Monday, June 20, 2011

Hand-held 3D - 2011's Fad or Here to stay?

3D is all its gimmicky glory. Here are a few new 3D devices that have a parallax barrier screen to display 2 separate images (1 to each eye) to generate a stereoscopic 3D image:

Nintendo 3DS
The first hand-held console to support 3D sans glasses. I must admit that I would want this system just to replay my all-time favorite game in stereoscopic 3D (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time), but I'm just not sure the system is worth $250.

Sharp Aquos Phone SHI12
Just announced on, this phone will feature dual cameras for stereoscopic 3D picture taking and presumably 3D HD video capture. Also presumably, you will be able to play these back in 3D sans glasses right on the phone.

HTC EVO 3D Phone
This phone is 2011's version of the 2010 EVO 4G. It has an upgraded display, dual core processor, and the ability to shoot and playback 3D pics and video sans glasses.

LG Optimus 3D Phone
LG aims to capture and playback 3D photos and videos, as well with their Optimus 3D phone.

I originally heard of these 3D devices and thought, "Cool!" Now I'm not so sure, wondering if it has the same lasting appeal as that lighter or brostache app you showed to your buddies when you got your first "smart" phone (see video below). 3D is a neat trick, but part of me wonders about the headaches induced, and some people have troubles seeing 3D. Regardless, 3D is here now, and it's up to consumers and their wallets to decide how long it stays.

What do you think, is 3D here to stay?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Misleading Tech Advertising

Picture it... 
You've unearthed the best new tech in the world...but no one knows about it. So naturally you turn to creative advertising to promote your product. Once promoted, you think, "Wow that's my product!?" Of course it is, but smart advertising has disguised it. A big pet peeve of mine is inflation of the truth in tech advertising. It's also genius! To stretch the truth of the product's specifications/capabilities is masquerading, but it's not necessarily lying. Let me shed some light on 2 of the biggest advertising facades.

Hard Disk Drive/Solid State Drive/Flash Memory
Why when you look at the 100GB drive under "My Computer -> {drive} -> Properties" it shows as only 93.13GB? Where did my 6.87GB go!!!??? It is a 100*10^9 byte drive, but the secret is that storage is advertised in decimal format (base 10), while the computer displays it in binary (base 2). A little math to explain:
  • Decimal (Base 10): 10^3 = kilo, 10^6 = mega, 10^9 = giga
  • Binary (Base 2):     2^10 = kilo, 2^20 = mega, 2^30 = giga
  • Math gives us: 100*(10^9)/(2^30) = 93.13 GB (base 2)
Naturally, marketers wish to promote the larger number.
Just know this: Marketers speak in decimal, Computers speak in binary.

600Hz Plasma vs 120Hz LCD
Flat screen TV ads are the worst. Plasma and LCD are way different techs. The advertising of Hz in TVs is due to how humans perceive motion on screen. LCDs have an inherent blur effect with motion (e.g., camera pans, fast motion scenes). The higher frame refresh rate (Hz) aims to switch fast enough to eliminate motion blur. (I may post a separate article on LCD 120Hz explained.)

On a 1080p TV, think of plasma pixels as 6 million tiny light bulbs, 1 for each sub pixel (red, green, blue). These bulbs constantly flash to display their photons. For a 600Hz sub-field drive, each bulb flashes 10 times per frame. Since the screen refreshes at 60Hz (frames per second), each bulb flashes for 60 * 10 = 600Hz (flashes per second). Old plasma bulbs flashed only 8 times per frame, with a 480Hz sub-field drive.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panels have a back light that is constantly on. Basically, the Liquid Crystals allow light to pass (more white) or block it (more black). Just know that 120Hz really is the screen refreshing at 120 frames per second. Old LCDs refresh at only 60Hz. See this awesome video for a better explanation of how LCD works.

The Skinny
  • Plasmas' Hz rating - how many times per second plasma bulbs flash. 
  • LCD's Hz rating - how many times per second the frame refreshes. 
So, which is better? Both are better than their older versions, but it's like comparing a Volkswagen's miles per gallon to a Ferrari's turn radius. It just doesn't make sense. Plasmas are inherently better at handling motion, but don't use the 600Hz > 120Hz comparison to determine that. Some prefer LCD's version of motion handling. Let's face it, either tech is a good choice, as long as the TV is huge. Go to Best Buy and determine it for yourself.

What are some misleading advertisements you have come across?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Future Proofing: Technology's Everest

Look into my incandescent crystal ball...
How do you future proof something? How do you define future proof? 
Usually a gadget offers something new to the public. New is defined loosely, as well. 
"New" basically takes on a mix of these three: better, faster, cheaper. This may take on any of these definitions:
  • A service the competition does not offer.
  • A feature that provides new functionality.
  • A feature that improves performance.
  • Same features and quality as competitors, but significantly cheaper.
In any case, companies need to release products by bringing something new to the table. Nothing new = no sales.

The Myth
Really, the term "future proof" is a myth. Any time the latest, greatest gadget comes out, people say "It can never get better than this!" But then something more awesome rears its head and steals the show, and everyone is shocked! No WAY! How did they do that! It will never get better than that!!

To future proof a gadget, companies need to make something new. It has to remain "new" for a few months and at least keep up with other gadgets released in those coming months. As a consumer in the market for said gadget, it may be worth it to spend a few more bucks on the upgrade to ensure you won't have consumer envy in the near future.

Consumer Survival
How does the consumer live in this constant game of catch up? Simple...complacency. Whether you're rocking Blu-ray with a 3D flatscreen or still watching VHS tapes on your black and white, there is a place in this world for you. The world is divided into 2 sets of people: early adopters and the rest. My advice? Let the early adopters find out what works and what doesn't, then make your choice. As the economy will tell us, your money is one gadget that is not future proof.