Consumer electronics trends at IFA 2015
AS the world’s leading trade show for consumer electronics, IFA is presenting the entire spectrum of new products from an innovative industry from September 4 to 9, in time for the most important season of the year for sales.
Ultra-HD screens with even more impressive colours and spectacular contrast, home cinema sound in three dimensions, innovative software platforms for intelligent interconnection, sensors for fitness and health, confectionery or fashion from the 3D printer, music from wireless networks – IFA 2015 is presenting the trends from all sectors of the industry.
UHD is ready for the mass market – with or without curves Television sets with elegantly curved screens were among the highlights of the show in 2014. This trend is continuing this year, with variations on this theme in the form of screens that can even change their silhouette.
If required, they can assume a completely flat shape, or a curved one: by pressing the remote control a motor is activated that gives the screen the required shape.
Whether curved or flat, UHD, ultra-high definition with eight million pixels, has be-come almost standard in the up-market television category. Even screens with diagonals of 40 inches (102 centimetres) are increasingly bearing the UHD logo.
The UHD models for 2015 are advanced and future-proof: The latest products from the leading manufacturers support the newest, highly efficient video compression standard HEVC (H.265), are equipped with HDMI ports for high UHD data rates, and comply with the copy-protection requirements for future UHD media. Major advances have also been made this year in the range of content that is available in UHD.
The first online services are now releasing feature films on the Internet in UHD. The equipment manufacturers and the film industry have formed a UHD Alliance in order to encourage the production of UHD content and to deal effectively with all the compatibility requirements from the studio to the screenNext generation UHD makes the pixels look even better This is a well-known sentence among experts: UHD not only provides more pixels, they look better too.
For example, for more impressive colours: the new top-of-the-range UHD television sets represent an expanded colour space, to use the experts’ term. Their screens show a well-maintained golf links in such a full shade of green that viewers might want to grab their clubs and start playing.
And tomatoes shine so red that anyone who sees them would want to eat them. This is all made possible by the nanocrystals in the red and green colour filters of the LCD screens. And OLED screens too, of which several different models are on show at IFA, also produce a wider spectrum of colours. The clearly visible effect is to produce beautiful and more natural colours, thereby creating an even more impressive experience.
This is also the aim of the technology known as “High Dynamic Range”, or HDR for short. The term refers to a range of contrasts that far exceeds the levels achieved until now by standard screens. HDR used to be regarded as something that would only be achievable in the distant future, but now the top-of-the-range models among the latest UHD televisions are showing the direction in which technology is evolving.
The competition between the operating systems Smart TVs can not only receive conventional television signals but can also access content and services from the internet, for example broadcasters’ media libraries, internet video rental outlets, programme recommendations, online games, social networks and information portals. All this can be accessed by easy-to-use apps, in a very similar way to those on tablets and smartphones.
And like the mobile device, intelligent televisions require operating systems as the link between the hardware and the software. In the past these were often not very evident, but this year the manufacturers are turning the spotlight onto the operating systems for their smart TVs.
Increasingly some very efficient systems, already well established in the mobile world, are at work behind the screens to provide numerous easy-to-use functions.
For example, two of the leading suppliers use Android to bring many apps to the television that were previously only available on smartphones and tablets.
Android televisions can also make use of a powerful online voice recognition system capable of understanding even complex questions, for example about the state of the morning weather in one’s home region.
The answer comes a few seconds later, together with graphics on the screen. Similar capabilities are also offered by operating systems such as Tizen, WebOS or Firefox OS. Wearables monitor the fitness programme Another prominent trend at IFA 2015 features smart watches and other wearable devices, equipped with sensors and displays and worn close to the body, on the wrist.
They display the signals that they receive, with or without the support of a mobile phone, measuring body functions such as the heart rate or pulse, counting paces, registering movements and environmental variables, in order to pass them on for evaluation, for example by a tablet, which processes all the received data to provide a graphic display and prepare individual fitness programmes.
A whole range of new smart watches and fitness armbands will be on show at IFA, as well as many new smartphones that are also fitted with fitness sensors.
The trend towards more intelligent wearables applies not only to sport and pleasure activities but in future will also be used to support telemedical applications, thereby enabling older people to continue living in familiar surroundings for longer. A new section at IFA will provide an attractive setting for presenting these topics. From fashion jewellery to confectionery: all from a 3D printer IFA 2015 will once again grab the headlines with a type of device that looks set to be gaining a mass market: the 3D printer.
Even the handy sized tabletop units can conjure up amazingly delicate objects of all kinds from their nozzles. These include cog wheels, construction models, toys, one-off shoes, artistic sculptures, decorative jewellery, and even clothes. And 3D printers can also be used to make chairs, coffee tables or large vases.
Most printers process plastic, but some can even be used to produce metal objects, by melting metal filings with the aid of laser beams. And some models can even work with foodstuffs, such as chocolate and sugar, in order to create decorative and tasty items. The patterns for the three dimensional print products are created in special design programmes, or in scanner light beams.
These devices are also on show at IFA in various forms, from a compact table-mounted scanner for small objects to man-sized installation that can register all the external details of a person in a few seconds, using the data thus obtained as a digital pattern which is then sent to the printer.
A full sound in three dimensions Just over two years ago cinema sound began to take over the air space, when Dolby augmented the traditional cinema sound with its multi-channel technology for right, left, centre and surround by adding a height dimension.
Known as Dolby Atmos, this technology has been adopted in cinema auditoriums, and a few months ago it was also included as a feature of home cinema receivers for use in the living room. Dolby Atmos now has some competitors, including from DTS:X, from the other leading supplier of cinema sound systems, and Auro 3D, with a 3D sound that has been developed in Belgium.
IFA will be displaying many new home cinema receivers and amplifiers that support these new formats. Why do we need this added height dimension anyway To recreate cinematic ef-fects, such as helicopters or noisy birds, flying in a virtual loop above the audience’s heads, to give added spice to the cinema experience.
But this is only half of what goes to make up 3D sound: it is only when the height effect is created that the illusion of hearing something natural is really complete.
This can be easily demonstrated, using a suitable multi-channel recording which also drives loudspeakers mounted under the auditorium ceiling. Not only the sound of a bell tolling in a distant tower is positioned at the right height, but the system also reproduces ambient noises such as traffic or voices at a natural volume.
Music heard wirelessly and the headphone boom Loudspeakers that use W-LAN or Bluetooth to maintain a radio contact with their playback units are among the latest trends at IFA for producing outstanding sound.
It is almost impossible to list all the different versions: some rely on just one of these two radio systems, others support both. Among the sound sources available for wire-less transmission are NAS drives, computers, tablet PCs, mobile sound systems and smartphones.
The trend for enjoying music while on the move has also boosted the demand for headphones. For MP3 players, smartphones and tablet PCs alike, headphones are indispensable, and they are now available in a vast range of different types and specifications, from basic “ear plugs” to high tech headphones.
In-ear phones can be adapted individually to fit the inside of the user’s ear. Some of the high end units even operate using a number of built-in transducers, specially designed for different frequency ranges, in a similar way to hifi loudspeakers.