Remember those Easter egg hunts of childhood? As adults, some of us have found ourselves again exposed to them. In software, for example, an Easter egg tradition has developed. Program authors of everything from games to business software (having taken pride in their creations and wanting to demonstrate a good sense of humor) embedded hidden keystroke combinations or mouse click sequences that unveiled treasures from hidden games to videos. As software companies have become more sensitive to security issues, though, Easter eggs have disappeared.
I, for one, still like to hunt for them. One of my favorite places to look is at trade shows. Big names draw big crowds, and little names try to attract those same crowds with giveaways and free tchotchkes. Some little names even try new technologies and products. Lacking those, tchotchke it is.
The Easter eggs of trade shows are those tiny stands in obscure places, where you typically don’t find a crowd, and the overhead sign is from an unheard of company or organization. At NAB this year, my Easter egg was under the banner of NICT, the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology.
NICT is an independent research agency of the Japanese government devoted to research and development in network, applied electromagnetic, and advanced information and communications technologies. Its chartered goal is improvement of societal lifestyles by advancing collaborative efforts among government, academia and industry. This obviously helps drive economic growth through the advancement of Japanese technology companies, thus the government sponsorship.
At NAB, NICT had a rather eclectic display of some fascinating technologies. One demonstration used darknet monitoring to view real-time network analysis of the global world wide web. Darknet monitoring is a method that observes network traffic targeting unused IP space in order to assess cyber attacks, such as scanning worms or large-scale denial of service attacks. Normally limited to defined networks, the NICT technology displayed this analysis for the entire global internet. Viewing the earth on a large-screen LCD that showed a multicolor, real-time visualization of the massive amount of cyber attack traffic emanating from Asia toward the United States was incredibly compelling to watch.
You may have experienced virtual reality at other shows. NICT has taken that experience to the next level. Its Multi-sensory Interaction System permits a virtual reality experience that included 3-D imagery, stereo sound, smells and touch. It was eerie to say the least, but the technology is highly practical as surgical training is a target application.
Exhibited in another part of the NICT stand was a millimeter wave wireless LAN operating at 60GHz. The system allowed for multi-gigabit data rates and was shown wirelessly streaming uncompressed HD. Conceptually, NICT showed using this technology throughout a home to create an extremely high-speed personal area network.
Last, and most impressive, was the 200in screen displaying glassless 3-D. Behind the screen was an incredible array of 200 projectors used to display the imagery. NICT’s impressive multiview technology not only created high-quality 3-D images, but ones with a holographic feel. A car, for example, shown essentially life-sized on the screen, was displayed in side view with its doors open. This allowed viewers to change positions and look around one of the open doors to view the car’s previously hidden insides.
Sign of the future?
Such technology displays sometimes lead to naught. But, sometimes they provide a glimpse of what the future holds.
A number of years ago, one of my trade show explorations took me to a small stand that demonstrated a rudimentary prototype of plasma display technology. It was monochrome, full of artifacts and incredibly heavy and bulky. At other shows, I saw the first demonstrations of 4K video and then 8K video. I have also had the opportunity to view holographic video in what can only be described as early embryonic stage.
Trade shows are a great opportunity to join the crowds looking at and trying out today’s latest and greatest products and technologies. And, while much is learned sitting in on conference and training sessions, you might want to next time take just a little bit and see what Easter egg you can discover in some out of the way, less-traveled space of the trade show floor.
—Anthony R. Gargano is a consultant and former industry executive.
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