About a week ago, I attended a presentation at my agency given by editors of Popular Science magazine. They had just attended the Consumer Electronics Show and seen some amazing new things, things that will effect and change the way we reach out to consumers, things we need to know about BEFORE they arrive.
So they put together a presentation/demonstration of some of the neatest new items. Each has been designed to meet one central need: Mobility. Consumers no longer want to be tied to their living rooms to hear music or view entertainment. They won’t tolerate being tied to a landline to communicate with others. We all want to connect, view, listen, be entertained anywhere, anytime on our schedule and on our terms.
I got a chance to take a glimpse into the future and see, hear and touch some of the products:
The Medis Fuel Cell ($50) is a 24/7 power pack that will keep any handheld device (iPod, laptop, etc.) running when a plug-in is nowhere to be had. These power packs provide enough juice to keep the average cell phone running for 30 hours or an iPod stoked for 60-80 hours.
The Meraki Mini ($50) and promises to bring whole communities together. This wireless router can allow a city block, or a whole village to share the same internet connection. Just one Mini will create an entire Wi-Fi network around the single Internet connection. Add a second one within 150 feet and it can pick up and amplify the original signal so that everyone who hooks in gets the same signal strength as the originator. The editor giving this presentation gave an example of the Mini’s potential from his own experience. He lives in a newly gentrifying part of NYC that still has a great deal of crime. His neighborhood organization wanted to communicate to its members via e-mail in order to work toward cleaning up the hood, but they soon learned that many of the earlier residents didn’t have Internet access. With just a few Minis, he can help link everyone in his neighborhood, new and old, online. That’s $50 very, very well spent.
The Phoenix WiFi Radio ComOne ($249) looks like the radio Grandma used to have sitting on her kitchen counter. It is so much more. This product allows you to listen to Internet-based content, such as radio stations streaming online broadcasts and podcasts, without having to sign on to a computer and going online. All you need is a broadband connection and you’re good to go. This radio is also battery powered, so it’s fully portable and never needs a computer interface. It also has integrated stereo speakers. Because it looks, acts and is used by the consumer just as they would a radio, it’s ideal for those less tech-savvy.
My favorites from the presentation were, of course, those things that made TV watching better, easier or more portable. The Verizon V-Cast Mobile Network allows you to watch live TV, in real time, on your cell phone. While I loved the idea of being able to whip out the cell and watch Young and Restless during my lunch hour, I ‘m still not sure I would enjoy watching even my favorite programs on my teeny, tiny cell phone display. To battle that problem, Popular Science tells us that some manufacturers, like Texas Instruments and others, already are working on palm sized projectors that would free that TV picture from that little screen, and allow the user to project that program on a screen, a wall or wherever.
The highest ticket item was the Sony OLED XEL-1, an 11-inch ultra-thin television (3 mm) that also presents the most brilliant, sharp HD picture you’ve ever seen. This baby sells for $2,500, and is a bit small for my taste, especially at that price. But man, what a picture. Let’s hope they can bring that technology to larger screens at lower prices soon.
At many of these types of agency presentations, the presenters will do a drawing at the end to encourage people to come and to stay, as well as to make sure we all bring our business cards. The prize at this presentation was a SlingBox, which helps turn any Internet-connected PC or laptop into your home TV. The Slingbox sends whatever your cable box, TiVo or Direct TV HD-DVR, receives to any computer anywhere in the world. You can also control your home TV from that computer, so if you find you’ve gone to work and forgotten to set your TiVo to catch Oprah, Slingbox has got you covered. The lucky winner of the Chicago presentation’s SlingBox was ME! And I can’t wait to hook it up and let it rip.
Make sure you take some time to catch this presentation when Popular Science brings it to your town. They will be presenting in NYC from now through April 17 at OMD, McCann, PHD, Carat, MediaEdge and Initiative; in LA on April 28-29 at Initiative, Saatchi, and RPA; and on May 19 in Detroit at Campbell-Ewald. They also plan to come back to Chicago and head to Minneapolis and San Francisco later in the spring or summer.