It’s an odd week, one that feels both strange and oddly familiar. The hotel room is almost identical to the one you’ve stayed in for the last decade or so; when you reunite with old friends and colleagues, it’s clear everyone has aged three years and been affected by the pandemic.
Last year was supposed to be your triumphant return, after two years away. But as omicron numbers rose around the holidays and exhibitors flew in from all over the world, you got cold feet; attendance numbers plummeted by 75%, from 170,000 to ~40,000. You weren’t alone in being concerned.
In 2021, the CTA made history by taking CES virtual for the first time ever. Despite initial infrastructure challenges, this proved to be the right decision. However, it was a mess in its own way and one suspects that CTA doesn’t want people getting too comfortable with remote coverage in case they decide against returning to traditional events later on.
CES is back to normal and like returning to an old school: some familiar faces, some new; life goes on and there’s a shiny new wing – in this case the West Hall of the LVCC. With South Hall closed for event, mobility firms have moved in and at some point CES became a car show!
Timing is both a boon and bane for CES: it’s the first show of the year, yet it arrives right after busy holiday schedules. This can make CES a stressful topic when gathering with family or flying in early January.
The CTA initially estimated 100,000 people would attend the event, a promising turnout after pandemic restrictions. Afterward they revised the number to 115,000 – though it may not have felt that large. Regardless of perception, official attendance numbers are more reliable than personal impressions.
Crowds in Central Hall were as thick as ever, evidenced by my lunchtime rush experience. But North Hall seemed sparsely populated and I’m not sure that spells success for the robotics companies there. Maybe I was too quick to label it a “Consumer Robotics Show” – albeit jokingly!
Most media outlets sent fewer people than in 2020 due to the shift to remote coverage, ongoing pandemic worries, and economic downturns squeezing journalism budgets.
CES 2020 was one of the first COVID-19 superspreaders, resulting in travel restrictions still in place, most notably for China. The Wall Street Journal ran a headline shortly after the show’s end: “China Reopens to World as Restrictions End.” This is significant because China is a major player and its restrictions will impact profits. Other countries represented were Korea and France.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CTA insists on simply calling it “CES”) remains rooted in tradition, yet its organizers have done a great job of adapting to include cars, robots and software/apps. It’s pedantic but telling that they want the event to appeal to a wider audience.
CES is massive, taking over Las Vegas and feeling like a city of its own. With areas of concentration and inevitable traffic jams, it’s best to avoid the Venetian Expo at 6 PM. When planning your journey in any form of transport – including Tesla Small World tunnel – allow for a 20-30 minute buffer.
After 11 years, the Adult Entertainment Expo and AVN Show (the porn Oscars) coincided with CES. Fun fact: it’s an outgrowth of a ’80s/’90s software section at CES. Sadly I couldn’t check out their tech-filled event this year, but we did get dinner at a great vegan restaurant in Resorts World – which gave us an interesting glimpse into the show’s overflow! They’re quite the fun bunch.
The show has made a great shift in recent years to spotlight startup culture, making Eureka Park the most exciting area. With its small booths and tight aisles, it’s easy to spot genuine enthusiasm from those showcasing their products. Unfortunately I couldn’t spend more time there this year – but hopefully next year!
In recent years, large companies have increasingly chosen to announce new products and services on their own timetable. This shift to virtual launches has only hastened the trend. Eager startups, however, are happily taking up the mantle left by these firms – filling in any gaps that may arise from their absence.
This year was the year of putting tech on my face! I tried out Magic Leap 2, Meta Quest Pro, Vive XR Elite, PSVR2 and Dyson Bane mask. It’s clear that in the world of VR/AR/XR enterprise is where the money lies – at least until headset prices come down. Sony is still focused on gaming headsets as they’re not quite ready to make this jump yet.
Folks in the VR/AR world feel eager about Apple’s headset play. These companies expect it to revive the scene and bring everyone up. Despite its long-term “next thing” status, there is an understandable fatigue with it too.
Crypto/web3 has faced a barrage of poor news, leaving those who would have been promoting it in shock. Personally, I’ve been vocal about my views on the tech and was thankful that I wasn’t overwhelmed with pitches this year.
I’m sure I’ll be inundated with them a year from now.
TechGround staff have spent days creating Hot or Not lists – here they are!
The shine of smart home tech is waning, evidenced by Amazon Echo’s struggles. It didn’t go well for many companies, but the Matter Alliance provides a unified front.
Health tech is still a thriving industry, from home fitness to wearables. There’s been more recognition of these products as medical devices, and this was evident at CES 2021. It was unfortunate to witness Mojo Vision struggle after all the years we’ve followed them at CES.
Economics have had a major impact on the industry; new product releases have slowed before the holiday season compared to previous years. The decrease in spending can be attributed to inflation and financial constraints, as well as supply chain issues limiting shipments.
At CES 2023, Sony won’t be sharing any details about their TVs, but they will have movie trailers. A rep told me to “stay tuned for an upcoming announcement coming soon.”
This year’s CES was strange, and it showed. Despite this being its first full-fledged show in three years, attendance exceeded expectations – a positive sign for the CTA. We’re now rethinking how we handle future shows like these going forward.