CES: Too Big to Cover, Too Important to Miss
Team INK is back (and our ears have stopped ringing) from CES, the largest consumer electronics show of the year. Almost 200,000 people descend on Vegas each year to talk tech. INK was on the ground supporting the Bluetooth SIG – #CESisBlue – as well as just taking in the madness.
The standout takeaway of the show? It is expansive. Sprawling across Vegas, there are meetings on every possible topic in practically every casino and convention space on, and off, the strip. North Hall hosts all the cars, Central Hall is TVs and so much more (check out those crazy refrigerators with full computers built right in), South Hall has drones and robots and audio for miles. And then there is the Sands Expo, with Smart Home, Smart City, connected devices, IoT, Eureka Park, and fitness tech. Not to mention the massive stand-alone booths in the Central Hall parking lot, and media events every single night. Depending on which aisle of the LVCC you turn down, or media event you attend, each attendee will experience a very different show. So, we thought we would give you a look at our different experiences and thoughts:
- The coverage of the rain and the LVCC power outage were the big stories out of CES this year. The show is just too massive for all the media to cover the same things, unless it is a cataclysmic event at the show. Gone are the days of a standout product launch. Coverage is around themes and markets, not individual products.
- Holy robots, Batman. There were robots for days at CES. Nothing that I saw or read about seemed like a particularly useful solution, but it is clear that the tech industry wants robots. Now they just have to figure out a way to make them actually do something.
- Google isn’t going to lay down and let Amazon run away with the voice assistant market. They spent so much money on their presence at the show that it was a little overwhelming. Last year, everyone was talking about releasing products with Alexa built-in, but they really haven’t come to fruition. It will be fascinating to see if Google’s push results in products.
- So much of what is on display at CES is the future. It is hard to separate (and comprehend) the vast gulf between products available today and what might come tomorrow. How does a company promoting after-market car audio solutions even compete against a concept car with no steering wheel? Will these concept products ever see the light of day? Or are they simply marketing ploys to spark media coverage for brand recognition? It is an incredibly hard line for exhibitors to walk. And with continued show growth, it is just becoming more complex each year.
- Google Assistant was everywhere at CES. At the show and in CES coverage it was all Google, Google, Google. But what struck me was when I got home was just how tech-industry centric that take really was. If you weren’t at CES or stalking CES news, you likely didn’t feel the Google push. Amazon is dominating TV advertising. Amazon is dominating consumer awareness. Amazon (as far as I can tell) is dominating sales. I’ll be very curious to see what Google does to follow up with the CES push, because right now, it feels like this is one of those things where the tech industry and the consumer are not on the same page.
- 8K TVs – that is SO MANY Ks. In one booth, there was an 8K next to a 4K to show me how wildly better the 8K was and… well… much like my appreciation of wine, I know when I am drinking a good one, but it could be a $40 bottle or a $300 bottle and I’d have no clue. It’s hard to tell how much appeal a product like this will have. Sure, it’s MORE, but is it better?
- Watching the lawn mower Roomba-esque robot that had his blades removed turn in endless circles on AstroTurf was probably one of the most self-reflective moments I’ve ever had at CES. Does any of this matter? Does life matter? What are we all doing with our time on this Earth? Come to CES for the gadgets, stay for the deep thoughts.
- Shaq is very large and Baron Davis is very nice.
- The most memorable companies have an immersive experience. Each year, LG draws gasps of delight with their beautiful, glossy TVs and the gorgeous imagery they share. As an attendee, you’re suddenly just surrounded by these gorgeous waterfalls and sunsets. A few other brands that did a great job of this:
- Drones were ever-present, but significantly less exciting this year. Maybe because they are increasingly common? I did see an underwater drone, and a drone on display that was as big as a person (probably ought to just call this a personal helicopter). Interesting things are still happening here, but largely the drones at the show felt a little stagnant.
- Smart Cities were big. We’ve been talking about connectivity in cities for years (thanks, Bluetooth!), but companies went out of their way to show how they integrate with the rest of the world. Intel’s booth was by far my favorite, and also had [immersive] experiences to show how beacon technology can help emergency responders reach you faster, or just how to navigate busy cities. Props again go to Panasonic who showed travel, but also highlighted how tech can be applied in a stadium, or home, setting.