LAS VEGAS — Keynote speakers at the Consumer Electronics Show seem to have a thing for ending their presentations with a musical number.
Paul Otellini, chief executive officer of microchip maker Intel Corp., closed the first day of CES in Las Vegas on Monday with the first ever "virtual" performance by rock band Smash Mouth.
The four band members, all in separate locations with only singer Steve Harwell on stage with Otellini, played their hit song All Star together over the internet, with their live-motion-captured video avatars jamming on one giant screen.
With the performance, Otellini borrowed a page from Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates, who closed out his keynote speech the previous night with a jam session by Guns 'N Roses guitarist Slash.
The Smash Mouth performance used three separate technologies, beginning with e-Jamming, a social networking site that uses peer-to-peer technology to allow musicians to play along with each other in real time over the internet. The demonstration also used software called Big Stage to create avatars — or computer-generated images — of the band members. Finally, a system called Organic Motion — an advanced form of motion capture that doesn't require the subject to wear a special suit — was used to represent each band member.
The result was a composite performance of all four band members, or a full virtual reality jam session over the internet.
The demonstration helped the Intel CEO illustrate the central point of his keynote speech, which was that the internet is changing the way people do everything. While the internet has spurred massive change already, we have only seen the beginning.
"A transformation is clearly underway here," he said. "I suggest we're just getting started."
Otellini's speech was short on the product and deal announcements that tend to characterize most press conferences at CES, and instead focused on his vision of the future. All consumer electronics devices will soon be connected to the internet, he said, which will spur ideas previously not thought of — such as musicians from all over the world forming bands with each other online.
Intel did, earlier in the day, announce a new line of "Menlow" microprocessor chips, which will be used in smaller, "ultra-mobile" computers, which Otellini mentioned only in passing during his speech.
Thin is in, but big screens get bigger
The keynote address capped off a frenzied first day of the 41st CES, which saw an estimated 140,000 attendees flood into Las Vegas. Lineups for registration, bathrooms and concessions stretched as far as the eye could see, while the show floor was choked with onlookers hoping to catch glimpse of the latest gadgets from more than 2,700 manufacturers.
LCD and plasma displays still dominated the show – not surprising, given that televisions make up more than a third of all consumer electronics spending, according to tracking firm the NPD Group. But rather than fighting it out for who could make the biggest screen, as has been the case in previous years, manufacturers this year chose to duke it out on a new frontier — thickness. Plasma market leader Pioneer took top honours with a prototype model only nine millimetres thick, which is thinner than an iPod. Other makers, including Sharp and Samsung, were also displaying super-thin designs.
Panasonic, however, could not resist one last stab at having the biggest and won that honour by unveiling a 150-inch plasma screen.