Our CES badges this year helpfully reminded us of how many years we'd walked the padded paths laid out in the Las Vegas Convention Center. As a six year veteran myself, I feel led to share some of the good and bad elements of the world's largest technology trade show.
Surprisingly worth-it little gadgets
Trade shows like CES help us discover those niche gadgets we may not have otherwise considered having in our lives. For me, one of those particular gadgets was the Lofelt Basslet, essentially a subwoofer for your wrist. I like the idea of feelin' my beats and the vibrahaptic abilities of the tiny little motor inside the wearable has more potential than the company lets on. I was also keen on the idea of the Withings-powered Kerastase smart hairbrush, though the current implementation is too proprietary, as well as the Tiny 1, an Android-powered astronomy camera discovered by our own Russell Holly.
CES is just as much as the cast of characters who show up as it is about the technology. This year included mega-celebrities like Michael Phelps, Nick Offerman, and Octavia Spencer, as well as tech-lebrities like Hugo Barra and John Legere.
So many booths!
I like walking by the various booths to witness how each of the major technology companies attempt to identify themselves to the public. For instance, Intel's booth is typically a blanket of blue, while LG's booth is always strung together by all of its best-looking OLED displays. There is always something fun going on, too, like demonstrations, celebrity appearances, and even engaging talks. But the absolute best part of any booth is the way that companies express themselves through the little details. This "ball of phones" I found at the ZTE booth is a true work of art despite its relative simplicity.
Razer's three-screened laptop. Self-driving cars. Robots powered by Amazon Alexa. There are a plethora of technologies that come to life during the week of CES and this year was no different. Even some of the more subdued product launches and announcements pointed to a bigger shift in various industries, like the way Samsung's Chromebook Pro and Chromebook Plus both utilize a digitized stylus — who knew a Chromebook could become such a productivity machine? — and the quiet proliferation of Android TV in set-top boxes.
There are so, so very many booths in various places around Las Vegas. I didn't get a chance to roam the show floor in all of its capacity as much as the rest of my colleagues, but I did run into this strange demonstration for the Beam wheeled robot, which "fills in" for you at work when you can't physically be there. In this particular situation, there were actual people on standby at various locales around the country remotely wheeling these things around and freaking out passersby. I stopped a second to check the messages on my phone and one of them rolled up to me. I felt uncomfortable and immediately took off, but I also thought it a clever way to show off the effectiveness of a product.
The Las Vegas sunset
I was walking through the halls like a tired zombie when I caught a glimpse of the Vegas sunset outside the window of the convention center. I took a second to pull over, put my bag down, and admire the sky bursting with reds, oranges, and yellows. I particularly love the way the sun's dimmed rays peer through the strip's skyline. It's the little things in life.
Are we really still doing this? Hoverbords are unsafe and they're rude to ride on the sidewalk.
Too many accessories
CES would require fewer hallways and less shuffling around of people if it would simply stop accepting applications for vendors attempting to merely sell things. Much of what is offered on the show floor — including phone cases, charging cords, and Bluetooth speakers in funny shapes — can be easily ordered in a pinch on Amazon, NewEgg, and MonoPrice, or purchased directly from the manufacturers themselves on Aliexpress. I would much rather see more attempts at innovative technology than row after row of copycat accessories.
There is no CES without a few weird gimmicks and questionable technologies rising up through the ranks. I'm talking about things like Uber helicopter rides and levitating speakers. Those are just the obvious. The real gimmick is when a major type of technology takes off in a rampant manner, where it essentially spreads as quickly as cockroaches can multiply. In this particular instance, I'm thinking exclusively about the Internet of Things, which has managed to find its way into every thing without the consideration of whether it really is entirely necessary. Like, is it really necessary to don a pair of vibrating jeans to help you find your car? Hell no.
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