A small observation: as I am not at CES this year, I've been attending from afar, using the internet, and my ability to read others' words. It's a great way of doing it and I think it's going to be big.
Two of the most-commented products (by non-scientific survey)? The Pebble smartwatch and the Oculus Rift, both of which are from talented but independent hardware startup companies, bootstrapped entirely by Kickstarter campaigns.
It's not that the traditional consumer electronics industry is going away–there are some things that simply need multi-billion-dollar scale–but that this new model is opening the door to innovation at a scale beyond the garage tinkerer. Oculus, in particular, is probably going to walk away with many publications' Best of Show award, and they haven't even shipped their dev kits yet.
Not every product that appears on Kickstarter is a winner, naturally, but how fantastic that the platform exists.
Earlier today a small computing company got a lot of attention for a product called “Piston,” a small computer that was widely reported as the first iteration of Valve's Steam Box. (Not the machine above! I'll get to that in a second.) While it looks like a perfectly decent little machine, that the Piston was the official Steam Box–emphasis on the the–didn't smell right: Xi3, the Piston's manufacturer, has been hawking tiny computers with the same form factor for over a year. (And frankly, while it's remarkably small, the form-factor doesn't have the polished look you'd expect from Valve.)
Sure enough, when someone went over the the Valve booth there was another tiny computer on display running Linux and a version of the company's popular Team Fortress 2 video game. The takeaway is what anyone who has been listening to Valve's Gabe Newell has suspected all along: the Steam Box is going to be a platform first–a set of hardware-specifications to which manufacturers can adhere to provide “Steam Box Compatible” (or some such branding) to what could end up being a wide array of PC-based hardware that is designed to live next to your television. Or just as likely your desktop monitor; I have a sneaking suspicion Steam Boxes will be just as popular as “traditional” mouse-and-keyboard gaming machines as they will be as set-top console replacements.
It's all both more and less interesting than a specific piece of hardware coming out of Valve. (Which they may yet do. Who knows?)
The real challenge remains getting game content onto Linux with performance that meets or exceeds what's available in Windows today. Linux drivers for graphics hardware remain iffy, and many game engines do not natively support Linux. But Valve's already ported their Source 3D-engine to Linux; it might not take much to convince fellow PC-culture develop Epic to provide more support for their popular Unreal engine.
A final, weird hypothetical: What if the PlayStation 4 is a Steam Box? It could easily run Linux if Sony allowed it. And Newell and Sony have seemingly repaired their relationship. I can't imagine Sony would walk away from their own online distribution platform, but a PlayStation console that is also a red-hot “PC” gaming machine? Could be huge. (And deeply ironic, considering Microsoft's 20-year dominance in PC gaming.)
IEEE Spectrum: How will people interact with Google Glass?
Babak Parviz: Right now, we have a touch pad on the device that allows people to change things on the device if they wish to do so. We have also experimented a lot with using voice commands. We have full audio in and audio out, which is a nice, natural way of interacting with something that you’d wear and always have with you. We have also experimented with some head gestures.
Amusingly, Parviz later notes that Google has no plans for advertising on Glass “at the moment.”
The inimitable Michael Abrash dives into the challenges of latency in modern hardware. Absolutely fascinating stuff for those interested in the various limitations of modern display technologies like LCD, OLED, and laser scanning, as well as a host of ideas for ways to cheat through the limitations without display technologies custom-designer for virtual reality (which may yet happen, but is certainly a ways off).
Update: The Oculus Rift team made a little update about what they've done to improve their latency: custom sensor IC.
Director Guilermo Del Toro is apparently a fan of Valve Software; the makers of Portal allowed him to use the voice of the dyspeptic robot GLaDOS (recorded by the same voice actor, Ellen McLain) as a cameo A.I. inside one of the giant robot battle suits.
Kotaku's Jason Schreier interviews Valve's Gabe Newell:
Speaking to me during a brief interview on the red carpet at the VGAs last night, Newell said Valve's current goal was to figure out how to make PCs work better in the living room. He said the reaction to Steam's TV-friendly Big Picture interface has been “stronger than expected,” and that their next step is to get Steam Linux out of beta and to get Big Picture on that operating system, which would give Valve more flexibility when developing their own hardware.
Creating consumer products whole cloth is tricky. The final panel resolution will be a 7-inch, 1,280 by 800 pixel display. (A consumer version could be higher resolution still when it is released sometime in late 2013.)
At the time period between March till June I went back to Valve and we begun a research program of systematic study of their economies. Within a few days we had the first results that shed light on the way prices are determined and how arbitrage is fluctuating. At the same time, I got the chance to “see the future”. You see, in addition to their game software, Valve has started developing hardware. Worried by Microsoft’s and Apple’s tendency to claim a bigger and bigger cut of its profits (in order to allow users access to Valve games through the computers that run their software), Valve has started experimenting with its own machines that give you the ability to run these games without a (Microsoft or Apple-controlled) computer. I’ve signed an NDA so I can’t reveal much more. I’ll just say that I really saw the future. (it’s not a small deal to see a virtual but highly realistic alien stand beside a real human in the same room with you, walk around the room and wink at you. And all that without a screen, a projector or even a computer near you…)
This isn't exactly a surprise, as it's been clear for a while that Valve is experimenting with making their own gaming console (something Linux based, perhaps) and with virtual and augmented reality hardware, but it's certainly as clear of a statement as to the gaming giant's intentions as we've heard in a while.