4D coming to a Screen near You

South Korean CJ Group is planning to equip about 200 U.S. movie theaters with equipment that will bring movies into the 4th dimension. Such equipment comprise moving seats, giant fans that simulate wind, strobe lights for lightning and explosions and tiny nozzles that can spray water, mist, bubbles, scents and odors.

CJ Groups 4DPlex already screens about 20 movies per year in international locations. Costing about $2m to equip a 240-seat theater (half of which is funded by the theater owner) means selling 250,000 tickets at an $8 premium to recover the investment for both parties. Director of Cinepolis in Mexico said that their 4DPlex theaters do two to three times the business of conventional theaters.

If the plans come to fruition, it must spell trouble for D-Box Technologies, who have around 100 locations that offer moving seats. With home theaters and media rooms becoming more popular, will this be enough to entice former movie goers back to the big screen?

Ubuntu TV Launches Weekly Update

As a cord cutter myself, I’ve been eagerly awaiting something come to fruition from Canonical’s Ubuntu TV. Previous inquiries have been greeted with a stock response:

“community has been incredible. We are still at a very early stage of development, but it certainly seems to have attracted huge interest which we are only now fully getting on top of.

Right now, we’re focusing on working with hardware and content partners to bring Ubuntu TV to your living room.

If you are interested in updates, the easiest thing to do is join the Ubuntu TV group on Facebook.”

It looks like the wait may be almost over. A new website http://www.doadjustyourset.com/ is now the source of the Ubuntu TV Project Weekly Update. The first week’s post has just gone up. I still don’t think it’ll happen tomorrow, as one of the posts on this week’s update is asking for recommendations on scopes. From the screenshots (or mockups) on the main Ubuntu TV web site it looks like it’s going to be a great product.

With Microsoft looking like they’re abandoning Windows Media Center (a mistake in my opinion), the timing could be just right. Of course the fact that it runs on UNIX is going to make it a non-starter for most (unless they can match Apple’s success with OS X).

StrandVision Surpasses Five Billion Digital Signage Content Pages

StrandVision Digital Signage today announced that it has served more than 5,000,000,000 pages of digital signage content to its customers. The milestone, which was reached on July 5 at 8:33:42 a.m. central time, is the result of an ever-increasing customer base, multiple digital signage feeds across customer sites around the world and an accelerating number of pages and information that its customers are streaming to their respective customers, visitors and employees over their digital signage networks. The signage messages are being displayed via physical digital signage players and displays, employee browser home pages and virtual screens on internal and external Web sites.

“StrandVision Digital Signage continues to grow in importance as a business marketing communications tool for our customers,” commented Mike Strand StrandVision founder and CEO. “Our flexible, cloud-based subscription service allows our customers to create customized digital signage networks that range from a single screen to multi-facility corporate-wide and even international deployments of hundreds of digital signage players. We find that our customers often start with basic systems and then dramatically expand them as they realize the potential. The success is evident in the numbers.”

CEA Issues Specs For 3DTV Closed Captioning, Glasses

The Consumer Electronics Association announced the publication of a standard for 3DTVs to render closed-captioning services and another for synchronizing active-shutter 3D glasses via an infrared signal.

The first spec, CEA-708.1, "Digital Television (DTV) Closed Captioning: 3D Extensions," specifies signaling to allow closed captioning to be rendered with stereoscopic 3D program content. The standard allows for a standardized method to set a value for the perceptual depth for closed-captioning text, or a series of values that change over time.

The other -- CEA-2038, "Command-Driven Analog IR-Synchronized Active Eyewear" -- defines a way for controlling "active" 3D glasses worn by viewers using an infrared signal sent by a TV set.

Planning AV for New Spaces: Be Part of the Beginning

Last summer, I was asked to join a dealer on a customer visit to talk about AV needs. The visit was at the client’s new corporate office, which was a newly renovated space. Upon arriving, I took a good look around and saw that it was a beautiful space. Carpet was already in, paint was on the walls and they were clearly down to just doing touch ups. Two weeks away from occupancy, they now wanted to discuss their AV needs and also to let us know that they had little budget left.

I saw a huge conference room table with sixty gorgeous chairs, covered with plastic to protect it from the touch ups being done. I just had to ask about it:

Me: “New table?”

Client: “Yes, it’s new and selected just for this room. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Me: “Yes, it is indeed beautiful. When did you order this table and how much did it cost you?”

It had been ordered more than 18 months prior and the cost was six figures. The huge conference table was clearly the focal point of the new space, yet the AV systems that would make this table really shine were considered last. In the AV business, this is all too typical. Customers often think about carpet, paint, furniture and window coverings before they even consider AV in their space.

