HPA Tech Retreat: Technology Charges Forward… Into the Past

HPA Tech Retreat’s long-time programmer, engineer and author Mark Schubin, opened the event with his annual “Technology Year in Review,” composed of all the interesting, obscure and wacky news items he’s aggregated over the previous year. One question he asks every year — have we finished the transition to HD? — had the same answer as every previous year: nope. Even as some companies are talking up 8K as the next TV resolution, the nation’s media infrastructure as a whole is still working on completing the evolution to HD.

The first item up was the news that both Samsung and LG have abandoned the manufacture of 3D TVs. “Is this the end of 3D TV?” asked Schubin. “To which I can only say, Whew!”

CES2016_LG_Super_UHD_TV

He also addressed the many headlines showing the 75 percent increase in viewers watching the Super Bowl via streaming. “Super Bowl 50 set a new streaming record according to CBS, which I believe,” Schubin said. “But it still represents 1.25 percent of the CBS TV audience.”

Presenting a chart showing the share of time spent watching TV, broken down by generation, Schubin noted that, “everyone, including trailing millennials, prefer watching content on TVs.” Schubin pointed out. “That’s more than 50 percent of every age group except trailing millennials, but for them it’s a plurality.”

Some markers of digital dominance have stalled, said Schubin. Pew Research reported that the percentage of U.S. households online hasn’t grown since 2013 — it’s still 85 percent. Although e-book sales are down 10 percent, indie bookstores are back with a passion. The American Booksellers Association reported that the number of booksellers has skyrocketed from 1,401 in 1,660 locations in 2010 to 1,712 members in 2,227 locations today, and even Amazon is opening a physical bookstore.

More proof that we’re moving forward into the past: a vinyl LP frenzy is bringing record pressing machines back to life. The main reason for online viewing is a missed episode and the top-rated medium across all demographics is radio, said a New York Times report. Meanwhile, Bloomberg at CES showed that analog is back, as demonstrated with a new record turntable, a Fuji film camera that spits out business-card sized prints; and Kodak’s reintroduction of Super 8mm.

Schubin also pointed out a couple of interesting technology developments. Microsoft is working on an underwater data center prototype. “The water cools the servers, it can be wave-powered and it’s near populations,” said Schubin. Others are suggesting data storage on DNA can keep said data safe for centuries.

“The only good archive is constantly migrating, which means people have to physically move it,” said Schubin. “But DNA does its own migration. All the data in the world could be stored in the amount of DNA that could fit into a case of wine, minus the cardboard box.”

Finally, Schubin introduced Silicon Retina, a presentation of iNiLabs co-founder Tobi Delbruck at an IBM Research Cognitive Systems Colloquium. “In the retinal mode, each pixel responds when there’s a change,” said Schubin. “What if we could do what our eyes do in a camera? There would be no frames.” Delbruck’s idea is catching on elsewhere; French company Chronocam Technology is also working on this technology.

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