A first timer's account of CES, otherwise known as the Consumer Electronics Show otherwise known as the most eccentric crowd you'll ever find yourself with on a trip to Las Vegas.
Is there such a thing as “too much tech?” Yes. After a visit to CES, 100% yes. Best described as an auto show hybrid hackathon mixed with business conference with talks and career fair. Simultaneously awesome and a complete zoo.
Side note: Starting to think even more than before that categorizing “tech” as an industry is completely and utterly meaningless. What does it mean if you work in tech? Supposedly working for a Google or Facebook. But what about everything else tangentially related to tech? We can keep coming up with clever matches like EdTech and HealthTech and FitnessTech, etc, but at some point we ought to give up and just accept every industry is in tech and will have tech people and put an end to this “I work in tech” nonsense. Anyway.
- VR / AR is everywhere, definitely losing its novelty, almost becoming…commoditized? Thought: It’ll be more about AR than VR, at least in the short-term. This is due to the applicability of VR being hosted primarily in gaming or “for fun” categories. The applications of AR are certainly much more varied.
- Speaking of questionable use case, drones. There was a great display called the “Vision Van” that had a robotic arm reaching into a car and a landing pad on top of the van for ease of delivering packages door to door, but beyond that, they were all centered around racing, gaming and just overall coolness. The use case hasn’t been made completely clear and until then, drone companies are hard pressed for major success.
- Surprise to no one: Google is legitimately Big Brother. Sat in a Waze talk and do you realize when you’re using Waze Google tracks your entire journey and therefore has data on not only our personal search histories and what we buy and what we like to eat but also where we map to and where we physically travel to and how often and for what and just take control of my life already.
- Voice control is a race to the finish. It’s all about Alexa and controlling this and that with your voice. The more obscure the better. Saw an exhibit that had a robotic arm graffiti-ing a wall on command through Alexa. Definitely what Amazon had in mind.
- Don’t discount HomeTech just yet. So far it’s a lot of smart locks and smart fridges and smart heating and cooling, which may not sound as flashy, but insert stat: the first place consumers surveyed they wanted to implement new tech was in their kitchen.
- Regulation of this new technology is going to take some serious work. And currently regulators are in way over their heads. Sat in on a policy talk on the recommendations for automated vehicles and half of their recommendations were something to the effect of, “We recommend the industry come up with a unified agreed upon standard for this aspect of safety and abide by it accordingly. That’s like saying here kid set your own curfew and abide by it.
- On the content side, we are completely in an attention economy. Way too much to click on and consume at any given point in time. We as consumers are fickle and no one has time for all of it.
- One time I went to the restroom and there was a massive for the men’s but no line whatsoever for the woman’s. Great luck, I thought to myself at the time. It didn’t click for me until later: only at CES.
- Huge presence from Chinese companies. Lots of them had tiny booths with Shenzhen Technologies Co, Ltd. Really makes you think about the future of business, whether you’re building products, offering a service or building a platform. China is the future, can’t hide from it or deny it.
- Not everything (read: most) of the exhibits are the next “hottest thing in tech” or some game-changing idea or product. There was an entire section dedicated iLiving aka essentially iPhone accessories and external batteries. Incremental technology process is alive and well.
- Surprised but not surprised at the use of hot girls as reps. One company that supposedly manufactured speakers literally had girls dancing in front of the booth. Guys were stopping to take pictures of the girls with the company logo prominently displayed in the background. #triedandtrue
- If Vegas is usually an adult Disneyland, CES is even more so a theme park for the tech-centric. Long lines, unhealthy foods and somewhat overrated displays with a few gems here and there. Also rides.
- LG had a tunnel made up completely of OLED TVs. The best way to explain it would be one of those aquarium tunnels where you walk through and have sharks swimming above you. Now picture that but instead of glass it’s a bunch of crazy resolution screens all strung together and showing cool scenes like a galaxy or the northern lights or an underwater scene with whales. It was paired with epic music and was epically sweet.
- Samsung had a set of VR rollercoasters. All the reps had shirts that merely read “Galaxy” though, which lead to believe Samsung is doing all they possibly can to salvage the brand after the unfortunate “oh we make phones that blow up” incident. Throwing as much money into the brand meaning building VR roller-coaster that takes riders through a robot war, space race or boat race. It was probably the coolest physical attraction on site, no doubt. How much it’ll bolster Samsung’s brand is yet to be seen.
- Samsung again, okay maybe they are onto something. They were showing off their new Quantum dot gaming monitor which is basically this curved monitor that is ideal for gaming and super fast reaction no lag. They hosted a FIFA tournament and – get this – got an Emmy-award winning broadcaster to live voiceover the game. It was fascinating watching and hearing such a legit announcer and seeing him in person.
- Human size drone aka an autonomous aerial vehicle. Maybe in the future it’ll be the drones transporting us and controlling those moves instead of us standing on the ground with a joystick? Basically looked like the slimmest helicopter in the history of helicopters except it wasn’t on.
Would I return? Maybe in a few years. It was a sweet experience and lots of fun, but I’m not sold on the appeal of returning year after year just to check out the sights. If you have legitimate business or are trying to market, that’s another story. Worth it, just plan wisely.
I might also suggest playing a drinking game every time you hear the words machine learning, big data, autonomous, connected – fill in the blank, “all of this data is stored in the cloud."
Ended up giving my pass to my Uber driver since I was leaving Saturday and the conference was lasting through Sunday. More than anything though, it was a relief to be headed home and get break from all that tech.
Good thing we live in SF.