Electronic Design

Though Attendance Was Down, 2009 International CES Still Shines

Early reports from the 2009 International CES this month in Las Vegas placed the number of attendees at more than 110,000, down from last year’s 141,150 total. But I didn’t notice that much of a difference. I was solidly booked with appointments for three full days, and announcements at the show were stellar. Plus, it was tough to get from one place to another with crowds of people everywhere.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which runs CES, says it will strive to restrict future attendance to 2009’s levels. Steps taken to manage show attendance this year included a $100 pre-registration fee implemented on November 1.

“Our board concluded that it is essential to have the right people attend CES. Board members reported getting more business done this year than at any prior show. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to exhibitors and attendees conducting business at CES,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. According to a number of people I talked with at the show, Shapiro was right on the mark.

Contributing Editor Ron Schneiderman tackles green design in this issue’s cover story (see “Regulatory Compliance Means Going The Extra Green Mile”), and environmentally friendly products were one of the more significant trends during the show. For example, fabless semiconductor company Green Peak combines energy harvesting with the wireless 802.15.4 standard.

Green Peak is developing a new architecture around the standard that uses 10 times less power. The company also has created a radio without using a microprocessor, instead using state machines up to the media access controller (MAC) layer. And, antenna diversity makes these radios robust.

Frans Frielink, Green Peak’s VP of business development, showed me a couple of his company’s products. The first was a battery-less switch that could be placed on a wall. Via energy harvesting, the switch collects enough energy from the keypress to send a signal to a receiver at a lamp, for instance.

Another is a remote control with lifetime batteries. The remote collects enough energy to work without batteries. To combat a slight delay in operation, the design includes one lithium-ion coin battery for the RF remote. Another coin battery is included to run a standard infrared remote, since so many legacy products use IR remotes.

IN 3D!
3D video was another trend. Sir Howard Stringer, Sony chairman and CEO, said that 3D movies such as Toy Story would be released in 2009. Everyone at his keynote received a pair of polarized Ray-Bans to view the trailers, which looked terrific.

One really neat 3D product I saw didn’t require glasses. Epson Electronics America showed a high-resolution autostereoscopic 3D LCD display for handheld gaming machines. Although I have seen small 3D displays at other CES events, this display was particularly good.

According to Goro Hamagishi, general manager of the Display Development Center at Epson, users can view off-the-shelf content such as standard video games in 3D. Content is rendered eight times via an image processing technology called a “step 3-D pixel array” and sent through a lenticular lens optimally designed for a view width of 31 to 32.5 mm. The resulting 3D effect is truly stunning.

A couple of audio products caught my attention. Recently acquired by Intersil, D2Audio announced its DAE-4 chip, which integrates various advanced audio processing techniques onto a single chip. The device can greatly enhance the sound of HDTVs and audio equipment such as MP3 docking stations and mini hi-fi stereos with intelligent D2Audio features like WideSound, DeepBass, AudioAlign, and ClearVoice.

Another unique audio product at first appeared to be an ordinary MP3 player, triangular and somewhat larger than the Apple iPod shuffle. But it included technology from NXT. NXT is famous for its flat-panel speaker technology, which can be found in all-in-one computers such as those from Gateway, where the display is also the speaker.

You can listen to this player, known as Tunebug and developed by Silicon Valley Global, through a pair of headphones. Or, you can place it on a flat surface like a table, and you’ll hear the music just as well—no external speakers needed. The Tunebug should hit the stores around June of this year.

We shot quite a few videos, featuring some of these products and many others. For a closer look at the show, including interviews with key company executives, go to electronicdesign.com/subject/ces2009.

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