CES Technology Report
Carolyn Koh is in las Vegas attending the annual Consumer Electronics Show;. While she's there's she will be speaking with a number of MMORPG developers, but before her interviews start, she sends this report on some of the cool technology that she has seen.
The Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas showcases the latest and newest each year in consumer electronics and products range from electronic toys to the latest DVD player and everything in between. I started with the CES media event called, CES Unveiled and this report also covers the hardware shown at Digital Experience with Pepcom and Showstoppers. Sifting through to the game specific hardware can sometimes be challenging, and sometimes purely serendipitous. Sometimes, there can be some really interesting new stuff out there, sometimes, just not so much. Mostly, I speak to PR types and I get promises of information, sometimes they are just showing CE products other than the ones for gamers.
Buffalo Technology was there again this year for example, showing off their network storage and external drives, but not their Firestix SDRAM modules. Relatively unknown, their Firestix modules have always garnered good reviews and awards in the "bang for the buck" category. A well known maker of SDRAM with DDR3 had this to say to me when I asked for information about their DDR3 memory modules.
"High-performance memory sticks?" Yeah, you know - I pointed again to the small display of memory sticks on the large table covered with flash drives of every color and size - those things. "Yes, umm... let me have your business card. I'll send you information," I'm not holding my breath.
Corsair was showing off their high performance DDR3 SDRAM sticks. These beauts are 240pin, heat generating behemoths. Look at the heat sink on the Corsair Dominators. These guys run PC3-14400, verified at 1800MHz at latencies of 7-7-7-20 at 2.0V VDIMM and come with a lifetime warranty. As a comparison, Corsair's highest rated DDR2 memory is 1250MHz at latencies of 5-5-5-18. (DDR3 is not backward compatible to DDR2 hardware. Although they both are 240pin, they are electrically incompatible and have a different key notch location.)
Corsair also had 32gig, USB 2.0 Flash Drives to show off. It wasn't that long ago that hard drives were 32gigs. That makes saved games and operating systems conveniently portable (not to mention video and music). The Flash Voyager is a rugged drive encased in durable water resistant rubber and Corsair boasts that it has been shown to continue working even after having gone through laundry cycles, baked and even run over by an SUV. They didn't mention if it was the same drive though.
Monitors - Gaming and Otherwise
Then there's Alienware. Always at CES, always showing their latest and greatest in gaming hardware, always with a crowd you have to fight your way through. This year, they were showing a prototype monitor. No product information on their site as yet, no product photos, nor specs. Utilizing rear projection, LED DLP (http://www.dlp.com) technology (a form of HDTV technology), the monitor boasts 2880 x 900 resolution, a display format of 1080p, and under 0.02ms response time. Single input dual link DVI - for the moment, I was told, as final production specs have not yet been finalized. The monitor is subtly curved to accommodate the human field of vision as you can see for yourself in the picture below. I could see some faint vertical lines that seemed to indicate separate sub-panels, but this is a prototype and the monitor is still in development. They expect to launch the product in the 2nd half of 2008 and we can only speculate on the price it will launch at, at this time. The game being demoed on the monitor was Crysis - the game of choice for demos this year.
Dell was showing off their latest 30" Ultrasharp monitor. Brilliant color, 2560 x 1600 and $1,999. It is targeted at the business office market with a refresh rate of 8ms, but still, hard to dismiss a monitor this large and sharp, even beside the Alienware. Beside that was their statement Dell Crystal monitor. This baby was a thing of beauty but bad me, I didn't take a picture because I figured the one on the press kit just had to be better. There isn't a pretty picture on the screen, but that's because they wanted to showcase the design of this monitor. I'll let you see for yourself. It is a 22-inch LCD display, made with ultra-clear tempered glass and has a polished metal tripod stand, touch controls, integrated webcam, microphone and speakers. Poised at $1,199. Ouch... but gosh, it's pretty!
The other crops of fast response monitors include, Hannspree and Viewsonic with their 26" wide aspect monitors. 1920 x 1200 resolution, 3ms response time, contrast ratios 3000:1 and 4000: 1 respectively. $599 seems to be the target price point for these monitors.
An interesting piece of technology was showcased by Hillcrest Labs. They showed me a concept "Air Mouse" in the shape of a large ring with a rubber grip they called the "Loop". In show conditions, with people moving around and us actually standing to the side of the monitor, it performed very well. Using RF (radio frequency) technology, it tracked smoothly without the jitters that unsteady hands often caused with other technology of this sort, including the Wii and other "air" mice. A point made by Parag Sheth, their VP of Corporate Marketing, "No sensor bar or line of sight required." The only hardware currently using this technology is the Logitech MX Air Mouse which has a regular laser sensor as well. Basically, you can use it like a regular mouse or pick it up, lean back and as Logitech puts it, "browse and play your favorite media. The sensor transforms hand motions into natural, responsive cursor controls. Adjust volume by waving to the right or left; skip tracks with a flip of the wrist." Serious gamers might swear by the wired mouse, but this sleek sexy mouse is still quite a tech toy.
"Air Guitar" Hero
So, this one's a bit of a stretch for MMO gamers, but I could not resist. I watched a demonstrator from Jada Toys playing a rocking Air Guitar, walked up to a likely looking PR type and demanded "Tell me how it works!" They were all too pleased to explain it to me. Guitar Hero ™ Air Guitar Rocker kit ($29.99) consists of two picks (one extra), a belt buckle (containing the sensor), a mini-amplifier, Air cartridge and connector cable. You literally play Air Guitar! Check out the video already on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKCmo8QCt6w
The starter "Air Cartridge" has ten songs which include:
Black Sabbath ("Iron Man"), Deep Purple ("Smoke on the Water"), Motorhead ("Ace of Spades"), Van Halen ("You Really Got Me") and Boston ("More Than a Feeling").
New "Air Cartridges" will be released at periodic intervals with new songs on them and you can get different genres with matching belt buckle such as a heavy metal or 80s rock assortment. From the looks of the kit, you should be able to output this to some real speakers. Supposedly, this game will be quite challenging with five levels of difficulty, but until I pick one up, I won't be able to tell you what the gameplay or sound quality is like. They will be available in March of this year.
This is it for the opening round-up. In the closing round-up I'll report on the hardware I see and demo on the floor.