Wolverton: As CES showrooms open, talking AI, robots and streaming TV

LAS VEGAS — It may seem like CES has been going on for days now, but today is the official opening day.

That means the showroom floors will finally be open, and attendees and reporters like me will finally get to see all the cool stuff inside.

CES has three main conference areas this year — the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Sands Convention Center and something organizers call “C Space,” which is focused around the Aria hotel. I’ll be hanging out mostly at the Sands and the adjoining Venetian hotel today, meeting with IBM to talk about its Watson artificial intelligence technology and startup Savioke to get a demo of its Relay robot, among others.

Last night, I had dinner with executives of Hulu and got to talk with them about the company’s upcoming streaming pay TV service that will compete against DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. The service will work much the same as its competitors; it will offer a “skinny bundle” of channels for a relatively low monthly price.

With competition growing — in addition to the already launched services, Apple and Amazon have been reported to have rivals in the works and Comcast has one that is limited to its own broadband customers — Hulu officials hope to distinguish its offering by focusing on the user experience.

The new service — which doesn’t yet have an official name — will launch with a revamped user interface that will also carry over to Hulu’s traditional streaming service. Unlike DirecTV Now and Sling, Hulu plans to offer a DVR feature when it launches the service in coming months. Meanwhile, the company hopes to offer advance features that emphasize convenience and ease of use.

In a video shown during the dinner that demonstrated some of the new service’s sample features, users were shown being able to pause a live show they were viewing on their TV in their living room and then resuming watching it on a tablet in their car. Another viewer was shown receiving a notification on his smartphone that a game he was interested in had a close score in the final minutes; the viewer, who was out for a run, was able to press a button to record the rest of the contest.

Hulu also hopes to stand out from the pack by combining its current library of streaming, on-demand programs with its new multi-channel service. For no extra fee, subscribers to the live TV service would get access to full pass seasons of shows such as “Seinfeld.”

It will be interesting to see how the market for streaming pay TV shakes out. For now, though, it’s good to see growing competition, and a recognition by the TV industry that consumers are looking for better deals than they can get from traditional cable and satellite players.

File photo: The Hulu logo on display on a window at the Milk Studios space in New York. (AP Photo/Dan Goodman, File)


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