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CES 2009 Report by John E. Johnson, Jr.

The name of the game at the Convention Center was wireless and more wireless. Definitely, we are all headed towards computer controlled home automation through wireless networking.

There were lots of accessories for wireless components.

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Although iPod docks were prevalent, this is just a basic accessory, and what we will see is the use of an iPod, iPod Touch, and iPhone becoming much more useful in controlling various things in our homes by just punching in the commands from the iPhone rather than using wall panel controls.

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Marvell showed this digital picture frame that will stream photos from your PC as a slide show. The also announced a new version of Qdeo, which has additional image processing capabilities, such as first removing mosquito noise, then performing edge enhancement. It is the best update in image processing I have seen in a long time.

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If you want music other than from your PC to be streamed in your home, there are Internet-based music services that will deliver music of all genres to your local network. One of these is Rhapsody.

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Of course, there are lots of things that go with your home theater, whether it is wireless or not. Here is one company that markets photos and other memorabilia that you can mount on the wall in your theater.

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Several overseas factories have just come on line making flat panel HDTVs. So, we are going to be flooded with these products at a time when the economic situation might not support it. There will be new companies springing up, with their own brand and line of these HDTVs. Here are two such companies that I had not heard of before. The image quality was as good as what I have seen with name brand flat panel HDTVs.

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Flat panel displays are becoming very thin, and this makes them ideal for mounting on the wall. Several companies market wall mounts of various types.

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More accessories you might need are CD/DVD cabinets. Even though turntables are making a huge comeback, I didn't see any LP cabinets.

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Earthquake always has an interesting exhibit. Here is a car in their booth that has been completely tricked out with Earthquake products, including lots of subwoofers.

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Take a look at their latest subwoofer driver. Cynthia is in the photo to give you some perspective as to its size.

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They also had a new speaker line on display that has chrome trim. In keeping with modern designs, they are slim, but tall.

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SVSound has entered the on-wall, in-wall speaker market. Here is a photo of their on/in wall subwoofer. It uses two 12" shallow depth drivers, and if you want to put it inside the wall, you will need to remove one stud. If the included artwork does not suit you, the frame can be removed for remounting a grille cloth of your choosing to go with the room color scheme.

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These speakers by Swan are a bit unusual in that the tweeter is suspended in front of the woofer, off center. I would be very interested to measure the response.

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Epson, and other companies, had new models of projectors on display.

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TEAC showed this very interesting CD Player/Turntable combo. Notice the Record button. I assume this means you can copy your LPs onto CDs. But, since LPs are the hot item right now, why would you want to copy it? The whole idea is to have that visceral experience of putting the LP on the table and lowering the cartridge into the groove.

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3-D HDTVs are emerging. There are various technologies, but the one that will probably succeed is shown below. The TV scans at 30 non-interlaced frames per second, with 15 of them for the left eye and 15 of them for the right eye. The TV sends a wireless signal to a pair of polarized glasses that you wear. The left and right eye glass goes dark and light synchronized with the left and right eye images that are shown on the screen. Actually, this is not new technology. I saw it at a medical convention at least 10 years ago. But now, I think consumers are ready for this technology in their movie entertainment. Certainly, Hollywood is interested. All studios will be releasing 3-D movies this year. I suspect the high refresh rate flat panels that are now showing up will come in handy for increasing the number of frames per second that are shown for each eye.

If you look close at the TV screen, you can see the two stereo images. I shot this photo at a slow enough shutter speed to capture both the left and right eye images.

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On Friday evening, about 20 of the press were invited to an exclusive look at a Builders' Showcase Home about 20 minutes from the Convention Center. Microsoft, Paradigm Acoustics, and other vendors joined to put together this project as an example of complete home automation, with the core software being Windows Media Center.

It has several floors, with the main floor opening onto a large patio with an "Infinity" style swimming pool and a sunken barbeque pit. Here is a photo standing on the patio looking into the living room.

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After dark, the effect of custom lighting (all controlled) is spectacular. Below you can see a view from the living room onto the pool and patio at sunset, and then the same scene after darkness fell.

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Inside the home, nearly every room has a 50" flat panel HDTV mounted on the wall.

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One room is obviously set up for multiple viewing of sports events. There is a cascading waterfall on the left, open fireplace just in front of it, then the seating area to view three flat panel HDTVs.

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The home theater, located downstairs, consists of Paradigm in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, with two subwoofers enclosed within a bar and food serving area to its left side. An Anthem processor and power amplifiers drive the speakers. Lighting, motorized screen, and curtains are all controlled wirelessly from a handset.

Although you could control various functions in the home wirelessly, there are some wall panels (by NuVo), such as this one which controls one of the HDTVs and the wine cooling room.

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And, here is the equipment rack that is located in a closet. You can see a stack of Microsoft Xbox's on the right. This is to allow different movies to be shown on various HDTVs throughout the home. An Anthem D2 processor is at the upper right.

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Our group was given the grand opening tour, and we had to wait until January 20 to report on our trip to the home. There will be a steady parade of home builders from now on, to illustrate what can be done to deliver complete home automation, with an obvious emphasis on entertaining not only yourself, but giving jaw dropping parties for large groups of friends.

More from Piero Gabucci on next page . . .