CES Reporter's Notebook: Tinder's Prank VR Headset Is a Hit

2:17 PM 1/4/2017

by Natalie Jarvey and Carolyn Giardina

THR's tech reporters take Las Vegas for the annual CES convention of new gadgets and digital innovations.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Tech reporters Natalie Jarvey and Carolyn Giardina keep a running log of their observations and reporting from the week-long show, which officially runs Jan. 5-8. 

  • Hulu Offers Sneak Peek of New Live TV Service

    The service will cost less than $40 and will include Hulu's $8 subscription video-on-demand product.

    Courtesy of Hulu

    Hulu is soon going to look very different. 

    The video streaming service is getting a makeover timed to the launch of its new live television service, which is expected in early 2017, and executives were offering sneak peeks of the product during private meetings at CES this week in Las Vegas. 

    Hulu has yet to announce the full details of the new offering. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins has said it will cost less than $40, including Hulu's $8-a-month subscription video-on-demand offering which comes with limited commercials, will feature cloud DVR and will have programming from Disney-ABC Television Group, Fox, Turner and CBS. A look at the redesign helps paint a picture of how Hulu envisions people using the service. 

    All Hulu subscribers, regardless of whether a person pays for live or on-demand TV, will be guided through a sign-up process designed to make Hulu more personalized. That includes selecting favorite types of programming, channels and specific shows and movies. Those recommendations are being super charged by The Video Genome Project, a company Hulu bought late last year that can pull metadata from different titles to offer more personalized recommendations. 

    After the sign up process, the Hulu home page will become tailored to each view, showing live and on-demand shows and movies picked for that person. 

    Selecting a live show will immediately drop the viewer into the program. But Hulu will let them replay shows from the beginning if they don't want to miss out on a minute of the episode. 

    There's also a place to browse live programming and shows by network, as well as a hub called "Watch Now" where a user can save shows or movies for future viewing.

    It's worth noting that for people who subscribe to Hulu's live service, on-demand and live content will live next to each other within the experience. The idea, says vp product Richard Irving, is "not ever having to think about whether something is live or on demand." 

  • Tinder Brings CES Back to Reality

    The company behind the popular dating app removes the V from VR.

    Tinder VR
    Tinder VR
    Natalie Jarvey

    What's the next frontier after virtual reality? Tinder wants its users to try plain old reality. 

    The popular dating app hosted a booth at the Aria hotel, promoting it as a place to check out the next great VR headset, one where two people can view the same experience at the same time. "It seems like everyone is launching a VR headset nowadays," reads a blog post on the company's website. "As a tech company, we felt inspired to create one of our own." 

    But, as attendees quickly discovered, it was all a ruse. The device was a prop that, instead of showing an interactive VR experience, forces couples to stare into each other's eyes and have a conversation. After finishing the session, Tinder employees handed out cards that read: "What you just experienced was human contact. We hope you enjoyed it." 

    The blog post went further: "We created our multi-user VR headset with the Tinder experience in mind," says the company's post. "Real people having a real experience, and like the app, it only works with a double opt-in."

    For some CES attendees, it might be just the dose of reality they need. 

  • Las Vegas Goes Hollywood as Celebrities, Musical Acts Flock to the Strip

    Octavia Spencer is in town to promote 'Hidden Figures' and talk about diversity in STEM careers.

    Blink-182 at the CBS Interactive Party on Jan. 6
    Blink-182 at the CBS Interactive Party on Jan. 6
    Natalie Jarvey

    CES is seeing stars again this year.

    Many celebrities and musicians make the short one-hour flight from Hollywood to the conference, appearing on panels about causes they are close to or serving as the late-night party headliners. 

    Gwen Stefani, Blink-182 and Rick Ross all headlined parties on Thursday night. 

    And on Friday, Hidden Figures director Theodore Melfi, star Octavia Spencer and Fox 2000 Pictures president Elizabeth Gabler spoke about the importance of diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. In support of the movie, IBM also is hosting an exhibit that allows attendees to learn more about the three women — Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan — whose contributions to NASA and the space race are told in the film. 

    CES is also promoting panels with Property Brothers Drew Scott and Jonathan Scott, speaking about technology for the home, and actor Nick Offerman, in connection with American Greetings stunt promoting a paper greeting card as a new innovation.  

    Conference organizers have also brought back their ambassador program. This year, Aisha Tyler is serving as the CES ambassador, following recent ambassadors Justine Ezarik, Joey Graceffa and Nick Cannon. 


  • Jewelry, Yoga Pants Go High Tech at Refinery29 Suite

    A Swarovski ring that can monitor a heart beat and a robot for the home named Kuri were two of the products on display.

    Bright BMBR
    Bright BMBR
    Natalie Jarvey

    A few miles from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Convention Center, a different type of tech was on display at Refinery29's Smart AF Suite. 

    In its third annual CES installation, the women's lifestyle publisher adorned a suite at the Aria with the latest in technology for women, made by women. The event was co-hosted by Billie Whitehouse, the founder of smart clothing company Wearable Experiments. 

