CES, for those of you not in the know, is the International Consumer Electronics Show, a yearly tech-fest held at the huge Las Vegas Convention Center and spilling over into meeting rooms and suites at the Venetian and Hilton hotels – and beyond.
It’s one of the world’s biggest consumer electronics trade shows (They’ll tell you that it’s the biggest, but the point is debatable. Last year, for example, IFA in Berlin attracted 235,000 visitors, whereas CES got 127,000. I might be being a little unfair, though, as CES is trade only. IFA got 125,000 trade visitors in 2010, which put the two shows roughly neck-and-neck) and is traditionally where the world’s biggest CE companies launch new products.
On a personal note, the show has started particularly well for me as the airline failed to lose my luggage. In 2008 my bag turned up in the wee hours of the morning after arrival; in 2009 it appeared a couple of hours before I left Vegas. But I fooled the airlines this time by pretending not to care. After arriving at the Vegas airport (where the first pokies greet you as you step off the plane) I lined up for my CES credentials and did a bit of shopping before wandering over to the baggage carousel, fully expecting my bag not to be there. But there it was – though it was about to be removed by an official as everyone else had already left.
But enough of the small-talk, and on to the show. The exhibition officially opens tomorrow, but today was taken up by some of the bigger press conferences.
Among other appointments, we made it to the Monster and Pioneer pressers.
After doing his best to run down the press pack on his Segway, Head Monster Noel Lee took to the stage (still on his Segway … we were waiting for him to lose concentration and shoot off into the audience) to trumpet the brand’s success in the headphone space.
“We exploded the category in 2010,” he says. The company, with no previous headphones presence, now dominates the crowded market (in the US$75-and-above bracket) thanks mainly to its now-iconic Beats By Dr Dre lineup.
Interestingly, Monster hasn’t eroded its competitors’ sales. Instead, the market has expanded to accommodate the newcomer.
Monster’s not disappointing us for 2011, launching a few very cool models, including the pretty amazing Miles Davis Trumpet high-performance in-ear headphones (earphones).
Taking design cues from a trumpet, this US$499.95 model has mouthpiece-shaped earpieces and an in-line control/microphone panel with buttons shaped like piston valves. They have a gold-and-silver finish and a miniature laser-etched Miles Davis signature on the earpieces. How miniature? Well, the set comes with a special magnifier for older audiophiles!
Monster also launched the TRON-branded Legacy T1 Daft Punk Special Edition Premium Headphones (RRP US$349.95), an over-ear set which uses a “LED Light Drive System” to recreate lighting effects from the TRON: Legacy movie. The headphones also feature Monster’s Noise Isolation Technology, a removable boom microphone for gamers, and ControlTalk, which enables handsfree calling by users of newer iPhones and iPods .
Still on the TRON-meets-LED theme, Monster also showed off the TRON: Legacy AUDIO DOCK (RRP US$249.95), an iPhone/iPod docking speaker system featuring an LED lightshow and TRON-themed alarm clock and visualiser app.
With all the tech we’re incorporating into our cars these days, safety is of prime importance. Monster has taken things a step forward with the release of the iCarPlay Direct Connect motion-control devices.
The AI 900 (RRP $59.95) and AI 2000 (RRP $69.95) are in-car chargers which let you use hand gestures to control the audio from your iPod, iPhone or iPad.
The units plug into your car’s power socket and into your iOS device’s dock connector to charge. If you want to hear audio as well, your car’s audio system will need an aux-in port.
Monster also announced a few other products, such as super-thin HDMI cables, 3DTV eyewear that works with all 3DTVs using shutter technology, and 30m-long custom-installation HDMI cables … but the company threw everyone at the press conference by announcing a range of co-branded Monster/West Coast Customs car-care products.
We know that Lee’s Bentley was “pimped” by WCC last year, and the same crew has done a TRON job on his Audi R8 for this year’s show, but it seems to be a strange direction for the company.
Here you see Liana modelling the latest range!
Pioneer takes iPhone on the road
At the Pioneer press conference, Ted Cardenas, the director of car electronics marketing for Pioneer US, waxed lyrical about the iPhone being the gateway to the world, but said that its use in cars suffers from its small size and the fact that the interface needs almost total attention.
To this end, the company is working towards the iPhone’s total integration into the vehicle, starting with two AVIC in-dash navigation models which connect the user to the internet via the free Aha Radio Mobile App.
This lets users listen to the latest traffic conditions, hear their latest Facebook and Twitter updates via text-to-speech synthesis, find and listen to podcasts and access other services that, for example, tell you where the nearest cafe is.
It all looks great, but as Aha Radio isn’t available in Australia, the chances are great that these units won’t be either. We’ll confirm this once we’ve spoken to the Pioneer Australia execs in the next couple of days.
What SHOULD be available Down Under, however, is the Pioneer SmartCradle for iPhone. Like a similar device from TomTom, it’s an iPhone docking cradle that enhances the GPS performance of any location-based iOS app.
It does this via a built-in GPS sensor, gyroscope and accelerometer, which means it will keep you on the right track even in notoriously bad GPS reception areas, like city CBDs.
The SmartCradle also features Bluetooth handsfree calling, an amplified speaker, AV output and an “Auto Sound Levelizer” (which means Pioneer has also introduced a new word at CES).