As a general rule, home automation is pricey. When you add motorization into the mix, it can get even pricier. SABAJ, a vertically integrated, extremely automated manufacturer located in Poland, showed off a motorized TV lift mechanism designed to raise flat-panel TVs up out of hidden cabinets that is surprisingly affordable. The company’s various lift mechanisms include an RJ45 socket for use with home automation systems, power guard circuitry to prevent the mechanism to lower the TV if it is still on, an active safety system that stops the downward movement and raises the screen slightly if something gets in the way, a three-button programming sequence for programming a preset viewing-position, and comes flat-packed so shipping costs are low. The TV-LIFT K-LINE ECO and K-LINE PREMIUM models are designed for flat-panel TVs up to 60 inches and up to 155 pounds (depending upon the K-LINE model). Product will be available in the US market very soon, and pricing will likely start at well under $1,000 for the lift mechanism.
Waterproof iPad and iPhone cases don’t automatically jump out as being prime home theater-related items; but as outdoor TVs from companies like SunBriteTV and Seura become more and more popular, along with weather-resistant speakers (such as the Soundcast Outcast wireless speakers), plenty of iOS and Android devices are making their way out into the elements. I originally thought the various storage bags from LOKSAK were little more than high-teched-up versions of the basic Ziploc storage bags found in kitchens everywhere. In reality, these amazing bags are not only resealable, they’re also completely waterproof, dust proof, and humidity proof. In fact, the many different sizes of LOKSAK bags are all rated to withstand being submerged in 20 feet of water for up to two weeks. Most amazing, however, is the fact that the touchscreen on your tablet or smartphone will operate exactly as if there were no bag material present at all. And, just as remarkable, you can make/take phone calls without opening the bag – including using the phone’s built-in speaker and microphone! With all that technology going for it, you’d expect to pay an iPremium price for an aLOKSAK; instead, aLOKSAKs start at under $8 – for a package of three aLOKSAKs.
After filming a brief interview yesterday with Winston Cheng, VP of Development at Aeon Labs, at the Z-Wave Pavilion where the company was showing off its soon-to-be-released DIY LCD window film, I had the chance to stop by the SONTE booth for a brief demo today. Much like the product from Aeon Labs, the 0.7 mm SONTE FILM can be applied to any glass surface and can switch from transparent to opaque in under one second. SONTE FILM, however, is controlled via Wi-Fi, so it can be controlled by a wide variety of IP-based control/automation systems. The flexible film comes in 1 x 1 meter sheets, and they can be daisy chained to cover large windows. They can also be trimmed to fit smaller windows. One potential use on large windows is to incorporate multiple sheets side-by-side on the window, but without daisy chaining them together. Theoretically, you could then control each film-treated section independently – and be able to use your automation system to block out direct sunlight panel-by-panel as the sun moves across the sky. The SONTE FILM improves the window’s insulation rating, although the company did not give any specs on by how much. The SONTE FILM isn’t totally clear – nor does it block 100% of the light. In the transparent state (energized), the film is transparent with a “Haze Coefficient” of 7%. With the power off, the film turns opaque with a Haze Coefficient of 67%.
Another interesting use of the SONTE FILM suggested by SONTE is to use the film to turn any large window or glass partition into a rear-projection screen. (With the projector supplied by the homeowner, of course.)
Pricing hasn’t been determined, but SONTE hopes to have DIY product available in the next three to four months.
BodyWave uses specially designed sensors that monitor the brain’s physiologic signal through the body to interpret your thoughts and allow you to control apps on computers and smartphones. It can also be used with computer simulations to “teach stress control, increase attention, and facilitate peak mental performance.” While I didn’t get a chance to try it myself, the guy who got to the booth just before I did learned how to drive a virtual forklift on the computer monitor in front of him within about a minute using only his thoughts and a stationary non-turning steering wheel with the company’s physiological sensors embedded on the wheel. The device “read” his thoughts – as long as he concentrated on it. When the presenter distracted the tester by tapping him on the arm, the forklift stopped moving. There was a slight ¼ second lag in time between the brain’s thoughts and the movement of the forklift on the screen, so you’re not going to be using this device for playing computer games at the moment.
WyreStorm Amps Up HDBaseT
If you’re not already familiar with HDBaseT, it’s an exciting connectivity technology that enables connectivity between HD video sources and remote displays through a single CAT5e/6 cable up to 100m/328ft long. What’s really cool and useful is the fact that it is capable of delivering uncompressed high definition video, audio, 100BaseT Ethernet, various control signals, and up to 100W of POWER. (Imagine running one CAT5e/6 cable to your flat panel from your AV system rack – and not needing to plug in an AC power cord from the display!) Now that Pioneer and Onkyo have joined the HDBaseT Alliance, widespread adoption of HDBaseT technology for regular-Joe AV gear looks like it’s just around the corner.
