It's the most anticipated time of the year again! CES 2019, as usual, opened with its Unveiled session, showcasing fresh, new technologies in a variety of categories. After browsing the booths for a few hours, here are five items in particular that caught my attention.
Obsbot TAIL Auto Director AI Camera
Shooting a live video is never easy. You'll never know where the main character will be standing, and how far the person will be moving in and out of range. The person can also go up and down, sideways, face away from the camera, and then suddenly come back into the frame. Even for a season camera operator, it's not an easy task when the subject is unscripted.
With Obsbot's TAIL Auto Director AI Camera, the subject can be the camera operator at the same time. By having an optical unit sitting on a 3-axis gimbal and AI tracking, every movement can be tracked, focused, and zoomed automatically.
I tested the unit by having a gesture tell the camera that it should be focusing on me and selecting how much of my body it needs to follow (that includes the head, of course). I can move wherever I want, run, have someone cover me completely, and suddenly pop out of nowhere, and the camera 100% followed me perfectly. I set the camera via its app to always cover me from the waist up so when I moved away from the camera, it zoomed in as needed. When I got closer to the camera, it zoomed out as needed, too. I can foresee people like YouTubers, skaters, and dancers using this camera to self produce their own videos.
Price is estimated to be around US$500 when it's released in mid 2019.
Every camera and lens maker has been trying to find a way to minimize chromatic aberration, vignetting, and sharpening corner focus for decades by having more and more correction lens elements within a camera lens. The result? Extremely expensive, heavy, and large lenses. CEA-Let takes a completely different approach. Instead of fixing the lens, they fixed the sensor. By having the sensor being curved just as the lens itself is, chromatic aberration and vignetting are nearly non-existent. Corners will become a lot more focused - all without adding weight to the lens assembly. In fact, the overall lens weight can be reduced up to 60% which, in turn, will also make the lens cheaper (less lens elements = less manufacturing cost).
This technology will not be directly sold to the end user, but to camera and lens manufacturers, especially in the movie making industry where any lens anomaly can not be tolerated.
Communicator is a pocket computer/phone/camera from this UK-based company. It reminds me of the legendary Nokia Communicator released around 20 years ago, which at the time, was the most powerful phone/PDA on the market. The Linux and Android-based pocket computer has a physical keyboard, 6" internal display, 2" external display (both are touchscreen), 802.11 ac/abgn Wi-Fi, BT 5.0, GPS, and a a microSD card slot. Not enough? It's compatible with GSM, CDMA, WCDMA, TDS and TDD-LTE cellular bands, dual physical Nano SIM slots and one eSIM. The best part? It's only going to be US$800.
Debussy Prelude Headphones
It's kind of difficult for me to classify this item. Yes, it is a pair of headphones, but it is also a streamer that can stream via Wi-Fi and 4G. It uses a 32-bit DAC with headphone modelling capability. This means you can download (perhaps by buying the sonic signature, that's to be decided) of various headphones so you can listen to, for example, Grado headphone characteristics, Fostex, Beyerdynamic, or anything else. Engineered, designed, and manufactured in France by a group of award-winning sound engineers, this unit is compatible with Tidal, Spotify, qobuz, and Deezer, and will sell for US$800.
WaverlyLabs Pilot Translation Earphones
This is not your ordinary pair of earphones. They are not designed for listening to music, but for listening to someone who's speaking to you in a different language that you don't understand, and translate the conversation in real-time. This US$300 works beautifully. The presenter was speaking to me in Spanish and the earphones translated every word he said to English. When it comes to jokes, puns, and the intricacies of any language, as well as individual voices, the results may vary. But you'll most likely be conversing in a non-colloquial fashion when you are using this genius piece of gadgetry, so it should work just fine when you're in a pinch and need to understand the gist of what someone is saying.