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Leslie’s Tales From the CES Floor

Harman has its 'Aha!' moment; talking HD radios from the future; more on the cellphone/HD Radio marriage and Lucky’s sells beer.

I experienced the Harman Aha demo in a Subaru in the booth-filled parking lot outside the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Honda is also installing the capability in receivers of some models. Both Subaru and Honda plan the Aha capability for the model 2013 vehicles, which would be available beginning in the summer of 2012.

As we reported, Aha, a business unit of Harman International, is a platform that Harman says will make Web content safer for drivers. It’s a Web content distributor that provides an aftermarket solution for Internet connectivity in the car for lower- to mid-priced vehicles.

The Aha app that users would download to start their experience should be ready later in this quarter, Harman exec Robert Acker told me. After downloading the Aha app to either their iPhone or Android device, and interfacing that device with the car, the receiver display shows AM/FM, satellite radio and Aha as choices.

Slacker, NPR and CBS Radio are some of the content providers for the service. I saw the Web streams of a couple of CBS Radio stations displayed. Whether album art or text is displayed to accompany the audio is up to the content provider, Acker said. The platform, among other things, can also read audiobooks, or someone’s Facebook wall to the user.

Switching to HD Radio, iBiquity is displaying five cars in its booth and has several next-gen portables on display. One of those is a tabletop coming later this year from Best Buy’s Insignia brand. It is for the blind and hard-of-hearing. An interesting feature is that the radio “speaks” the names of certain buttons activated.

IBiquity President/CEO Bob Struble demoed a ZTE cellphone for me that had an enabled FM HD Radio chip. It displayed Artist Experience information and whether you were listening to an HD1 or HD2 channel, for example.

NAB FASTROAD is helping to pick up the cost for developing these prototypes. IBiquity has been talking to cellphone carriers for awhile about integrating the HD chip into devices and anticipates broadcasters now becoming involved in those conversations, with the hope that we’ll see cellphones with embedded, working, FM HD Radio chips on the market this year.

“Being on the phone is essential for radio,” says Struble, so that the medium can be on the one device everyone wants to carry with them. The HD app for the Gigaware device is still available, he said. But a newer HD app that would enable the more advanced data features possible when HD stations are transmitting at higher power is in development as a FASTROAD project, he said.

And, for all the readers planning to come to Las Vegas for the spring NAB Show, a restaurant note: Banners in the LVCC is now called Lucky’s … and it sells beer!