WyreStorm came to CES2013 with “the world’s first all-in-one HDBaseT and digital amplification solution” HDBaseT D Class Digital Audio Amplifier (AMP-001-010) that brings together the benefits of HDMI and HDBaseT connectivity, with local audio amplification. One of the device’s standout features is its ability to extract stereo audio from the digital audio signal within the HDBaseT signal and amplify it locally. This can eliminate the need for multiroom amps and having to mix digital and analog audio formats. The AMP includes a local source analog audio input to further expand its usefulness for a variety of applications.
While the WyreStorm AMP-001-010 isn’t designed as a consumer DIY-type piece, it’s still noteworthy for non-custom-install consumers because it shows how much flexibility is possible when implementing the HDBaseT technology. Although not yet officially set, pricing should be under $900 with availability in approximately three to four months.
Over the many years (this being my 24th or 25th trip to the magic kingdom known as Las Vegas during CES) of attending the International CES, I've noticed just a few changes. One small change, for example, is the ubiquity of this newfangled thing called “the internet”. From a journalistic perspective, one of the most notable changes has involved the lowly press release. No, they're not being written any better. (At least they're not being written any worse…) What's changed is the method of distribution. In the olden days, an intrepid fact-finding writer would scour the press room's stacks and stacks of press releases looking for a rare gem or two to write about. (All the while lamenting the loss of so many trees to produce so many useless sentences.) Not only was the process time-consuming and inefficient, it resulted in plenty of extra weight that had to be lugged home in briefcases and suitcases. You can imagine the shouts of joy that arose once the majority of PR departments switched to the now-archaic CD-ROM as the method of information distribution. The real breakthrough in making press coverage less backbreaking, however, was the introduction of the flash drive. Not too long ago, getting a press kit on a 256 MB flash drive was something you talked about in the taxi line. Now, the truly jaded among us don't even attempt to hide our disdain for flash drives with less than 2 GB capacity. Or, as a friend told me, “Two gig is the new 512 MB.” Unfortunately, it won't be long before the press page on the company's website becomes the new 2 GB…
Plex is a media server and suite of apps for your computer, mobile devices, a variety of connected devices that helps you access and control your local and online media from just about anywhere and easily share it with friends and family. There are specific versions of Plex apps for Roku boxes, LG TVs, Samsung TVs, and Google TV. If it really is the “bacon of media apps”, though, digital-media-savvy vegetarians are going to be left out.
Sometimes journalists need a little jump start before an evening filled with new product pitches and demonstrations from eager company execs and PR folks. One of the more creative ways of providing chilled beverages involved a giant block of ice with a carefully carved, very clever martini slalom. Sometimes low-tech is cool, too. (And refreshing!)
Allure Energy’s new EverSense 2.0 is a “home environment and energy management product” – or, put another way, a next-generation, super-high-tech thermostat/home automation hub that can also be used for streaming music, viewing photos, and getting weather updates – with built-in Proximity Control and NFC technology. The new system allows homeowners with an Android phone running a mobile app called EverSense to change the home environment simply by setting the phone on a SyncPad triggering the EverSense 2.0 to turn lights on/off, adjust the temperature setting of the thermostat, and set the security system based on the user’s programmed preferences. In the future, homeowners will be able to add and control other smart devices within the EverSense ecosystem. While the owner is at home, NFC technology in the user’s Android phone will let the system know how to react based upon which SyncPad the phone is placed. When the homeowner leaves the house, though, the system will use its built-in proximity control technology to manage temperature and other aspects of the home’s environment based on how near or far from home the user happens to be. In other words, the EverSense system is smart enough to realize when you are away and when you are on your way home and will adjust the thermostat accordingly to save energy while you’re away while making sure that the house is comfortable when you arrive home. EverSense 2.0 units are expected to be available for sale directly to consumers sometime during the first quarter of 2013. Final pricing on the hardware hasn’t been announced. No monthly subscription fees are required.
Bucking the trend of “smaller is better”, HP brought what’s probably the largest Ultrabook to CES. I know personal health is a big deal at CES this year, with companies such as Omnimount promoting easy ways of making changes to our largely sedentary lifestyles through the use of the company’s full-motion TV mounts and fitness-promoting, adjustable workstations. But maybe the JustStand.org “Wellness Uprising” has gone a little too far. Typing up a 200-word blog post with your feet will definitely give you a good workout, but getting the ultra-Ultrabook to fit under your seat on the airplane is going to be much harder. And I, for one, certainly don’t want to have to lug around the Smart Car-sized power supply…