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CES Highlighting Human Factors Issues

Dow Jones editorial reminds us of the need for human factors expertise -- The Consumer Electronics Show next week will provide a glimpse of the future in home entertainment, but the new offerings aren't likely to solve the industry's age-old problem: making them easy to set up and use.

Products designed to beam movies about the house, download video to cell phones and handheld computers, or dazzle viewers with bright, clear displays will be exhibited in abundance at the four-day trade show in Las Vegas, among the largest in the country.

The show will feature mobile devices like portable video players, satellite radios, personal navigation systems and cell phones with a host of converged features, from playing digital music and games to using global positioning satellites.

For the living room, manufacturers will unveil high-definition DVDs, larger flat-panel televisions, storage devices to hold movies and music, and connectors to let TVs and personal computers share music and video. Autos will boast of speakers built into their roofs and antennas designed to pick up satellite TV signals while on the go.

All will be more capable. But rather than revolutionary progress at becoming more consumer friendly, this year's steps will likely be evolutionary. "There should be more advances for the connected living room," says Richard Doherty, research director at the Envisioneering Group. But "there's still a bit of a credibility gap between the keynoters (claims) and the retailers," who need the devices to work simply.

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