Conference Explores Consumer Electronics’ Future

User-centric products are to be prominent

12 November 2012

The innovative products on display at the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas are likely to amaze many of the 150 000 people who attend—but probably not the 450 or so who remain afterward for the IEEE International Conference on Consumer Electronics. For those who’ve attended previous ICCEs—the latest is being held from 11 to 14 January—many of those innovations will be familiar because they were discussed at the conference when they were still at the lab stage.

The CES, sponsored annually by the IEEE Consumer Electronics Society, focuses on goods about to hit the market, but the ICCE “previews technologies that will appear in consumer products over the next few years,” says Tom Coughlin, vice president of planning and operations for the society.

Topics to be covered at the ICCE include artificial intelligence, crowd sourcing, digital storage, entertainment in mass and personal transportation, and human-machine interface technologies.

This year’s theme, “User-Centric Consumer Electronics,” is reflected in about 80 of the roughly 300 papers to be presented. They are devoted to how humans interact with devices and machines and to such related topics as social media,
3-D video, speech recognition in cars, and mobile devices for visually impaired people.

“Everything in consumer electronics has something to do with the interaction between people and devices,” notes the conference chair, IEEE Senior Member Reinhard Moeller. At least three of the seven keynote speeches are expected to address such interaction.

Satwant Kaur of Hewlett-Packard, in Palo Alto, Calif., known by some as the “first lady of emerging technologies,” is set to discuss human-machine interaction in “The Revolution of Tablet Computers and Apps.” Mary Czerwinski of Microsoft Research in Redmond, Wash., plans to cover human-computer interactions and usability. And Detlef Teicher, chief technology officer of Loewe AG, in Kronach, Germany, will discuss user-centric mobile products.

Plans also call for a “tricorder session,” inspired by Qualcomm’s X Prize US $10 million global competition to devise a real-life medical instrument like the Star Trek medical tricorder (a handheld device used by characters on the TV shows and in the movie offshoots to monitor patients’ health and diagnose diseases). The competition “aims to stimulate innovation and integration of precision diagnostic technologies” and yield an instrument that could make reliable health diagnoses available to consumers in their homes. As with other X Prize competitions, there is no preset award date.

Eight tutorials are part of the conference program. Topics include stereoscopic 3-D; enabling technologies for the disabled; social media and consumer electronics; and circuits and architectures for transceivers using spectrum in the TV white space (locally unused frequencies).

A workshop for doctoral candidates aims to improve their presentation skills and give them feedback on their research. “The society is here to help develop the next generation of engineers,” says Simon Sheratt, the associate session chair, who is an IEEE Fellow and senior lecturer in consumer electronics at the University of Reading in England.

ICCEs are now also being held with other major consumer electronics shows, including IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung) in Berlin, CEATEC (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) in Tokyo, and the China Electronics Fair and China High Tech Fair, both in Shenzhen.

“Having meetings at these shows helps position the Consumer Electronics Society as the global leader in consumer electronics conferences,” says IEEE Senior Member Stefan Mozar, vice president in charge of the society’s conferences. “Apart from giving us exposure to many visitors [more than half a million attend China’s High Tech show], this enables our delegates to attend one of our IEEE international conferences near home and at the same time go to one of the world’s major CE shows.”

Sheratt adds, “ICCE gives our delegates a chance both to network with researchers working on the latest developments and to see the latest commercial products. This helps their research become real. We also get a good proportion of engineers in industry who not only talk about the work they’ve done but also pick up ideas and feed them back to their companies.”

The conference is also a bridge to the CES, beginning on that conference’s final day. The overlap gives ICCE attendees the chance to see both events by coming a few days early. CES visitors can attend one day of the ICCE at a reduced price. Also open to CES visitors is a session discussing what was shown on the exhibit floors and detailing the technology trends and future product embodiments the ICCE will address. A CES trend review session is held on another day for ICCE participants.

An unusual ICCE feature is a host of interactive sessions, mostly demonstrations, held in the hallways as attendees and CES visitors walk about during coffee breaks or from one meeting room to another. Those demos can be attention-getting. “Researchers can spend an entire day at tables in ICCE’s hallway,” Mozar says. “Hallway demonstrators say these discussions often yield new ideas for their projects.”

“ICCE is a bridge between the IEEE Consumer Electronics Society and other IEEE societies and technical committees,” Moeller says. “We bring together specialists from the many communities and societies developing technologies and knowledge used in consumer electronics, introducing, say, haptics people to affective computing people—individuals who may not know each other but share a common interest in some consumer electronics problem.”

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