Introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012, the innovative RSE promises to bring the internet and all its pixilated glory into the backseat. “Consumer behavior is changing,” says Tom Malone, president of Audiovox. “People have their whole lives on a single device that they use for music, videos and sharing content and they don't want to give that up just because they are in their cars.”
Some question the veracity and the relevancy of Malone’s statement. Sales of DVD-based rear seat entertainment systems have declined for years. However, Malone says, “We are beyond physical DVD and Blu-Ray media.” Via a 3G, 4G or WiFi internet connection provided by the user, either through a tethered smartphone or an independent hotspot, Audiovox’s RSE allows users to surf the web, access the Android app market, play DVDs, enjoy multimedia and otherwise turn the Spartan rear bench seat into a Sybaritic throne of digital decadence.
Malone is quick to point out that the prototype RSE is not simply a headrest-mounted tablet. The display is a 7-inch high-definition LCD screen with clear LED backlighting and a Dual-core 1GHz processor. It has ports for USB, HDMI and SD connections. Bluetooth connectivity and remote control come standard. All headrests meet federal safety standards. Audiovox says that the system software is upgradable, but no details as to the exact version of the OS have been released.
The rear seat entertainment system is not due to debut for the public until the third quarter of 2012. Pricing information for the production model is unavailable. Yet neither availability nor pricing is the primary foe of Audiovox’s latest protégé. Smartphones and tablet PCs are as common as debt and death, and despite Audiovox’s product's notable advantages, many consumers may not see the reason to purchase what seems to be a bigger, better, more expensive version of what they have in their pockets. Only time will tell if Audiovox has correctly hedged its bets on Android and RSEs, and whether people in the back will finally receive some well-deserved consideration.