Despite death threats to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who chose to cancel his appearance, the FCC Road Show went on as planned at CES 2018 with Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Mike O'Rielly, and Brendan Carr, otherwise known as "A Democrat and Two Republicans." After going through what amounted to airport security measures, those who got in (including yours truly) were quite entertained for an hour, and as usual with FCC commissioners and other politicians, the audience was not allowed to ask questions, thus making sure the commissioners were not challenged in any way. While there were numerous topics announced beforehand that would be covered by the commissioners, in reality, three major topics dominated the discussion - Net Neutrality (of course), consideration for rewriting the Telecom Act of 1996, and, at the end of the hour, the rollout of 5G.
The repeal, by the current FCC, of net neutrality regulations under Title II, enacted by the
Obama-appointed, Tom Wheeler-led FCC, led off the discussion, with the expected results. Leading off, Commissioner Clyburn referred to the repeal action as the "Destroying Internet Freedom Order" which got the attention of the audience quickly. Clyburn argued for what she called a "free, open, and inclusive Internet," and rationalized her argument stating that there are "pockets" in the U.S. without the ability for the types of investment needed without net neutrality.
As expected the two other commissioners, both of whom voted for the repeal, took positions that differed from Commissioner Clyburn's. Commissioner Carr stated that he was excited about the future now that the FCC had repealed the net neutrality order, telling the audience that, under Title II, net neutrality has hurt the types of innovation that will likely resume with the overturning of the Title II order. However, Carr did say that he thought there was still room for "reasonable" disagreement. Commissioner O'Rielly chose not to engage in the back-and- forth directly, choosing instead to focus on the timeline for net neutrality from this point forward. According to O'Rielly, the next step in the process is the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for transparency considerations, then to Congress, then finally, the inevitable court challenges, leading, most likely to the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on the Court's decision regarding the challenges to the Obama FCC's net neutrality order. (NOTE: With the repeal of net neutrality by the current FCC, the U.S. Supreme Court may consider the question of the Obama-FCC net neutrality moot, and wait for challenges to the repeal to reach the justices - we'll have to
wait and see).
The other major topic was the edit/rewrite of the Telecom Act of 1996 by the U.S. Congress. The Act of 1996, while not replacing the previous Communications Act of 1934, made sweeping changes in a number of areas to update or address innovations and the changing regulatory climate in the U.S. While all three commissioners were respectful of not stepping on Congress' toes, both O'Rielly and Clyburn did express their thoughts on the subject. Commissioner O'Rielly was the more amenable of the two to the idea of a complete or extensive rewrite of the Act by Congress, but ruled out the likelihood of that occurring in 2018. Commissioner Clyburn, on the other hand, felt that a total rewrite was "problematic" and said that the Act should be reviewed "in real time today" to see what changes are needed. Clyburn also said that nothing should be passed that would take the FCC out of the regulatory job that it currently is empowered to do.
Finally, there was some discussion among the commissioners over the rollout of 5G technology nationwide. While all three commissioners supported the idea of a 5G rollout, they differed in how the rollout should proceed and in the time frame. Both Commissioners Carr and O'Rielly called for pushing out 5G quickly nationwide. Commissioner Clyburn was somewhat less eager to follow her colleagues' lead. Commissioner Carr told the audience that the U.S. is on the cusp of important changes and called a buildout of one million cell sites nationwide (a 4X increase over current numbers). He also stated that 5G should be pushed out quickly around the U.S. Commissioner O'Rielly agreed with his colleague and said that the FCC needed to push state and local barrier out of the way to get 5G rolled out as quickly as possible. Commissioner Clyburn, though, argued for the need for the FCC to work with states and local communities in rolling out 5G and not to "take a sledgehammer where a scalpel is needed."
All in all, it was an interesting and enjoyable hour, if for no other reason than it was an
opportunity to see how the commissioners interacted with each other in public. Nevertheless, there was no blockbuster news that left the audience surprised or amazed. In the end, it was more "dog-and- pony show," but an enjoyable one. Now the question is whether or not we will see any actions on the topics they discussed, especially the 5G rollout. Time will tell.