Control4 Offers A Starter Kit for Home Automation

Control4 announces a home automation Starter Kit that enables smart-home control in a single room with the ability to expand to a complete home system. The package enables homeowners to experience the benefits of automation for under $1,000. The Starter Kit includes the new Control4® HC-250 Controller, the brains of the system, plus a Control4® SR-250 remote, which can control all the devices in your entertainment system, plus movies and music, lighting, and more.
The Control4® Starter Kit allows you to easily:
*Get rid of all the remotes on your coffee table. With the Control4 SR-250 remote, you can control everything in your entertainment system: TV, DVD player, receiver - you name it.
*Add lighting control - so that lights will dim when the movie begins or that the outdoor lights automatically go on when the sun goes down.
*Enjoy multi-room audio - distribute music to the patio, the kitchen or both in one seamless, digital music experience.
*Integrate temperature control - adjust the temperature from your couch through your TV or from the office using your mobile device.
*View security video feeds - see who is at the door or arm/disarm the system through the touch of a button.
*Incorporate the benefits of smart locks - secure your home with a touch of a button, even from your bed.

Digital menu boards showing up on food trucks

Digital signage and digital menu boards are going mobile with food trucks.

Food trucks are one of the fastest-growing dining trends spreading to cities across the country, with delivery trucks, wagons and even old school buses re-purposed as foodie havens. And some of them are taking digital signage on the road with them to display their menus in a dynamic and fluid fashion, or even to help entertain diners.

Eat at Recess, a San Diego-based food truck founded in September 2011 by entrepreneur Jason Swinford, uses a digital signage display from NEC Display Solutions for both branding, with logos and scannable QR codes, and entertaining, with an Xbox Kinect and Blu-ray player connected to the NEC high-brightness display.

OLED Prices to Remain High. Volume Production in 2013

In a recent press release, Sony and Panasonic announced that they would be teaming up to jointly develop a printing method-based OLED technology, which would be suitable for low cost, mass production of large, high resolution OLED panels. Mass production is not expected to commence until 2013.

Hopes for low-cost OLED seem to have been dashed by Kazuhiro Tsuga, the newly appointed president of Panasonic, who said that he does not expect prices of its next generation OLED TV’s to fall to that of LCD models for a considerable time.

LG and Samsung have a significant jump start on the Japanese; however, each is pushing a different OLED technology. Samsung is backing AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode), while LG is betting the farm on WOLED (white OLED).

Panasonic and Sony seem to have gotten over their Betamax vs. VHS war and we’re probably smart to team up, especially on a “printable” OLED due to the lower manufacturing costs, but it does seem that Sony may have made another about-turn after announcing that they were abandoning OLED a few years ago, and then showing CrystalLED at CES. Recently, Sony reported the worst loss in its 66-year corporate history for the business year ended March with red ink of 457 billion yen ($5.7 billion), so sharing R&D costs will help preserve cash and hopefully result in a lower cost product.

Whatever the outcome, the Korea vs. Japan battle will be good for competition, which is pretty crucial given the projected price of $10,000 for a 55-inch OLED later this year.

Can the Olympics Save 3D TV

3D television has still to make major in-roads into the home for television, but the 2012 London Olympics could be the boost that in-home 3D needs. According to NBC, they will provide 242 hours of 3D coverage. Given that 5,535 hours will be recorded that’s only about 5%. I’m not a big 3D fan, but thought it might be interesting to watch the opening ceremony and an event or two in 3D (having never watched 3D sports). I don’t have (nor do I want) 3D at home, so off to Google I went to try and find somewhere in Chicago to watch the Olympics in 3D. Nothing: no movie theaters, no bars. Given movie theaters are resorting to concerts and opera to fill their seats, one might of thought that the Olympics would be a good opportunity to get more revenue. Apparently not. Obviously, the time difference does make it a bit awkward, but I thought I would have found something in one of the biggest cities in the US.

In related news, DirecTV has announced that they are cutting their 3-D channel from 24-hour to part-time due to lack of content. In a similar move AT&T dropped ESPN 3D from their channel offering, stating that it wasn’t cost justified considering the lack of demand.

Manufacturers are always keen to stress that 3D TV’s account for over 10% of all LCD TV sales. To be quite honest, that’s almost as pointless as saying that all TV’s purchases are now color. I’d we willing to wager that the vast majority of those buyers only have 3D because it was a feature on the higher end model they purchased.

Let’s see if 3D takes the Gold or straggles along in last place at the Olympics.

Pico Projectors to become Blockbusters

At least once a week, a projector press release is published. These are typically focused on how much brighter they are than previous models, support for 3D, 4K and other wizardly, but the pico projector market is set to boom.

The combination of a pico projector and smartphone or tablet is unbeatable for those who want to travel light or organize impromptu meetings. In large company, scheduling a conference room or AV resources can be near impossible and huddling round a single PC screen or tablet gets impractical beyond two or three people.

Many presentations don’t require home theater-quality size or fidelity: just being able to throw something up on the office or hotel room wall on the spur of the moment is more than adequate for collaboration.

Current models include wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Wifi and smartphone and digital camera vendors are also planning to integrate a projector into the phone.

