One of the topics I despise the most after any show, be it CES or E3, is who “won” – as if there is some award given to the company that shouts the loudest or has the shiniest new thing. Well, I digress, I guess there is – show after show, news publications, blogs, and online personalities crown differing products as “best of show,” “best in class,” “most innovative” and so on and companies hoard them as much as possible to shout out how good their new box is. But to believe in that is to believe in the hype bubble that is CES and luckily Sony smartly didn’t play into that hand – let me explain.
Long before LG, Panasonic, and others got into the robotics business, Sony was not only doing heavy research in the field, but also had a fully functional consumer product: AIBO. Sure, compared to technology today AIBO’s functionality appears basic, but for its time, the fact that AIBO could walk around the house, have minimal interactions/reactions, and even allow for things like logging in via a computer app and see from its perspective were fairly advanced.
Still it’s hard to blame Sony for eventually dropping the venture. Today, we take a lot of the tech at our disposal like vast availability of Wi-Fi, 4G, and computer miniaturization for granted, which no matter how much money Sony poured into AIBO, would not have been available in the early 2000s. To put the rapid pace of computer miniaturization, which is a necessity for robotics into context, the Apple AirPods, which house their custom W1 chip are actually more powerful than the original iPhone. Now take the leap of computing power and add to it modern and more nimble operating systems with cloud connectivity and we can begin to see a far more advanced AIBO which is clearly what Sony is aiming for.
Strange but interesting tech is one of the reasons I enjoy going to CES so much and the Sony MT500 and MT300 sound bars do not disappoint in that area while not being too far fetched or impractical either. From a distance, both units are exactly what you’d expect, a 2.1 sound bar with a host of features like Bluetooth for wireless music streaming from your iOS/Android device and NFC for easy pairing.
Between the two, many of the features and technical specifications are identical like power (currently no documentation on exact power output) and color options which includes black and white, though I’m sure Sony will have something fancier in mind for them once they’re officially released. Where things differ between the two is in their brains or smart functionality that they provide. According to Sony:
Teased months ago, Sony officially unveiled their 4K Blu-ray at CES 2017 which you can see in my video preview. As expected, the player, targeting home theater enthusiasts, packs a ton of features like the ability to playback a host of formats which include:
- 4K Blu-ray
- 4K HDR Blu-ray
- Blu-ray 2D/3D
- Super Audio (SACD) and CD
If that’s not enough, you can also play back a variety of video files with USB which includes just about every format under the sun.
At CES 2016, the big question for Sony was why their fleet lacked supported for any initiative coming out of Dolby, namely Dolby Vision HDR in TVs and Dolby Atmos in their receives and sound bars. This year, Sony answered critics by unveiling the A1E OLED and X930/940E series with Dolby Vision HDR and the HT-ST5000 sound bar with Dolby Atmos support.
As I learned, with Dolby Atmos, we have a new way of looking at sound and to that point, the sound bar is a 7.1.2 system with the latter two numbers indicating sound that’s coming from above. With a proper sound system and receiver, the .2 can actually be expanded to beyond that number and actual speakers would be placed in your ceiling where with a sound bar, that sound is simulated. In the case of the HT-ST5000, the impressive thing Sony has done is to put speakers on its end and have them fire off into the ceiling which will ultimately bounce back the sound.
For techies like you and me, terminology like OLED, 4K, 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, and so on make sense. However, for the vast majority of consumers who make up the vast majority of purchases, a lot of the terms at best have no meaning behind them and at worst, make the whole purchasing experience far worse and confusing. Not understanding the new tech and their advancements is also a big negative for companies like Sony who are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to create what they feel like are improvements to the typical TV experience which, when ignored by the general public will result in little excitement for their product and in turn, decrease reasons to upgrade.
Here is Sony CEO Kaz Hirai when speaking to the BBC:
Initial reviews of the Sony Xperia Ear haven’t been kind but that doesn’t mean Sony is stopping there. In fact Sony is paving ahead with its voice assistant initiative which includes the Xperia Agent and Project N with Nigel. Though details were next to none, at CES 2017, Sony did showcase the above, a pair of Bluetooth stereo headsets in grey and black.
During the Sony CES 2017 keynote, Kaz Hirai revealed an interesting statistic about PlayStation – during the holiday season, which ranges from November 20th through January 1st, over 6.2 million PS4s were sold worldwide, which has helped push total units sold to 53.4 million units.
The more I talk with Sony engineers and trainers, the more impressed I become with what they’ve achieved with their first true foray into consumer OLED with the 4K HDR A1E. Though this video isn’t a deep dive into the technology powering their OLED TV, it gives you a brief overview of what you can expect from it as well as what kind of upcoming pieces I’ll be working on.
If you’re wondering what sets this OLED apart from others, in short, it’s Sony’s X1 Extreme chip and their innovative speaker technology.
One of my favorite things during the past three years at CES has been to see Sony’s Life Space UX progress. The idea behind this division is to imagine without the normal constraints of what our technologies can be. Sometimes this will lead to actual products and other times, what they’ve learned or bits and pieces of the technology will find themselves in other products.
The most amazing of these products is easily the 4K Ultra Short Throw projector which can sit just inches away from the wall and produce one of the most stunning pictures in sizes well over 100-inches. This indeed materialized into a real product though it’s priced out of most people’s range with it coming at somewhere north of $50K. To that end, Sony this year is demo-ing a version of that projector in a much smaller form factor with some additional enhancements as you’ll see that can really blend the TV into your home decor.
Like E3 on steroids (since way more money is being dumped and is up for grabs, ultimately), companies attending CES have been known to put together extremely elaborate booths in order to draw attention to their product. For its part, Sony has tended to keep things more casual and to the point but this year, they did something a little different. Towards the back of their booth, they put together a faux plane fuselage with speakers all throughout it pumping ambient noise you’d typically hear when flying to show off their noise-cancelling headphones. Elaborate, clever, and tasteful – here’s a preview.
The obvious big announcement from Sony at CES 2017 is their foray into OLED TVs with the A1E but if we look beyond the glamour of it, there are a lot more interesting products Sony is working on and one is dubbed Project N. Chances are that you’ve seen or heard of this product before, as it’s shown up at various trade shows and events like SXSW.
So what exactly is Project N? Think of a wearable that lives around your neck that’s powered by something like Siri, but it can also take pictures for you, and can also take calls, and can also play back your music, that’s equipped with GPS, gyro sensors, and a lot of other wizbang gadgetry. Confused? Perhaps it’s best to let Sony explain it.
Alongside their drool-worthy 4K OLED TV, the XBR-A1E, Sony also updated their consumer flagship series, the X930E (55- and 65-inch) and the X940E (75-inch). I refer to that as the consumer series because though ticking off everything on most people’s want list, it’s still affordable enough where as with the A1E and Z9 series, you likely can either afford it or you can’t.
So what’s new with the E series compared to the 930/940D? Only a handful of things but each of those changes will have a profound impact on the TV experience. Here is a video preview.
Shown previously at other conferences, Sony had the Xperia Agent once again front and center at CES 2017. Designed to compete in the same space as Amazon Echo, Xperia Agent hopes to bring a personal connection to voice-driven products by literally putting a face, albeit an adorable robotic face, on the technology that we’re meant to interact with. Here is our video preview of what all it can do for you.
Though not surprising, much to the delight of physical media fans, Sony unveiled the UBP-X800 4K UHD Blu-ray player. As the name suggests, unlike traditional Blu-ray players, this unit can play back 4K as well as 4K HDR10 films. In addition to physical media, like the PS4 Pro, the Sony X800 will have access to 4K streaming through various apps. Here’s a short video preview.