CES 2008: The Belly of the Beast

Welcome to the belly of the beast, Central Hall at the Consumer Electronics Show. Some 140,000 people will be making their way through this part of the Convention Center. That's 280,000 feet all looking to step on mine.

HDTV was everywhere in droves, from Casio to Sharp LCDs and Panasonic's inexplainable insistence on sticking with plasma technology. As if to emphasize the point, the Japanese electronics giant displayed the world's largest plasma TV, at 150 inches and probably close to a quarter ton in weight. I'd hate to be pat of the crew that has to pack it up.

Samsung displayed their own super-slim, 52-inch LCD, and even though it wasn't as thin as Sony's OLED, it was a beautiful example of where the technology's headed.

Microsoft had a large presence and seemed to focus mainly on its partner relationships, while LG had a ginormous space that included a fashion show. Guess that's what happens when “Life's Good.”

Texas Instruments was demonstrating a new 3D DLP technology that's likely to appeal to gamers with a demo that featured a simulated football game. TI keeps pumping DLP projection even though several manufacturers have abandoned projection TVs altogether in the face of dwindling sales.

One of the interesting, if not entirely practical, technologies was Panasonic's “Life Wall.” The wall recognizes a person's face and calls up a customized user interface. Even cooler, when the demonstrator walked along the wall, the video screen he had called up followed him. Now I love that but frankly, I don't have a single wall in my house that I could devote to this technology.

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Canon brought out the dancing girls (and guys) to promote its Vixia family of high-definition
camcorders. Grabbed my attention.

But even more striking was Sony's aforementioned OLED TV technology. The screens are 3 millimeters thick and have what I consider the best HD picture on the market. And speaking of the market, Sony just announced yesterday it was bringing an 11-inch version to the U.S. market at an early adopter's price: $2,499. Certainly out of my price range.

I ended the day at the quiet end of the hall where I question whether the companies stuck there get their money's worth. Considering the lack of traffic at the far end, one has to wonder. And I wrapped up day one with a demonstration from Roland, the keyboard maker,
where I learned that technology can make one guy with an average voice sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Editor's note: As part of our extensive coverage of CES, CNBC.com's Brian Clark and Ted Kemp will be at the event and contributing to this special edition of Tech Check.