A sea of televisions


Image courtesy of NOTCOT, from CES 2010

At every trade show I go to, but especially CES, I'm immersed in a sea of televisions. Early on in the show there might be a couple interesting models that we track down, thanks to some smarttv functionality or maybe a record-setting size or thinness. But before long, the TVs just start washing over me. Literally thousands of TVs, displaying random, over-saturated footage.

Often they're set up in some wild, improbable wall — LG and Samsung are best known for this. At IFA this year LG did a whole wall (a wall = 50ish feet high, 100ish feet wide) of shutter-free 3D TVs. We'll probably see some walls like that this year at CES, and maybe there will even be a glasses-free 3D wall the induce wonder / nausea in everybody who walks past.

Then there are the huge TVs, which companies like Panasonic love to compete in. I've been at 6 CESs, and every year there's a new record set. It was like 96-inch, 100-inch, 102, 103, 150... something like that. They all blur together, and it's completely meaningless. But also incredible.

Inside the booths themselves you get endless iterations of TVs. Most companies have several different levels of TVs (based on quality of panel, quality of LED backlit, smart TV functionality, 3d functionality, and maybe a plasma line and OLED line to boot). In addition, they need to show multiple sizes of each type, and then all the different smart functionalities in different demo stations, or perhaps a stand full of rotating OLEDs to show off just how dang thin they are.

Often booths are lit dimly, to emphasize how bright the TVs are, or washed in a single color (typically blue or red) to make the colors of the TV seem even more spectacular compared to the monochrome surroundings. 3D glasses, so rare in the real world, are in abundance, and there are some more isolated booths that include surround sound and an even more idealized viewing experience.

Eventually you're not seeing TVs, you're bathing in them. It's seeping into you. If you closed your eyes, you'd still see TVs. You don't really imbibe any of the content on the TV, just the ambient presence of "TV," an element of nature like wind or gravity.

Strangely, no matter how many TVs I see at CES, I rarely recognize any of them at Best Buy or Walmart. CES becomes its own reality, separate from my real world TV-purchasing concerns.

Looking forward to taking another swim.