Red's pick of the new tech at CES 2019

16th January 2019
Last week saw the close of CES 2019, an event that brings together innovators, tech enthusiasts and the consumer electronics industry together in Las Vegas. Among the vast amounts of technology on show, there were some notable announcements in the world of immersive media and music technology - read this post for our roundup of CES 2019.

Spatial Audio & Immersive Media

Sony 360 Audio Reality Technology / Dirac 3D Audio / Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

The rise of technologies such as virtual, augmented, mixed & extreme reality have all created a demand for spatial audio that extends beyond stereo and typical surround sound formats that we are familiar with such as 5.1 etc. There have been many developments in this field that we at Abbey Road Red have been keeping track of and contributing to through the Abbey Road Spatial Audio Forum. It is no secret that the games and film industries have previously led the charge, but more recently the music industry is exploring how spatial audio can augment music creation and consumption.

Following the introduction of consumer headphones implementing spatial audio for enhanced listening and gaming experiences, Sony announced their 360 Reality Audio technology at CES 2019. Sony’s 360 Audio Reality technology is their answer to immersive audio that uses an object-based approach to spatialising sound sources, which gives the listener the perception of sound ‘all around them’. The technology will work with both headphones and loudspeakers, although personalisation is still a barrier to receiving the best listening experience. The technology will still need to understand how individual users hear sound (characterised by an individual's HRTF) and they are apparently working on an app that will help with this process.

It is also possible that Sony could work with some of the major labels to take existing music into the 360 Reality Audio format but the question is - how will this improve my listening experience for music that is predominantly mixed and optimised for stereo? Nonetheless, with Sony’s recent acquisition of Audio Kinetic, they are clearly planning to make an impact in the immersive media sector.
Sennheiser is not only a powerhouse in the audio industry and are one of the only companies to offer end-to-end solutions for recording, manipulating and now reproduction of spatial audio with their Ambeo Soundbar. With Sennheiser packing thirteen drivers into their soundbar, they say offers an “elegant all-in-one solution for all those seeking an audiophile-grade home entertainment experience”.

Dirac also announced their 3D Rendering solution which they say will "take the mobile market by storm" by giving both companies and customers a chance to integrate their 3D audio technology into their products or in the home.

Virtual Reality Projection

MK Player360

CES 2019 showcased some exciting technology to consume visual media including foldable phones with Samsung’s Galaxy X and roll-out televisions from LG and the immersive VR projector - the MK Player360 by Broomx Technologies, who are currently on the Abbey Road Red incubator programme.

The MK Player360 is a cutting-edge technology that integrates an immersive projection system, an internet connection, audio and domotics control for synchronisation to other smart home technologies. The projector is capable of projecting visuals that exceed the human field-of-view and transforms what is normally a solitary VR experience with a pair of goggles into a social experience for multiple people at once. Read more about the company, the projector and content platform here.

Virtual Reality Headsets

HTC Cosmos / Pimax VR

VR goggles have been around for a while and with incremental advances in technology comes upgraded consumer products. CES 2019 brought more news for VR enthusiasts, with HTC being amongst the most well-known names when it comes to VR and this year announced the Vive Cosmos. The Cosmos is a new premium PC VR system that integrates inside-out tracking so external sensors are not needed for six-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) tracking.

Pimax also showcased their 8K ultra-wide high-resolution VR headset, which is set to reach the market for February this year after a tedious but successful Kickstarter campaign. The headset features two 4K lenses for each eye and offers an impressive 200 degree field-of-view (FOV), wider than other competitors in the VR market. Marry the improved resolution and extended FOV with increased framerates and Pimax are raising the bar for what is possible in consumer VR headsets.

Voice Activation

Echo Auto / Google Assistant

At CES 2019, both Google and Amazon announced updates to their voice assistant technologies. Amazon’s Echo Auto was previewed at CES and allows users to access Alexa’s functionalities whilst driving and they have also been working with other automotive manufacturers to get Alexa into more vehicles.

Google also announced that its Google Assistant will be integrated into devices for the automotive industry to rival Alexa. The Google assistant will also be able to soon control your Sonos speakers, Samsung Televisions, Satellite top-boxes and more importantly into Google Maps on both iOS and Android.

As the adoption of smart speakers increases, we can expect a meteoric rise of products that integrate voice assistance. With both companies fighting for domestic superiority, it was only a matter of time until the battle was brought into the automotive industry - we can expect the integration of voice assistance into everyday objects to further increase throughout the coming years.

Cambridge Audio Alva TT Turntable

Vinyl are enjoying a nostalgic resurgence and this has helped to power new turntable technologies. The Cambridge Audio Alva TT wireless turntable utilises Qualcomm’s aptX HD technology, which offers high definition Bluetooth wireless audio. Typically, audio over bluetooth suffers from degradation - a scourge to audiophiles the world over. The aptX HD tech preserves sound and supports audio at 48kHz at 24-bit quality and according to Qualcomm is indistinguishable from high resolution audio.