February 2019

Below: Pharrell Williams on stage during Sony’s press conference at CES, who spoke about the company’s new multichannel music format, 360 Reality Audio

LG also unveiled the LG HomeBrew, a home beer making system that allows users to brew their own using specific flavoured capsules (think Nespresso). Rather too large to be a kitchen appliance, the Homebrew produces 1.8 gallons of beer in two weeks. Rather suspiciously, an LG executive declined to taste the beer during its press conference unveiling, and no samples were available behind the scenes (believe us, we looked).

5G on the verge Super-fast 5G was a recurring theme. It may seem an amorphous concept to many, but 5G looks certain to have a huge impact on the trade over coming years. Wireless connectivity will become a legitimate

alternative to cabled broadband (meaning big implications for the UK’s broadband roll-out), and it should dramatically improve streaming speeds for OTT service providers like Netflix and Amazon. In the future, it’ll also be vital for the development of autonomous cars, and has the bandwidth and speed to deliver completely wireless VR. 5G is not a Stateside innovation. Even as CES exhibitors were touting 5G in the LVCC’s biggest hall, BT subsidiary EE was trialling the technology across London.

Just to put to speed improvement offered by 5G in context: A two-hour movie takes around 26 hours to download using 3G (at 384 Kbps). With 4G at (100 Mbps) that improves to six minutes. But on 5G (at 10 Gbps), users will be able to download that same film in just 3.6 seconds!

Sony brings the showbiz

CES is never short on pizazz, but this year Sony really brought showbiz to the convention centre. For its CES press conference Sony opted not to tout new products but instead used the platform to stress its creative ties to movies, music and gaming. New CEO, Kenchiro Yoshida, introduced creative executives from Sony Pictures and Sony Music. His message was clear: Sony is a company with uniquely interwoven technology and entertainment divisions. And they pulled out the big guns. James Cameron was on VT explaining how Sony camera engineers developed the innovative Venice camera used for his Avatar sequels, which separates the image sensor and optics from the main recorder, for greater freedom and flexibility. Producers Chris Miller and Phil Lord explained

Pharrell Williams related a recent trip to Sony Japan, during which he experienced the company’s new multichannel music format, 360 Reality Audio, for the fi rst time.


the creative process that shaped the Golden Globe winning animated movie Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse, while Pharrell Williams related a recent trip to Sony Japan, during which he experienced the company’s new multichannel music format, 360 Reality Audio, for the first time. Pharrell could be on to something. One of the biggest stories to emerge from the show, maybe even eclipsing 8k in terms of its ultimate appeal, was 360 Reality Audio. This new Sony music format uses object-based audio technology to effectively reinvent multichannel music, ostensibly for streaming services and headphone users.

The company conducted demos of the sound system, both on its booth and off-site. 360 Reality Audio offers listeners an immersive audio experience. Demo attendees first listened to some high-res audio clips played into a conventional multi-channel surround sound speaker system. Then their ear canals were measured and the same track played back through a calibrated pair of stereo headphones. The spherical listening experience was nigh on identical.

Sony suggests that when the format is eventually launched, users will calibrate their headphones

using the camera on their smartphones, rather than placing a microphone in the ear. 360 Reality Audio is an encode/decode process, and clearly a rival to Dolby Atmos for Music. However, Sony isn’t selling it as a proprietary system. The platform is based on MPEG-H and is an open standard. Sony says it will share the technology with other brands in order to make it a universal standard. Unsurprisingly, Sony Music will be first to offer songs in the format, but Sony says other music labels are interested. “We want to provide more creative options for artists,” explained Sony Music CEO, Rob Stringer. With heat now dimming from Hi-Res Audio, the arrival of 360 Reality Audio could be perfectly timed, giving fresh impetus to the premium headphone market in the process. Sony also demonstrated a prototype all-in-one 350 Reality Audio sound system, suggesting that the technology is destined to extend its appeal beyond headphones. We’ll wager this sound format isn’t just for

music. The same technology, if applied to video games, could prove extraordinary. Guess we’ll have to wait until CES 2020 to find out for sure.

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