CES: Kiddy Robots, Video Games and New 10-Foot Experiences

If you folks haven’t noticed, the entire staff of the lab is out in Vegas right now for the Consumer Electronics Show. Be sure to read on to learn about robot midgets, the AOL 10-foot experience and how everyone is getting into the world of white labeled gadgetry.

For those who don’t want the long, sordid story, here’s the summary:

1. Nokia is working with Six Apart’s Vox blogging network
2. The new AOL 10-foot experience is awesome, and the 10-foot experience for Vista has a very cool 3D room you rotate about in.
3. It’s very amusing to watch large rooms filled with people playing competitive computer games
4. The new Crysis game has stunningly beautiful graphics
5. Skinnable applications are great and easily allow for branding.
6. Content may or may not be decreasing in value.
7. In the future, brands are going to be built on relevance, not on repetition.

In no particular order, here are a few of the amazing sights that we saw on Monday.

  • Honda’s Asimo robot, which is apparently a big deal because it can walk, run, avoid obstacles and follow curves. It’s a pretty impressive contraption, all things considered, so much so, in fact, that I’m not convinced that many audience members remarked that they thought Hond had actually paid a child to dress up in a costume and walk around the stage. It’s a little difficult to tell how much of the Asimo performance was scripted, but Honda has said that the robot can follow simple commands and is intended to be used to help people fetch objects around the house and take care of elderly folks in the event of an emergency. It sounds pretty neat but, unfortunately, we didn’t get a hands on to see just how many hoops we could get it to jump through.
  • Nokia has structured an interesting deal with Six Apart’s Vox blogging network. Some of their phones will now be available with applications specifically developed to help people manage their Vox accounts. This is a nice bookend to the deals that MySpace has made with Cingular recently, allowing users of certain cingular handsets blogging and profile editing applications for their phones.
  • In the AOL Dome this year, the computer giant was demoing their new 10-foot video experience. Ostensibly an application that runs on Media Center PCs at the moment, this is a very nice looking service. Much like the Xbox 360 Marketplace, users of the AOL service can download video and television shows over the Internet at DVD quality and watch them on their televisions. The Windows Vista version of the service is even more interesting, with an interface that looks like a three-dimensional room that rotates when you want to use new applications (Music, for example, is on one wall while video occupies another and still photography a third). Helen Tran, the associate creative director who did most of the designs for the service said that they’re considering moving away from the three-dimensional room because rotating around it makes people dizzy, but that they will have something equally impressive for people to play with. Another interesting aspect of the service is that it is totally skinable, allowing companies to create their own branded sections of the site.
  • In the Microsoft gaming area, I also got a hands-on test of the new game Crysis, which has amazingly photorealistic graphics. The screen looked a little blurry at times, but one of the best examples of the incredible level of detail came when I walked by a rusted, corrugated metal fence and it actually looked just like a real fence. It was pretty amazing. No word on how fast a computer you actually need to run the game, but it sure looks amazing.
  • Digital Hollywood’s “Advertising Strategies in the Diversified Digital Culture” panel discussion was also interesting. I’m intending to write more on this later, but two of the quotes that came out of the discussion were particularly interesting. The first, spoken by Gayle Troberman, director of brand solutions for MSN, received quite a heated response. She said, “The value of content is dropping dramatically. The costs of producing it are dropping dramatically. What does this mean for advertisers?” The second, from Greg Johnson, the lab’s executive director, is, “Historically, brands were built through repetition. In the future, brands are being built through relevance. Now we have to look at our progression and decide where to draw the line and how to divide the spending.” Both of these, I think, are pretty thought-provoking statements and definitely some of the gems that came out of that session.