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October 1, 2014

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The loneliest booth at the CES expo

Thursday at CES

Show-goers look over ultra-thin OLED televisions at a Samsung booth at CES Thursday in Las Vegas.  Samsung unveiled OLED television prototypes with screens ranging from 14 to 31 inches. Launch slideshow »

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Surrounded on all sides by blinking, bleeping objects in matte metallic finishes, the homey, homely wooden media storage units look like the chunky, low-slung, couch-sized stereo "console" your parents bought for the rumpus room in the early '60s.

Stranded in the "new technology" section of the expo showroom for Signature Home Furniture is like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree: "They're all going to laugh at you!"

"Yeah, we're probably showing in the wrong place," laughs Albert Lin, vice president of the Cerritos, Calif.,-based furniture company. "We've never done this before," he said, meaning showing at CES. "We're more of a traditional furniture company." Making matters worse, Lin found that his booth was located far away from the rest of the home media furniture peers.

It wasn't entirely a goof that Lin and his woodworks were at the ultra-high-tech showcase: A merger of retro and futuristic, his bookcases and chests of drawers conceal electronic lifts that, James Bond-style, reveal hidden flat screen TVs at the touch of a button.

But you probably wouldn't know that after you did your double-take at the unfamiliar sight of polished wood (and bookcases?) in these aisles. On Friday afternoon, the techno elements weren't cooperating -- they're equipped with childproof safety, which keeps the screens locked up for a full 30 minutes after activation.

Lin says that big box stores like Best Buy and Circuit City will be going into furniture for home media in the near future, because they make high percentages on them. Turning to a grandmotherly looking dresser with a large mirror, which includes the hidden flat screen, he notes that "custom-built, it would go for 20-50 grand, but we mass-produce these with the electronics, so we can retail this for about $1,500."

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