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The (Hidden) Good Side of CES
CES Review


CES show in Las Vegas
Crowds of attendees await the opening of the trade show floor at CES in Las Vegas.
Photo courtesy CES


Gary Shapiro
Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the International CES show, during the opening keynote address.
Photo courtesy CES


CES attendees
Attendees at CES take a closer look at new products on display. )
Photo courtesy CES


Navman
Navman
Roadmaster
Roadmaster
Photodex
Photodex
Panasonic
Panasonic
Panasonic
Panasonic

With just a little more education, however, a retailer who already sells camcorders probably knows everything required to discuss and demonstrate home security products. As a plus, said retailer could discuss them in the context of other video recording systems, lenses, lighting systems, and so on. We dunno if they can speak lux or lumens or focal length at Lowe's. We're pretty sure they can at most photo/video outlets.

And if the home theater goes the way the effusing suffusers hope, with a table full of video players, projectors, amplifiers, speakers, screens, DVD recorders, and the like, would there be a little room for the security recorder alongside, too? On whose screen you could see who's standing at your door, at the very moment Sam Waterston on Law and Order goes after the burglars?

One of the CES exhibitors that seemed well-equipped to test the question was an Aussie outfit called Swann Communications. They have a large range of carded devices—hard-wired and wireless cameras, recorders of various kinds, infrared and visible-spectrum cameras, and a thousand doodads and accessories—all quite reasonably priced. They've sent a four-camera rig over, along with the recorder, so we could give it a spin. We'll get back to you with the results.

Are Computer Graphics "Imaging?"

One of the neatest devices we saw at the show was Piano Wizard, a system combining a musical keyboard with a graphics program on a monitor screen. It's neither photo nor video, strictly speaking, but it does use on-screen graphics. Is that close enough?

Another thing it uses is a demonstrator, who can explain what it's for and how it works. What it's for is learning how to read music. How it works is in any of several modes, depending upon where along your sight-reading education you stand. The interface changes as you advance, to introduce you to progressively more complex principles. But at the base of it all, notes move by on the screen, and you're prompted to sound them on the keyboard. I tried the demo for only a couple minutes but caught on pretty quickly. And had a lot of fun.

Piano Wizard may be a stretch as far as go-withs for photo/video retailers are concerned. Or, who knows, maybe it's not a stretch at all. Photo/video dealers today have to explain, demonstrate, and sell all kinds of things that were unknown 10 years ago—computers and monitors, software programs, flash media and hard-disk drives, CD and DVD burners and readers (and one of these days, Blu-ray), and sometimes even inkjet and dye-sub printers. There was a direct and logical link, or at least succession, between the cameras of yore and these latter-day products. But prepackaged video systems, like Piano Wizard?

Well, it's like this: a long time ago, when people bought films, they could also buy canned, prepackaged programs to play in their slide and movie projectors at home. They could buy Laurel and Hardy from Castle Films, and documentaries on steam trains of the Andes from Blackhawk. Not every photo retailer stocked them, but quite a few did.

You might say today that this role has been overtaken by the video store, and maybe it has. Or maybe it hasn't. We can get Brad and Angelina any day at Blockbuster, but what about the steam trains of the Andes? We don't know where customers are buying special-interest videos in the modern age. The Internet is one source, if the customer has a high-speed connection. But that still doesn't accommodate the "eureka" moment, when the impulse to buy suddenly strikes: "I came to pick up my prints, but look at that great piano-teaching system. It can run in my home theater. And while I'm at it, I'll take the Andes steam trains."

And it all can be set up alongside the security center. While the CE show spent most of its effort effusing and suffusing the wherewithal of passive entertainment, the infrastructure they're hawking can receive almost any input. User-generated input. Input that brings personal pleasure, or greater safety, or is educational. These have always been characteristic of the go-withs sold by our retailers, and were a very good reason to be proud of what they did.


   







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