Coming Soon: Smart Television!

My colleague Ray Blanco and I recently attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The big story this year was the convergence in consumer electronics. Specifically, it was the arrival of extraordinary high-definition 3-D as well as “smart” TVs. In fact, Ray and I had backstage passes for the biggest 3-D events.

We were also able to talk to executives, scientists and engineers at many cutting-edge technology company. Without a doubt, the hottest topics and most-dazzling presentations at CES this year involved televisions. When I say television, though, I’m talking about an entirely new iteration of the old technology.

“Smart televisions” are finally becoming truly user-friendly. Moreover, the various online sources of content are being knit together by Google and hardware manufacturers. This convergence of all content on the wirelessly connected family screen presents an enormous challenge to traditional broadcast and cable networks. Games, educational materials, entertainment, telephony and home electronics management are coming together. When you can interact with Khan Academy lectures on virtually any subject, the term “boob tube” hardly applies. Here’s one article about this important trend.

In the past, I’ve never gotten particularly excited by HD television. Yes, new HD large-screen televisions have been improvements, but I’ve never found them particularly compelling. I think that’s about to change.

New screen technologies, OLED and active matrix, have crossed some tipping point. I was astonished by the clarity of next-generation screens. The Korean manufacturers, in particular, can make screens with clarity that is getting very close to actual vision. This is particularly true in regard to 3-D screen technology.

I told my subscribers several years ago that entertainment as we knew it would change when 3-D screens reached an acceptable level. That point will not come at once, because individuals have different preferences, but for many, it has already arrived, even though the highest-quality screens still require glasses. That will change within a few years. 3-D televisions are in the works now that will allow a room full of people to each receive, without glasses, both left and right eye signals — even if they move around.

The big events of the CES were all about 3-D, especially the live broadcasts by the ESPN 3-D channel. Fortunately, I know some of the key people at Cameron Pace Group, the company that owns the state-of-the-art technology used to shoot and broadcast most top-level 3-D. Cameron Pace is run by James Cameron of Avatar fame as well as Vince Pace, the inventor of the technology and a well-known cinematographer. As a result, Ray and I were able to go behind the scenes inside the semitrailers outside the convention hall that powered the 3-D broadcast.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about this company right now, but I will in the future. A lot of 3-D photography is happening right now, even though the forum doesn’t yet exist for the programming. When 3-D screens are more widely deployed, you’re going to be surprised to find that many of the most-successful shows on television today will then be released, for a second revenue stream, in 3-D.


Patrick Cox
for The Daily Reckoning