CES '17: What to Watch for in Vegas

Jan. 3, 2017
The Consumer Electronics Show rolls into the new year like a lion while people are still giddy over tech presents from the holidays. The 2017 CES in Las Vegas this week promises an array of gadgets that may ...

The Consumer Electronics Show rolls into the new year like a lion while people are still giddy over tech presents from the holidays. The 2017 CES in Las Vegas this week promises an array of gadgets that may not be shocking as in previous years, but will be cool nonetheless.

CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney took a few moments to crystal ball what he expects to see on the show floor.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices will be out en force, but the hot button term will be mixed reality, which describes things like the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Hololens. The gadgets are a precursor to the content announcements McKinney expects during the second half of 2017. He predicts there will be some interesting content revealed at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

"People are thinking about different ways to do storytelling. (It will be) dramatic stories in a 360 content experience," McKinney said.

McKinney also anticipates seeing the first commercially available flexible video displays on the show floor. One vendor he is "most confident" will have one is LG.

The concept of a flexible display is something McKinney has been involved with for the last 10 years, particularly when he was CTO at Hewlett Packard. Think display wallpaper where the electronics essentially are printed onto Mylar film.

"You can walk to the wall, grab a corner and pull the display from the wall," McKinney said. "You can literally almost put a sticky surface on the back and hang it on any surface … you can transform the concept of what is wall and display."

CES also will see 8K UltraHD displays. "There is a regulatory requirement in Japan for 8K. (They) are taking the lead related to the Olympics in display technology and the ability to create channels and content based on 8K," McKinney said.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to be important this year, and will go beyond the now "traditional" web cams and baby monitors. But McKinney said he is wondering whether consumer adoption will slow due to recent security or privacy scares.

"At CableLabs specifically, we are focused on that with regards to OCF where (we) were invited in to design a security framework for IoT devices and help (set) up a test and certification process. If a consumer sees a certified device, they will know the level of security applied to that device," McKinney said.

Gigabit Internet rollouts were a major occurrence in 2016, although only a small percentage of the customer base is expected to choose this top offered speed at present. What are consumers running that uses 1 Gig? Currently, really only the speed test, McKinney said.

"But don't walk away with the perception that I don't think consumers will need 1 Gig. By increasing the speed, (operators) are creating the opportunity for innovators to create things we never anticipated," McKinney said.

He also mentioned remote home health, automated vehicles, or even 4K 360-degree VR.

"What we are seeing (from service providers) is the confidence that there are innovators out there to take advantage of the speed and capabilities. To support that level of innovation, we have to invest ahead of that," McKinney said.

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