A Writer’s Return to CES after 10 Years
I started covering consumer electronics in Florida, straight out of college in 1998. Well, actually, the paper I applied to as an intern shunned me for a serious position, but put me in touch with the editor of the technology section. He wanted me to cover video games, and so began my fan boy dream life of playing games day and night and traveling to thrilling venues like E3 in Los Angeles and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Sony even put me up for a few days at the W in San Francisco, just to roll out its newest line of games. For a kid fresh out of college and dorm living, I could definitely embrace this bit of pampering.
Flash forward to 2011. My time as a game journalist is now at distant memory, as I returned to school and became a science teacher. Still, when my friend, a Chinese importer/exporter, asked me to accompany her to this year’s CES in Vegas, I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t used to paying (journalist pay for nothing!) but I plunked down the $100 admissions fee and took care of my own accommodations (again, journalism has its privileges here too).
After a bit of wrangling to get through the door (I didn’t have the required business related identification), I was able to get in and begin my adventure as, officially, a buyer in the technology market. I was supposedly scouting goods for my friend, but with no clear directions from her and difficulty even finding her or getting phone reception. I was left to meander around on my own: A tech lover loose in a tech candy store.
I stuck to the North Hall my first day there. I made a beeline for the educational booths, since this was my current field. I was met first by a programmer from the University of Southern California who demonstrated a patient simulator used to train doctors. The patient was a battle-shaken soldier who could answer your questions. There were brain games to keep the elderly sharp and some online teacher aids, but nothing too overwhelming.
Before I peaced out of the education section, I noticed an intriguing booth for HOPSports Training Systems. The premise of the system was to provide a mat and some training equipment to perform exercise that was mediated by a large, projected video personality and used computer graphics. The really cool thing was that while the kids are doing exercise, they are instructed in another subject area. Wouldn’t it have been great if you could run around in your class while getting the science lesson?
The North Hall contained the video game pavilion, which definitely had a “That’s it??” factor about it. I discovered Sony and Microsoft later, but in the meantime at least I could relax in an $800 Gran Turismo racing chair, complete with pedals and steering wheel, while careening off cliffs in an offroading game. There was also a flight chair and I was able to keep my plane aloft long enough to enjoy it.
It seemed like everything at the show was connected to an iPad. Ipad accessories were everywhere. There were blinged out cases, musical instruments that plugged into them, even a mini arcade cabinet that could be used to convert your iPad into what looked like a tiny Asteroids machine. There were also tablets galore of many sizes, promoted heavily by the Intel booth.
The car companies were definitely not shy at the show, as Audi showed off its electric model. It was painted flat black and quite drool worthy. Ford also had its electric Fusion on hand, and I must admit, the company has transitioned into the cool category rather nicely, promoting greenness and efficiency to the masses.
The central booth dazzled, greeting attendees with a labyrinth-like LG booth, complete with full-wall display of the latest 1st person shooting game. Giant flat screens and 3D ruled, as did a wall display turned strokes from an electric pen into digital writing.
Microsoft did not disappoint with its two story display and Windows phone, nor did Sony with its multiple entertainment centers to show off its new Move controller for PlayStation. Cannon, provided plenty of new photography equipment, demonstrated by live, entertainment-biz professionals, and Murata demonstrated their unicycle and bicycle riding robots that could balance on narrow beams (the optical technology, apparently, being useful in many scenarios).
But the booth that took the cake for me was the NBCUniversal setup, presented by the Oxygen Network. The full-time emcee hosted karaoke, which I, being an at-heart ham and attention seeker, more than gladly volunteered for. I also posed for a picture with the bad girls of the Bad Girls Club from the Oxygen network (which became a hit of a profile picture for me on Facebook).
Other than this, there was a lot of overpriced food, and what’s Vegas without a little gambling. It was all glamorous, ritzy and over the top, but I am confident that tech lovers have nothing to worry about in terms of stagnation of the industry. There are loads of new toys on the horizon to keep everyone entertained, no matter you level of fan boy.