While CES 2018 doesn't open officially until Tuesday, members of the media and industry analysts (including yours truly) were treated to "CES Unveiled" - a chance to see and talk with more than 100 different companies who were exhibiting their products. While many of the companies were start-ups, there were several well-established companies whose names the average person would recognize. While there were a number of companies demonstrating new lifestyle technological innovations, I want to focus on four companies over the next two articles - two well known and two not - that were demonstrating their television-oriented products. This article will look at the two better known companies and the next will look at the newcomers.
Westinghouse - the company that - along with three others - brought radio into existence, demonstrated home appliances on earliest television, and was a big name in television when U.S. television companies were the only ones worth purchasing, is back with a new television set for the consumer. While, evidently, Westinghouse has been in the television set business, you may or may not have realized it. I know I didn't. Westinghouse has a nice 65" UHD smart television set that is nice, but really doesn't look much different from any other. What is different is that the smart TV software is a form of Android TV, and it offers a variety of options that makes the television closer to the brilliant sets of the near future. The home page has all the apps you could want, along with Google Play Store to add any app you need. Further, the set also allows you to "cast" pictures and videos from any smartphone or tablet with no additional equipment (such as Chromecast). At $800 (what I was told anyway) for the 65" model, it may be a good deal if you are a heavy app user and want it on your TV set.
Dell - Yes, Dell is getting into television - sort of. They are demonstrating a projection system for television. It's UHD, and can project an image pretty much as large as you want. The projection comes from below the screen and is laser delivered. The picture is very nice - good color saturation and nice contrast, If I remember correctly, the cost was in the neighborhood of $2000, but then you have to buy the screen separately which they don't appear to be selling. The projection will look very nice on a high quality screen, but I became rather concerned when the person I was speaking with said that people could project the signal onto their walls at home, or paint a wall to serve as a screen. I have written about other projection sets during previous CES conventions and I don't see why a consumer would buy this system unless (s)he has a really large number of children or entertained a number of people on a regular basis. Maybe those would be a good use. I'll be interested to see if it takes off - I rather doubt it will, but we'll see.
Next article I'll cover Looxid and MirraViz, two newcomers with interesting products.
The Players, The Viewers, The Money
In my last article I talked about innovations coming from two well-known companies, Westinghouse and Dell. In this article I want to focus of two companies you may not have heard of - Looxid and MirraViz. While both companies' products are interesting, both products have specialized uses and focus on different areas of the television world.
MirraViz has introduced an interesting display innovation for television and gaming. MirraViz is a projection system designed to allow two or more people to view different programs on a single screen. Using multiple small projectors set at different angles off the perpendicular each person sitting next to, or behind, the small projector can see his/her own program without seeing the other person's program. MirraViz is selling the system for gamers to allow multiple gamers in a single room looking at a single screen, but playing each game (or avatar, or first person) without others seeing what (s)he is doing. It's an interesting concept for the gaming industry, especially for multiplayer games where each gamer can play the game without telegraphing his/her moves. However, MirraViz also has television capabilities. Each projector comes with HDMI connections installed, allowing for different viewers to watch different programs at the same time without having to fight over a remote. One person could watch a ball game which the other person watches a movie on the same screen, sitting reasonably close to each other, without interfering with the other's viewing. Given that television is heading to on-demand all the time, the system offers distinct advantages for multiple simultaneous viewing.
Looxid demonstrated its LooxidVR headset, a VR headset that integrates eye-tracking and brain sensors into the headset. The two eye-tracking cameras show where on the VR screen the person is looking, how long the person looked at the location, and how many times the viewer returned to that location. The six brain sensors provide a readout of the brain-wave activity occuring during viewing, including emotional reactions to what's occuring on the screen. While not necessarily a product for the home, the LooxidVR headset system will be an excellent tool for content creators, content providers, and advertisers to get direct reactions and information about their programs or advertisements before making them available to the viewing public. With personalization of advertising and on-demand programming being the future of television, the ability to understand how different target groups respond to ads or programs becomes crucial as an antecedent tool for programmatic advertising and dynamic ad insertion for advertising and promotion of on-demand programs to the viewer. The LooxidVR headset makes that understanding possible.
