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article imageDigital Journal TV: Organic LED TVs, Smile-Detecting Cameras and Dancing MP3 Players

By Digital Journal Staff     Sep 28, 2007 in Technology
It was a consumer electronics playground: digital cameras flashing in one end, 70-inch LCDs wowing eyeballs at the other, and a new video technology so top-secret, no one was allowed to photograph it. Welcome to the Sony Fall Dealer Show, and Digital Journal was there to offer a peek into the latest gadgets.
By Christopher Hogg and David Silverberg
Digital Journal — Walking into the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Toronto, we were visually bombarded with bright screens and shiny devices, the kind of distraction that would make any tech junkie immediately reach for their wallet. But Sony’s Fall Dealer Show wasn’t taking over two floors of a theatre facility to woo early adopters; its tech showcase wanted to attract Sony fans for life.
One of the most eye-popping exhibits housed walls of flat-panel Bravia LCD TVs. The W series boasted a rich vivid screen at 1920 x 1080 resolution, from 40 to 52 inches. The colour jumped off the LCD, prompting exclamations of wonder from onlookers. Even more impressive were the XBR models that offered Sony’s Motionflow frame, ideal for fast action scenes. This technology creates 60 unique frames between each of the already existing 60 frames, meaning the 120 frames-per-second image is clear and smooth. The aesthetics were also enticing, as a floating glass frame looked elegant against the rich visuals.
On hand at the electronics expo was an XBR unit that stopped everyone in their tracks: the 70-inch XBR3 is touted as Canada’s largest LCD on the market, and it was undoubtedly a model that proved why size matters. Too bad it costs $40,000.
Patrick Lapointe, marketing manager at Sony Canada, said:
Our Bravia flat-panel LCD HDTVs deliver an outstanding level of picture quality and style that consumers appreciate.Also worth noting in the TV lineup was Bravia Internet Video Link that offers Net video programming on an LCD through any broadband connection. Users can check out cooking videos or footage from Sony’s online vid site, Crackle, for instance. This technology also features a pseudo-browser to access online content, viewable on an LCD TV. The only catch is that users need a Sony TV to use the video link, which might disappoint owners of already impressive LCDs.
In the digital camera pavilion, there were enough newbie goodies to keep shutterbugs occupied for hours. One of the more stand-out products for photo fanatics was the digital SLR newcomer, the Alpha A700. A sequel to the A100, this unit features 12.24 megapixels, and has clean noise-free signals that are sent to a powerful processing engine. A newly developed auto-focus feature uses 11 sensors for exceptional AF precision, which should thrill photographers who shoot a wide range of subjects.
David Oyagi, product manager for DSLR and Memory Stick at Sony Canada, said:
Discerning photo enthusiasts will be impressed with the rugged construction and outstanding performance of the A700.Elsewhere in the camera-verse, Sony was heavily promoting its Cyber-shot T-series digicams. Why? The cameras include a new “smile shutter” function which detects and captures a person showing off their pearly whites (as previously reported on DigitalJournal.com). We were immediately wowed by how intuitive the technology became when a smile was detected, snapping a pic immediately. When there was no smile, the camera just waited. These 8-megapixel cameras (ranging from $380 to $500) are useful for those family photos when the rebellious son just won’t “say cheese” — and when that grin flashes briefly, the T-series cameras will undoubtedly capture that momentary grin.
Sony isn’t afraid to try to battle the big boys, and it’s going after Apple (even if it doesn’t say so explicitly) with a new line of video-enabled MP3 players. The Walkman video players sport 2-inch screens and nine hours of video battery life, and capacity ranges from 2GB to 8GB. These are cute devices that probably won’t ripple in the competitive audio player market, but since the most expensive Walkman only costs $220, they could appeal to cost-conscious consumers avoiding the iPod frenzy.
The neighbouring booth to the MP3 player showcase contained a unique gadget with an inappropriately boring name: the Sound Entertainment Player, as reported by museinspiredart. Although it will be called Rolly when it hits Japan next month, this robotic MP3 player rocks out your tracks while also dancing to the music. You can twist the top portion to change tracks and twist the bottom part to increase or decrease volume. Tap a few buttons and the tennis-ball-sized robot extends its speakers and starts dancing to the rhythm of a song. The demo showed off its rug-cutting skills, which was quite entertaining at first glance. But will true audio enthusiasts get turned on by a gadget that looks like it would best fit in a 12-year-old’s toy collection?
No Sony showcase would be complete without some cheery Blu-ray propaganda. Sitting in a massive theatre, we were treated to graphs and stats proclaiming Blu-ray the rising successor in the next-gen disc format war. Daniel Panke, product manager for home audio at Sony Canada, praised the 170 members (read: movie studios and tech manufacturers) who joined the “Blu-ray Association” and cited NPD Group data that said 67 per cent of purchased next-gen discs were Blu-ray titles. Sony played a Blu-ray clip of Casino Royale, and its amazing vibrancy was indeed beautiful. But as Forrester Research reported recently, the Blu-ray player price point has to drop in order to reach mainstream consumers.
Finally, the most awe-inspiring technology was also the most closely guarded. Sheltered like an Egyptian artefact in a glass box, two small TVs with OLED displays touted its exclusivity with a small sign saying “No photos, please.” Why the big fuss? One glance at the stunning display of organic LEDs explained it all: richer colours than LCD displays, a screen only three millimetres thin, and an extraordinary 1,000,000:1 contrast. Even Sony reps were blown away by the specs. As Michael Neujahr, manager of product training at Sony of Canada, admitted:
The refresh rate is so high, we weren’t even able to calculate it…This is the technology of tomorrow, and Sony is very excited to be pioneering it.OLEDs, so named because they use natural lighting inspired by marine creatures, has yet to debut in North America but it will launch in Japan later this year. Neujahr said there were no plans yet on bringing OLED displays to the West.
The Sony sneak peek attracted so much attention, a very special guest couldn’t resist showing up: Sir Howard Stringer, CEO and chairman of Sony Corp. He arrived with an entourage of suited execs, and toured each exhibit quickly before leaving in a limo. The Sony staffers were obviously excited by his presence, although his appearance was so brief we barely had a chance to accost him with questions about the under-performing PlayStation 3 and why Blu-ray has yet to impact the consumer market.
Leaving the Sony Fall Dealer Show (which felt more like a northern CES), we were reflective on what flashed before our eyes: new LCDs, newer video technology yet to debut here, face-detection cameras, robotic MP3 players. The showcase felt like a summation of the gadgets that will soon flood storeshelves, that will soon push its predecessors into the bargain bin. As we all know, the consumer electronics industry is always seeking to improve on what came before, and Sony proved how the future does indeed look bright. And shiny. And pretty fun to watch.
More about Sony, OLED, Organic led, Cameras, Gadgets
 
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