken English. One didn’t even bother this year – just spoke in a language maybe 5% of the audience understood while accompanied by an obviously rough translation that appeared on screen – very offensive to most in the room.

These press conferences from the Big Guys are scheduled so tight that the herd has to move just before the end of one presentation to get a seat at the next one, sometimes on a different floor, sometimes at a different hotel. Unless you are in the front row all that can be seen is a sea of horizontal iphones held as high as the arms can reach in the hopes of capturing a shot of something that might not be included in a readily available “press packet” offered on a thumb drive.

Yeah, a mass mess of media, more uncomfortable than Meryl Streep at a Trump rally. Be glad you may not be “privileged” enough to get an invitation …. and yet, we keep going back!?

The trick we confirmed this year will save us many hours of this nonsense next year and probably many after that …..

You only have to go to the FIRST ONE! They are ALL nearly identical now. Remove the brand names, and the messaging, the strategies, the graphics, the narratives and most of the on-stage props looked like they came from the same marketing team. Each presenter talked to an enabling robot named Alexa, Cloi, Bixby, Siri or Hey Google.

This year EVERY manufacture is going to serve up their unique flavor of A.I. (some are now calling it “assisted intelligence” instead of “artificial intelligence”) to make our lives as simple as they can be. Right. Different technical implementations almost certainly, but all promising the same end result – everything in your house with a power plug will be able to interrogate and converse with everything else that has a power plug.

While coming home in your self-driven car you can watch a screen that will scan your refridgerator contents and advise you of what’s missing so you can hit the “deliver” icon and have the milk and bread beat you to the door. You can “launch” a robot to insure your abode is clean, lit and musically ready for your arrival. You can queue up the after dinner movie after reading the top 5 reviews just before pulling in the driveway. You can even check the, uh, sanitation level of your toilet – really.

So there you have it … everything will talk to everything. That is, of course, if you bought everything from Acme AI International. There is some chance, I suppose, that someday all those modules might actually play well together if the engineering team that designed the first intelligent thing is still around to insure compatibility with the last intelligent … wait, will there ever be a last one? Will a better interconnectivity scheme come along in the middle of the product roll-out? Will there be endless firmware updates, or worse?

So now comes the Big Bet …

Where, or with whom, do you place your chips, to use a Vegas analogy.

Let’s say, for conversation sake, you start buying all the A.I. that LG has to offer in the way of A.I. smart appliances, robots, T.V.s etc. because they (or Samsung or Panasonic or Sony or TCL or …) got a head start, maybe gaining a lasting share advantage (see IBM computers). Now comes Acme A.I. with a new, all important “app” that you really want and LG has no plans to supply it in the future – you know, the one that washes and dries your cat.

Or do you wait until the last big name gets in the game. When you are last and watched all the competitors mistakes, you have invaluable knowledge about what NOT to do in implementation (see Hewlett Packard computers) usually affording the last in a size/functionality/price advantage.

Oh sure, they will all swear their stuff will “be compatible” with the other guy’s stuff. I calculated the probability of that happening – it”s {point zip over infinity}!

So, a Big Bet indeed. Choose wisely grasshopper.

… and, oh yeah, there were some new TVs there too. While OLED technology continues to catch the eye of those looking for best picture quality, it was a panel of a different stripe that got our best-in-show vote.

If you are a custom integrator advising a medium to high end client about where their money is best spent, today it’s all about HDR. As you have read in this space before (and will again) HDR is the real deal. It’s the best reason that has come along in a long time to buy a new TV. HDR is all about the display’s ability to blast selected pixels bright – the brighter the better. While we used to measure image brightness in foot-lamberts, we now talk “nits”. The best we have seen from consumer displays so far is about 4 to 5,000 nits.

So, what captured our video hearts was an 85″ Sony 8K (yeah, 8) prototype. It wasn’t the size or the 8K that stopped us in our tracks, it was the fact that it was rendering at 10,000 nits! The original math behind Dolby Vision EOFT (HDR gamma) and other HDR variants was designed from the start for 10K nits and 2020 color gamut. That means that there will be no need for “tone mapping” or “color mapping” or other algorithms to make your lesser-than-perfect display do a decent job at HDR. This set does everything HDR was meant to do! O.K., it was a prototype, but I bet we see something like it by the end of the year.

It was simply the best image I had ever seen on screen.

Could it get better? uh, yeah. Mr. Silver (ed. Joel Siver of ISF) pointed out that the color volume base was too skinny – meaning we were still looking at P3 color. When we get that same picture with 2020 color, we can gasp even louder!

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