What caught our attention at CES
One of the key takeaways of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was simply its breathtaking scale. With a record level of exhibit space, attendance poised to at least challenge if not surpass last year’s total of 184,279, and a constant series of events up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, there was simply no way to see it all. But here were a few key highlights that caught our eye:
■ Who showed it: New York-based TrinityVR.
■ Who’s excited by it: The company counts two undisclosed MLB teams as clients, who are using the technology with prospects at their minor league affiliates and Dominican Republic academies. TrinityVR also met with more than a dozen other clubs at last month’s baseball Winter Meetings.
■ How much will it cost: Varies. Software licensing is coupled with hardware costs that are quickly falling as VR headsets become more affordable.
■ What are the hurdles: A VR simulation remains just that, and doesn’t provide tactile feedback or the experience of hitting actual, live pitches. But using VR also can help prevent injuries that occur through repetitive stress. And anything that can aid minor league development is becoming increasingly important as more MLB teams favor their own farm systems over building with pricier free agents.
Hisense’s exclusive World Cup app
■ Who showed it: Hisense. The Chinese technology company, which also controls the Sharp brand in the U.S., is not a household name in TVs in the way that Samsung and Sony are. But it is seeking to make noise with exclusive partnerships such as this one with Fox Sports, and a separate but related FIFA sponsorship for this year’s World Cup.
■ Who’s excited by it: Fox Sports, which has never done a customized version of its streaming app, and potentially hard-core soccer fans who can’t get enough World Cup coverage in traditional forums.
■ How much will it cost: TV set costs will vary based on screen size but the app itself and the World Cup content it offers, including some camera angles and content not offered in the linear broadcast, will come at no additional cost.
■ What are the hurdles: Convincing consumers to embrace a lesser-known TV brand that calls itself “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.” But it’s possible the Fox Sports brand will appear at retail and other Hisense marketing activations.
■ Who showed it: Literally hundreds of companies, led by Amazon and rival entity Google, which is making a big push this year with its Google Assistant. Many third parties, including a fast-growing collection of pro teams, are developing their own voice-activated programs to take advantage of the technology. In sports, the voice-activated programs offer content such as scores, statistics, tune-in information and wayfinding.
■ Who’s excited about it: Virtually the entire sports and technology industries, which are finding accelerating consumer adoption of voice-activated tech and the ease it brings compared to traditional text-based queries.
■ How much will it cost: Varies based on the product, but small speakers embedded with either Google or Amazon voice-activated platforms can easily be had for under $50.
■ What are the obstacles: As the tech companies battle for supremacy in this area, brands and content producers such as sports teams and networks will likely feel pressure to sign exclusive deals with a single player, potentially turning off fans who use a rival platform.