In addition to spreading their technology message and announcing new software partners (Disney!), the D-BOXers brought along their top-of-the-line products, including a motion-enabled loveseat and this little beauty, a recliner with a third actuator for up-and-down-movement, or "heave," hence my raised thumb to illustrate. The heave literally adds another dimension to the interactivity that the chairs bring to DVDs and Blu-rays. If you ever see the D-BOX roadshow truck in your neighborhood, be sure to take a seat.
Last year here at CES I was more excited than anyone about the Nikko Home Electronics' R2-D2 Projector but then, as if swallowed by some swamp-dwelling scavenger on Dagobah, the little droid disappeared. This year he's back and better than ever (like when the Rebels cleaned him up for the big ceremony after The Battle of Yavin, good times...), upgraded to high-definition from last year's standard-def plans. This R2-DLP now puts out 2,000 lumens with an 1,800:1 contrast ratio and a DVI input for good measure. He should be landing at retail within about a month and a half, at a suggested price of $2,799. And no, he doesn't have little rockets that allow him to fly. That would just be stupid.
A small building just outside the LVCC evoked memories of Ralph Kramden in his chef hat, as were were treated to a glimpse of The House of the Future. The man of the house is the Life|media LMS-754, a home media server running Microsoft Windows Vista, available in different configurations that include DVD, Blu-ray, CableCARD, and various processors, either in a rack-mountable form factor or as a set-top box. The Life|ware 2.0 software enables elaborate control of the home entertainment experience, while taking it a step further with a new level of home automation, executing user-defined commands called Life|scenes, in collaboration with everything from Lutron lighting to next-generation smart beds. A 16:9 touch screen displays data and allows access from any room in the house.
Okay, by "the end of wires" I'm not referring to the terminations, silly, rather the conclusion of the wired era. Audiovox is showing off an assortment of wireless loudspeakers, a wireless suboofer (with a nifty, decor-friendly faux chest to conceal it!), and even a kit that will turn ANY pair of speakers wireless. Noise levels in the Main Hall were such that I cannot comment on sound quality, but listen up, cables: You've been given notice!
Ah, the splendor of the high-end table radio. SoundWorks i765 is a fab-sounding 2.1-channel system with built-in DVD/CD player plus a radio with improved AM and FM tuners over all previous models. It also now docks, charges, and provides video pass-through for all of the latest iPods, which allegedly is a very complicated affair.
Far from the madding convention center, Dolby provided A-B comparisons of their new Dolby Contrast technology, part of their HDR ("High Dynamic Range") tech family. The interesting part is that it is a video technology, for adjusting the range of dark to light in the LED backlighting of LCD TVs. By precisely dimming the right area of the screen at the right time, contrast can be heightened as never before, for a very film-like effect. (As the exciting screen image suggests, Blu-ray and DVD playback will both benefit.)
Nestled among Ion's various USB turntable offerings was this different spin on analog-to-digital conversion: The TAPE 2 PC copies old audiocassettes to MP3s, and even grabs track names off the internet via Gracenote MusicID. So all of you erstwhile Walkman enthusiasts (and we are legion) can now transport your library into the 21st century without breaking the bank on hundreds of Duran Duran and Rick Springfield downloads.
At the Dolby booth, this prototype of the first-ever audio/video receiver with the new Dolby Volume technology was on display outside their mini-theater. Onkyo, with a tradition of early integration of new audio technologies, won the honor of debuting the new process which organically rejiggers the loud and quiet parts of a soundtrack within a scene, such as hard-to-hear dialogue amid background sound effects, as well as equalizing the levels between two different programs when we change channels or go to commercial, with very enjoyable results in all of the demo I've heard in the past year. Clearly this is something that consumers have been demanding, one of those seemingly simple problems that's a bear to solve (otherwise everyone would do it!)
The newest iPod dock from Creative actually upscales the video quality to 720p or 1080i, and it holds up remarkably well on the big screen. The Creative Xdock HD is a $399 bundle which includes a receiver to accept streaming audio in a second room of the house, and it can support up to three additional receivers, sold separately.