Generally Bitter Admin
With the heat this thing must throw off you'd have to wear an asbestos fire suit to watch TV.
The opening keynote address from the president of Panasonic, Toshihiro Sakamoto, had one thing that Bill Gates' keynote yesterday lacked: A monstrous 150-inch plasma screen Panasonic calls the Life Screen. In Las Vegas and at CES, nothing counts quite so much as excess, so it looks like Panasonic has bragging rights for this year.
Everything else Sakamoto showed off paled in comparison, but there were still some pretty spiffy demos. Panasonic has a new plasma that's just ONE INCH thick, and consumes half the power of last year's model -- nice.
There was also a spiffy demo of something Panasonic is calling a "Life Wall." Basically you install giant Panasonic displays to cover every inch of a wall in your home. Coupled with face recognition technology and some virtual environment mojo, it turns into an interactive wall you can use to watch video, browse Google Earth, do video chat with your friends, and more.
Oh yeah, and Panasonic has a deal with YouTube to put a special YouTube menu in upcoming Panasonic TVs so you can browse your favorite internet time-waster right from the comfort of your couch. The interface looks similar to Apple TVs, with light text on a black screen.
The keynote kicks off with a video from Panasonic detailing about how the home is the most part of the community. "For centuries, people have come together as friends and families." It's the HOME. You spend time there, and its connected. We get it! In addition, there are pics showing different interpretations of the home, from a family in an igloo in Alaska to a WASPy family cuddling together on the beach.
The theme of the Panasonic Keynote is the Digital Hearth and Living in High Definition.
Toshihiro Sakamoto, President, Panasonic Networks, comes in to wild applause.
"Today, I'm very happy to say [our former] promises have come to pass and those dreams are now available in your stores at very affordable prices." And yes! Exactly what we predicted in our pre-CES report, that the vision with HD content, supported by other HD enabled electronics.
Announcement: Panasonic will come out with a 32 GB capacity SD card and is working on doubling that, and the newly developed 4GB micro-SD card will get bigger.
It's clear that the Flat panel technology is very critical to the hearth vision, as they want to bring back family time. They wanted to see what would happen if whole families had the top technologies in every category and get an understanding of how people live. So Panasonic gave away a bunch of their best products to a random family and studied them over a period of a few months. Here comes a video of the Benders, from Rutherford , NJ! They're excited, and believe it or not, they enjoy using all free gear.
And here's the Green pitch from Mr. Sakamoto. Panasonic was the first major manufacturer to remove lead from their electronics, he says. They have also identified energy inefficient products, and they want to eliminate those from their entire lineup within 2-plus years. They will also reduce carbon emissions by 300K within a few years.
And finally, the actual gadgets: They will change the people view Television itself! (Think they are exaggerating a bit? That's a big task, I think.)
Wait, there's a new Plasma onscreen that will have 50% less power, and look, it's less than ONE INCH thick. That's crazy, and now the crowd is legitimately excited.
And now this Kong-sized announcement: A surprise with a 150-Inch Plasma display, which "allows you to reveal the elephant in the room." Mr. Sakamoto, channeling Austin Powers: "Look at this baby!"
It's the "World's Largest Flat Panel," which they call the Life Screen. And it's not just about size, it's about a "new level of image quality." It has 4 times the resolution of their current display, and even though I'm more than 20 feet away, it looks impressive. One caveat with this presentation: They should have used Tatiana the tiger from the San Francisco Zoo, it would definitely raise a hair or two.
Announcement: Panasonic has an exclusive deal with The Beijing Olympics to be the official digital video provider. (Wait, didn't Microsoft just announce the same deal yesterday?) This is interesting. Some of the tech is being used by the athletes to help them out and train them (no details on that though).
Line of the night: "That's right, Carlton", uttered by Mr. Sakamoto on his way back after an actor talks about the family plan again.
Announcement: They are going the wireless route all the way within a few years (Sharp is not doing that, if you saw our coverage yesterday.) Wireless, uncompressed HD video. There's no signal interruption, and is the world's first beam steering technology called Home Base. Mr. Sakamoto placed an HD wireless-transmitting camera on top of a Blu-ray player and it started transmitting to the screen immediately with a video that had just been taken by an actress offstage. Not a bad demo.
OCAP (a video protocol) has changed to True-2-Way, which will be rolled out later this year, via interactive cable ready services in the home.
Brian Roberts of Comcast goes onstage. It's all about providing choice, he says, and True-2-Way, and open cable architecture, making it easier for different technologies to work together. They call it a breakthrough in consumer choice and technology.
The cable set-top box is built into the TV itself. No wires.
And here's another Panasonic business partner: A partnership with YouTube, Picasa, and Panasonic. Panasonic will take advantage of the APIs so you can watch YouTube videos and view Picasa photos on your TV. Panasonic calls it Viera Cast. You'll also be able to beam photos and videos you take with Panasonic cameras and camcorders directly to these Google services.
You Tube will be embedded within a menu in the new Panasonic TVs, and the interface looks very similar to the one from Apple TV (with a black screen, You Tube ratings).
One last technology to introduce today:
A video comes on, and it's about James Cameron and his upcoming film Avatar. John Landau talks about using a lot of Panasonic cameras and this secret super panel. He talks about a giant touchscreen he played with and he was able to play with an onscreen piano.
And here's the great innovation: It's called The Life Wall. It's a virtual environment, with a flat-panel display that covers an entire wall. It's also got face recognition technology (and with its size, probably body-recognition). Panasonic also calls it Stay with Me TV, because you can move it your hand and the TV screen will move with you, obviously. Users can interact with Google Earth and many other applications. It's a real-time interactive communication, and basically, Minority Report come to life and brought to the home. Panasonic envisions a future that is all-encompassing, and with that giant screen, well, it could happen.