    On display at the suite were all manner of smart products, including a self-installing car seat from 4Moms, a heat controlling hairdryer from Dyson and a wire-free charging purse from Kate Spade. 

    There was also a jacket from Rochambeau called the Bright BMBR that comes equipped with tags that give the person wearing it exclusive access into restaurants, clubs and other arts and entertainment experiences. 

    Refinery29 was also showing off a robot named Kuri, which controls a home's stereo, television and other smart devices. 

    There was also a station devoted to Swarovski smart technology. The jewelry company has made a ring, Muse Heart, that monitors a person's heart rate, can serve as a camera remote control, will locate a lost phone and can use Morse Code. It also has a Touch Crystal which actives LEDs when touched.

    "The CES floor can be so overwhelming," says Piera Gelardi, executive creative director at Refinery29. "This is a nice way for people to connect with new technology." 

  • Show Floor Opens With VR in the Spotlight

    Projects featuring Cirque du Soleil, 'Planet of the Apes' and Lil Wayne have all been announced.

    Illustration by Lars Leetaru

    CES officially kicks off Thursday with the opening of the show floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Consumer Technology Association is expecting more than 165,000 attendees and 3,8000 exhibitors over the next few days. Many of the people who have flocked from all over the world to CES will be here to check out the latest in virtual reality technology. 

    Immersive VR devices have been the talk of CES for a number of years but 2017 marks a true groundswell in the amount of content actually on display. A number of producers are also using CES as a platform to announce or launch new projects. 

    Last night at its CES reception, Twentieth Century Fox’s Fox Innovation Lab revealed that it’s making a Planet of the Apes-themed VR experience, working with actor Andy Serkis’ Imaginati Studios. It teased the project with a very short VR clip—a first person experience in which the viewer is an ape. This news follows its recently announced plans to create an Alien: Covenant VR experience, working with Ridley Scott’s RSA Films.

    Appropriate for a Las Vegas confab, Cirque du Soleil and Felix & Paul Studios this morning releasing Dreams of O, a 12-minute 3D, 360-degree virtual reality experience based on one of Las Vegas’ highly popular shows, the water-themed O. The third collaboration between these companies, Dreams of O is funded by Samsung and is initially available for Samsung VR Gear or 360-degree video.

    Hulu on Thursday afternoon revealed plans for a music series called On Stage that will play out in virtual reality. A partnership with Live Nation, the docuseries will look at the creative process of an artist's live music experience. It kicks off Jan. 26 with Lil Wayne with an additional installment later this year featuring Major Lazer. The episodes will be available via Hulu's VR app.  

    Digital Domain, meanwhile, is showing a sneak preview of its upcoming original VR series, Monkey King, with HTC Vive and Qualcomm Technologies. The project is described as an epic fantasy starring the mythological Chinese character.

    Also Thursday, Nokia revealed that it partnered with Chinese video and streaming service Youku, which will use Nokia OZO VR systems to create and distribute 3D 360-degree VR content ranging from film and TV to news and documentary, as well as user-generated content featuring Youku talent. This will be available via the YouKu platform to its more than 500 million monthly active users. “China is one of the most progressive VR markets in the world with an appetite for high- quality virtual reality experiences that is enormous and growing,” said Paul Melin, vice president of digital media at Nokia Technologies, in a statement.

  • Media Preview Day Kicks Off With Hulu, LG News

    High dynamic range, robots and streaming TV are all hot topics at CES this year.

    Pitches have been pouring in since before the holidays and now CES is finally here. The official conference doesn't kick off until Thursday, Jan. 5 but media are typically invited early for a sneak peek of what all the major tech companies have in store. This year, in fact, the media preview was extended by an extra day and many reporters, including THR's Carolyn Giardina, arrived in Las Vegas on Tuesday for the start of the press conferences.

    Wednesday, the first full day of meetings and showcases, has only been underway for a few hours but already there's been plenty of news. LG, this morning, unveiled its new top-of-the-line OLED TV that is only one-tenth of an inch thick, has Dolby Atmos immersive sound and supports HDR.

    Meanwhile, another conference threatened to upstage CES for a little bit this morning. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins spoke at the Citi Technology, Media and Telecommunications conference, which is also happening in Las Vegas, and revealed new details about the streamer's forthcoming live TV product, including a price range, new features and a deal with CBS. Hulu will be offering invite-only demos during CES. 

    On the docket this afternoon are big, must-see press conferences from Samsung and Sony. Samsung will try to distract techies from their exploding Note 7 phones with new QLED TVs. Meanwhile, Sony is keeping plans for its evening event quiet. 

    Here are a few other trends that THR is keeping an eye out for this week in Las Vegas: 

    • High Dynamic Range will go hand in hand with many of the 4k Ultra HD TV announcements at CES, including this morning's from LG. Many Hollywood tech execs believe HDR makes a noticeable improvement to its content. But at least for now, multiple formats means multiple masters will be needed.
    • Robots will be another trend this week at CES. LG introduced several including a small Hub Robot, an intelligent assistant for the home; an outdoor robot that can mow your lawn; and an Airport Guide Robot, which stands about 5-feet tall and can provide travelers with everything from gate information to weather forecasts at their travel destination.