Today’s market is around $490m and is projected to grow to over $8bn by 2016 (75% CAGR).

Netflix Eroding Pay-TV VOD and Premium Channels

According to a recent study from Parks Associates, it showed that customer satisfaction with Netflix surpasses both pay-TV VOD and premium broadcast TV in terms of cost and flexibility. With unlimited streaming plans starting at $7.99, pay-TV can’t compete with movies costing around $3.99 each.

Although, Netflix scored lower in picture quality, there are a growing number of viewers who are prepared to trade quality for convenience and cost. With Netflix now offering 1080P streaming, its quality rating is likely to improve.

Pay-TV VOD also has a significant edge over Netflix in terms of up to date content. With cable companies signing deals with content providers in turn for 28-56-day delays on DVD/Blu-ray, it’s tough for Netflix to compete on new releases.

Software Convergence in the SmartTV Market?

To date, SmartTV vendors attract a small percentage of the developers that Smartphone vendors have achieved. There are two major reasons for this:

  • Market Potential - compare the number of Brand-X TV’s vs. Android or iOS Smartphones and tablets. There really isn’t a “wrong horse” to bet on when choosing between Android and iOS: the market potential for a killer app is huge.
  • Operating systems and SDK’s – there are thousands of developers who already develop on Android, Windows Mobile and iOS. Learning a whole new OS and SDK is a significant investment for questionable payback, not only does a developer have to choose the vendor who is likely to dominate the market, they also need consumers to use the apps. Today, the percentage of SmartTV owners who actually use apps is very low. In contrast, there are hardly any Smartphone users who don’t use apps.

In an effort to attract more developers, LG Electronics and TP Vision (Philips TVs) have officially established the "Smart TV Alliance", Other TV manufacturers are alleged to be “in the process of joining”. The Alliance “aims at enhancing the Smart TV experience by creating a non-proprietary ecosystem for application developers to create attractive, platform-independent services”.

The alliance doesn’t mandate that all vendors use the same operating system. Instead it is based in open web technologies such as HTML5, thereby allowing web apps to run on Smart TV's from participating members regardless of the underlying platform.

Body Area Networks to Increase Eight-fold by 2017

Over the next five years, low-cost, low-power, wireless-connected wearable devices will be sported by millions of consumers and patients, helping to track activity and human conditions. By 2012, the market for wearable wireless devices will grow from 20.77 million to 169.5 million.

The majority of the market will be dominated by consumer, wellness and sporting goods manufacturers, such as Nike, whose products will allow users will to track the pace of run or a bike ride as well as heart rate, etc. and automatically it upload it to a compatible device or service.

Healthcare is predicted to account for 20% of the market. Wearable devices will be able to monitor blood sugar levels in diabetics, heart rates in patients and even detect falls amongst the infirm. “The breadth of the potential for this market is not just drawing in consumer giants like Nike and Adidas and established healthcare players such as GE Healthcare and Philips, but a wealth of start-ups and specialist players looking to wearable wireless devices to enable a wide range of networked health applications and services,” says Jonathan Collins, principal analyst, navigation, telematics & M2M.

Corning Continues to Innovate

It was only a few months ago that Corning's Gorilla Glass 2 was in the spotlight. Not content with resting on their laurels, they announced the new Willow glass product at SID 2012.

Willow glass in an ultra-thin flexible glass (50-100 micrometers) that is capable of supporting backplanes and color filters in LCD and OLED panels. Temperatures of up to 500-degrees Celsius (932-degrees Fahrenheit) can be endured and it can be employed in roll-to-roll applications.

According to Corning, Willow glass will be used to produce rigid OLED panels in manufacturing processes that require flexible glass (such as roll-to-roll). In the future it may produce flexible glass panels.

Willow glass is not intended to be used as cover glass (like Gorilla glass). It will typically be used in a “sandwhich” for OLED displays, which have a substrate layer, an encapsulation layer and then a much tougher cover glass.

Production is planned to start in Q3 2012 with one meter wide, 300 meter long rolls.


Colorado vNet has announced it will formally operate under the new company name 3vNet Inc.

The rebranding follows the completion of the purchase of Colorado vNet Corp, led by company CEO Mike Anderson, in April 2012.

"The name 3vNet is a natural fit for this brand," said Anderson. "We understand the ups and downs the brand has had over the past few years and we want our dealers to know that we recognize that and will use it as the foundation for going forward. Keeping the past top of mind will keep us humble and make us work harder to make things better. The third generation of this brand will be different than the previous two and 3vNet customers will soon see the benefits of our efforts. Key factors in the strategy to move forward are: a more open architecture; new pricing strategies; increased product development efforts; and, more and better training. These efforts will combine to ensure our customers will receive the best this industry has to offer."

As part of the rebranding strategy, 3vNet is driven by a renewed commitment to customer service. The company has already doubled its tech support team to provide customers with an even greater level of support.

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