I actually recall the wonder and awe of the World’s Fair that took place mere blocks from my childhood apartment sixty (gasp) years ago. If you’re of a certain age and geography, you might as well. Some of my fondest and earliest memories were of the many exhibits that promised the world of tomorrow. The first time I pushed buttons to make a call was on the pay phones in Flushing Meadow Park. The first time I rode inside what to some is the world’s coolest car–then and now–, the Ford Mustang, was there. The first time I experienced a “picturephone”–kinda like Zoom’s grampa, was at the Bell Telephone exhibit. Google it if you’re more confused than wistful.
But I also recall some other things that didn’t quite catch on, as did NEW YORK’s Christopher Bonanos when the Golden Anniversary of that extravaganza was observed in 2014. One he mentioned in particular stood out:
Disappearing Appliances: A pavilion built to promote the natural-gas industry — it was called “The Festival of Gas,” delighting every wiseass kid at the Fair — incorporated a kitchen whose “dramatically new Gas appliances automatically emerge from bare walls, floors, ceilings as they are needed by the housewife, and disappear when no longer in use.”
Flash forward to this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where TODAY’s Harry Rabinowitz gleefully reported this as one of the more impactful debuts:
LG Signature OLED T TV:
The new OLED T is a wireless, 77-inch transparent TV: the front panel is transparent, with an opaque contrast screen behind it. By raising or lowering the contrast screen, you can make the screen look more or less transparent. LG showed off visuals that made it look like a 3D fish tank with the transparent screen, and then raised the opaque panel to show off how the TV functions more normally. The screen is practically invisible when fully transparent or turned off, better blending into the environment instead of looking like a big black screen, says LG. LG did not reveal a release date or price for the TV.
Hey, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again, right?
What has now become an annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas to see what we should lust after and overspend for in the coming year has tapped into the same sort of appeal and long-ingrained curiosity inherent in us all that World’s Fair attendees were able to channel lo those many decades ago. And in a media landscape where tech is the dominant economic driving force, it’s also become a must for executives to show up at and rub shoulders with clients and competitors while charging $20 cocktails and $100 steaks to corporate expense accounts. At least, those are still fortunate enough to have them.
So it’s no surprise than in addition to LG, we’ve seen this somewhat more modest offering from a content aggregator:
Roku started making its own line of TVs in 2023, releasing a range of options under $1000. The new Roku Pro Series TVs will have more advanced picture and audio quality for under $1500. The Pro series will use a 4K QLED mini-LED screen with local dimming and enhanced audio technology, according to the brand. These TVs will also have the new Roku Smart Picture, a software feature that uses AI to identify what type of content is on the screen and automatically adjust the picture settings for an optimal viewing experience, says the brand.
And this even more innovative offering, reported on by DEADLINE’s very busy Dade Hayes, already has some brand halo research attached to it:
Telly, the new-look smart TV that came out of stealth beta last year, has added an interactive voice assistant powered by ChatGPT and other AI technology. The start-up made the announcement at CES in Las Vegas, where it has been touting its 55-inch, dual screen models as more potent vehicles for advertisers and more comprehensive devices for consumers. The new voice assistant responds to commands beginning with “Hey, Telly.” It offers customizable avatars and personalities, adapting and personalizing to each user’s preferences over time, the company says.
Users of Telly, who got sets for free in a novel program designed to gain scale and offer consumers an incentive to try the device, are tuning into Telly at twice the rate of average TV screens. The dual-screen setup enables functions like fitness videos, Zoom meetings and information like news, weather and sports to play differently than they do on conventional single-screen sets. Telly said it has expanded Zoom capability to the screen underneath the main panel, which enables co-viewing with parties on the same Zoom call. Brand recall has also been enhanced by Telly’s dual-screen DNA, according to the company’s findings. Telly said a study tracking the effectiveness of a “persistent advertising” campaign by Kia found that it outperformed other automakers’ ads, with recall results up to 300% higher than rival spots tracked in a control group. Telly’s second-screen ads delivered a recall rate for Kia more than 60% greater than the average.
Well, for anyone who carps there’s never anything good on TV, now that excuse can be put to rest. Put up with an ad to get a cool big-screen where I can seamlessly create a watch party AND get more easily measured by data companies still overfocused on “connected screens”? Sign me up for the next Beta wave.
And if you are a content creator who is intimidated by the thought of now having to fight with these kind of innovations just to get a consumer’s attention, let this be a reality check to you. Same is true you’re a content provider who is looking to harvest these breakthroughs to offer a better experience for your consumers. Advertisers have better options, just like your aspirational viewers. You’re not just competing with Paramount+Showtime (still rolls right off the tongue, right, Shari?) any more.
For those of you who may be near Vegas, you have my envy. It probably means you’re also well heeled enough to possibly bring some of these screens into your homes. Not to mention indulge in some other new adult toys being unveiled that have nothing to do with media. An audio version of a Samsung frame? A smart ring that specializes in tracking women’s health, including menstrual cycles? That $3500 Apple Vision Pro “spacial computer”? All yours, at least a primo spot on the waiting list, if you happen to hit a few lucky slots.
And if you’re into REALLY adult toys, you can always come back at the end of the month for the next big convention to hit the Strip. This used to directly overlap with CES. And puh-leese, don’t tell me you don’t think this qualifies as a convergence of entertainment and tech.
What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas. What succeeds in Vegas will wind up in your living room. You cool kids enjoy yourselves. For now, I’ll just remember that I did have a head start on you, and I only hope your enjoyment mirrors the level yours truly did as a wide-eyed kindergartener.
Until next time…