CES2018 - CONVENTION OPENS
CES 2018 PREVIEW
CES Unveiled - Part 2
21st Century Television
CES 2018 has been over for a little more than a week, so it’s time to look back at the convention. All in all, it was a good convention – not a great one. From the television standpoint, the most interesting offerings were from Samsung, Hisense, Changhong and LG. I’ll take the four in order, but first, some general thoughts on the sets for this year.
Big is back in a serious way, with almost everyone demonstrating at least one TV set at 75” or larger, a lot of them much larger. If Alexa-enabled sets have been the “thing” for the past couple of years, Google Home and Google Assistant were all the rage this year. In fact, you couldn’t go anywhere in the convention center or even on the Strip and not see “Google” plastered right before your eyes. It was a “Google World” this year at CES, and the television sets were no different. (On a side note, Amazon might as well change the name of the “Echo” to “Alexa” because that’s all anyone calls the device!) Also, 8K is back in a big way after basically disappearing from last year’s convention. Whether it’s because there will be 8K signals being delivered from South Korea during the Winter Olympics or that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will likely be a true “coming out party” for 8K as Japan delivers 8K in a big way, I don’t know. But 8K is definitely back and all the set manufacturers are now talking about 8K as the coming thing in the very near future. Further, AI, of course, is big for TV this year, as it was for everything, it seemed. (I’m waiting for an AI toothbrush that can control the TV set in my mirror and tell me when I am starting to get a cavity or need a professional cleaning!)
Samsung provided what, for me, was the most forward-looking of all the television sets being demonstrated at this year’s convention. Samsung debuted a seamless television set of micro LED modules, each approximately 4” high by 8” long. I’m not sure if that is the exact dimension, but it’s close. Each panel could be interconnected to other panels on any of the four sides. By connecting a given number of panels, a person could conceivably create a television set size of his/her choice. Samsung’s model was 140” and the way the modules connected, the picture was truly seamless. Further, I suppose you could buy enough modules to build the 140” set, then break it down into two, three, or more sets of varying sizes. It was a very interesting concept, and, quite honestly, could be one of the possibilities for the TV set of the future. Samsung also demonstrated a series of native 8K television sets. They are due out in March 2018, but only in an 85” size. The set can also be a hub for connecting other smart appliances around the house.
Hisense demonstrated a different style of large TV set this year, a 150” laser projection set. Like last year, the projector sits below the screen and projects the picture upward onto the screen, but the picture quality is far superior to last year’s model. The set has four million micro-mirrors and generates 83 million pixels, using a dual laser system. The set uses a Harman/Kardon audio system (as do others), high dynamic range and wide color gamut, and ambient light reflection. The 100” is already on sale, with the smaller 88” and 80” sets due out in time for Christmas, and the 150” set arriving next year most likely. In addition, Hisense was the only set manufacturer to actively tout the fact that at least some of their TV sets will have an ATSC 3.0 tuner in them by this April. While I am sure that some of the other sets will also have the tuners, Hisense was the only one I talked with that actively pushed their TVs as being ready for the new standard. Hisense also had 8K TV sets as well.
Changhong is a company I have mentioned before, but is likely not well known in the U.S.,
although they are for sale here in the States. Changhong also demonstrated a 100” laser
projection system, with triple-color lasers, a color gamut of 180%, and, interestingly, eye
protection ability to soften the picture without taking away from the picture quality. Further,
Changhong demonstrated a 150” Smart Cinema TV set, helping to continue the push for the very large screen TV set.
LG, for me, was disappointing. No sets larger than 77,” the usual excellent OLED screens, and super thin sets that seem to almost blend into the wall. All the sets had HDR, Dolby Vision, Technicolor, Hybrid Log Gamma for broadcast, and HDR10 for streaming. Unlike the first two companies I mentioned, LG did not have any 8K sets on hand, which surprised me because I had a chance to see a multitude of 8K sets being sold around South Korea when I was there 18 months ago. The UHD set picture, of course, was beautiful, but nothing there wowed me like the other companies. LG sets are also designed with AI capability, and LG has a huge number of different smart home appliances to connect to their TV sets.
Finally, a quick mention about a company called StreamTV. The company was marketing a UHD, 3D, glasses free software that they will license to companies. The software can convert live TV in real time and, when it is launched, it will launch in 8K first. While the 3D is not like what you see in movies with the funky glasses, it still provides an interesting depth to the TV picture. Where it goes from here, well, the original 3D didn’t last, but who knows? Maybe StreamTV has an answer.
As you can see, there were some interesting products demonstrated at CES 2018, but nothing that was earth-shattering. Maybe this was just a down year and CES 2019 will have everyone going crazy for the fantastic, amazing new television products. After all, it’s only 11 ½ months away!
CES 2018 began today under rainy, cool skies. One thing I noticed is that almost no one is prepared for rain in Las Vegas - it's in the desert, for goodness sake! It's not supposed to rain in the desert - at least not for a day-and-a-half - but it has and everyone is trying to cover up as best as possible. Puddles everywhere and the monorail doesn't work well with a major convention occurring and rain - believe me, you don't want to ride the monorail in Las Vegas in the rain during peak times for a major convention; it can be scary! The weather actually wouldn't be bad except it's rather cool so the air feels cooler than it actually is.
This year's convention is the largest ever it seems to me - more exhibits, more hotel conference and convention centers being used, more conference rooms for sessions in use, and I'm sure more people from more countries doing more deals. It's just bigger.
Even though this is the first day, I have already been surprised by a couple of things - ATSC 3.0 has not been mentioned and robots are huge. As big as ATSC 3.0 has been over the last two to three years at both CES and NAB, this year the topic has not come up in the sessions so far (and I don't remember seeing it mentioned in more than maybe one or two sessions throughout the entire convention). OTT seems to be the story, and what might be next for television in the OTT space, but not ATSC 3.0.
Robots are huge as I just said. It seems like every electronics company from startup to major player is working on some type of robot for the home, the office, or around town. Further, the robots for the home not only handle a variety of functions like turning on and off the lights, stove, oven, and monitoring everything, but they have a pleasing voice and even a personality of a sorts. They are being marketed as a friend and/or a companion. I think I would feel sorry for someone who needs a robot for a buddy, but they are around and, quite honestly, many are also designed to be cute - think Olaf from Frozen but a robot. Some move around and some just sit on the table or counter. For businesses there are robots being demonstrated that can serve the job of porter at a hotel, carrying luggage to the customer's room. At the Seoul Incheon airport, LG is also experimenting with robots that not only can supply information to the flier, but will even walk the flier to his/her gate to make sure the person doesn't get lost - all with a pleasant voice to listen to.
The underlying technology is, of course, artificial intelligence (AI), but that's a topic for a different day.
REFLECTIONS ON CES 2018
CES2018 - CONVENTION OPENS
CES 2018 is just around the corner and, once again, is promising to be a fantastic
affair. Close to 200,000 participants will descend on Las Vegas January 9-12,
populating hotels, restaurants, ride-sharing automobiles – much everything. All the
convention centers around the Strip are in full use as well, which means snarled
traffic as well. It is an exciting, chaotic, amazing experience, and, once again, I’ll
be writing about what is going on each day. I hope you enjoy the articles.
One of the most exciting aspects of CES 2018 is the number of new areas that will
have companies demonstrating their products. What makes this so exciting is that
you can see just how much technology is impacting seemingly almost every facet
of daily life. Here is a list of just the “new” areas that are being introduced at CES
2018: Sports Zone, Smart Cities, Design and Source, High-Tech Retailing, and the
AI (Artificial Intelligence) Marketplace.
Additionally, CES is spotlighting a number of celebrities, from movies and
television, music, and sports. Even royalty, a His Royal Highness will be in
attendance to support his country’s achievements.
Speaking earlier of AI, the topic seems to be “the” term on everyone’s lips – how
artificial intelligence will be impacting every aspect of daily living. A quick look at
some of the exhibitors suggests that we are heading toward – if not Data from the
Star Trek: TNG series – at least toward robots for everyone, as well as AI in
medicine, work, educational toys, even our cars.
For me, though, where television is heading is my main focus – and the
possibilities are exciting. Unlike last year, it appears that 8K television will take
front and center, ATSC 3.0 will be a buzz term for the legacy media types, OTT
will be big (surprisingly so – it’ll be interesting to see what’s new there), VR and
AR will generate new ways to wow, and 5G will hit the stage in a big way with
much fanfare and promise.
All in all, it should be a great convention and I’ll be writing about the days as they