Hey all, here’s a special series that I’m happy to present that features a more realistic look at what goes on inside my head at a convention like CES 2016. It’ll be called “The CES Experience.” I’m not exactly wet behind the ears for conventions, but I’m no pro either. After attending my first real convention (E3 2015) and then traveling to a few other ones nearby, CES was definitely one of those shows that I always wanted to see; the vast array of new technologies, insane crowds of over a hundred thousand, the chaos of Las Vegas, everything. The experience now that I’m here is the equivalent of playing “Where’s Waldo?”, or maybe more along the lines of, “Brandon Gets Lost at CES.”

CES-2016

Jesus, the convention is immense. Comparing CES to E3, E3 looks like a joke. While it’s understandable that E3 is a relatively more specific event catered to the video gaming industry, in comparison to the technology expo, this was still just a chaotic scene to behold. I’ve never had to use Google Maps this hard, trying to get from one place to another within only about half a mile’s worth of walking. One turn could lead to going in a completely different direction in relation to where I’m supposed to be going. I ended up in a completely different hotel at some point that was not a part of the show venue. Then again, I have the worst direction sense, so I guess it’s understandable.

intel-skybox

The big part of the convention that took time to get used to was that it takes place at three separate venues that are not connected to each other. These venues are a mile or so from each other, and requires a decently long trip to get from one end to the other. The expo takes place at three venues: at the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Tech East, the Tech West, and the Tech South area. This first day was, quite literally, only devoted to Tech East, which is more than plenty because within this location are all the big technology and entertainment giants, such as LG, Samsung, Intel, and a horde of Asian technology startups.

CES2016-map

Getting to the Las Vegas Convention Center around mid-day, things were already crazy. The show was in full swing. I somehow ended up at one of my first appointment stops by chance, which was at Intel, where I got to see some really great demonstrations of their newest technologies, which included a little delivery robot that could fit in quite well in the Star Wars universe. As usual, for press, lots of refreshments were provided, and it was a great chance to speak briefly with some of the Intel executives that were present in the Skybox. The Skybox was great; elevated above the show floor and taking place on a balcony that offers a great view of the chaos taking place below, it certainly makes this all-access press badge worthwhile.

Similar to my E3 trip, after this appointment with Intel, it was tons of walking around the marketplaces to see what these vendors had to offer. This year, consumer technologies seemed to focus on the latest flatscreen HD TVs and 4K devices, all at varying price points. I found how these vendors sought to differentiate their product from their competition intriguing; while some found many ways to make fluff sound extravagant, others went out of their way to say that their only difference was a price point with some different materials involved with the glass, or a reduced bezel that allowed for a more “fullscreen” experience. It seemed like some had an eye just to be honest with the consumer. As it also turns out, not a lot of people know about the product they’re exhibiting for! I found some completely clueless vendors that couldn’t tell me anything about the products they had so proudly on display. On the other hand, I found a number of vendors that left a great impression with their knowledge and ideas. I found one who had a design for a foldable display that can literally be wrapped up like a newspaper. It blew me away seeing it in action.

CES-drone

Another main focus I noticed from the Tech East location was the focus on drones. I find this technology to be highly, highly puzzling, to be completely honest. While I get its photography applications (some vendors like Xirodrone attached a GoPro to it), I see a lot of ways that this can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Yet, this is being offered to consumers at some very competitive price points and featured quite prominently at the expo, with a wide space set for a lot of these vendors to test their products for an audience. I see them being more fun on a hobby scale, but some of these were just insane to watch fly around.

OculusRift

Of course, there’s that big deal with virtual reality. I got to spend some time on the virtual reality devices, from vendors such as Homido or even the team from NASA. My opinion on VR has yet to change — it feels kind of gimmicky, to be frank, and while I was impressed with the concept, it needs to spend some more time at the drawing board. Moving my head felt kind of jittery, and the movements I made didn’t translate quite so well with what the headset was measuring. Trying a shooter on for size in VR left me more dizzy than excited, and seeing graphics that just didn’t look as stunning as I expected was a letdown. Even with NASA stating the applications behind VR and a partnership with Microsoft for HoloLens, and after all that I witnessed, I just don’t know if I’ll ever get behind VR, even if my dream is to someday be able to do stuff like the anime Sword Art Online.

But wait, what about this idea of a connected, “smart” home? It’s another major take home from CES, and one that felt more gimmicky than its actual worth, quite honestly. The idea of controlling everything in my home from one or two devices felt weird. I don’t know, maybe I haven’t warmed up to the idea, but it definitely was a huge part of the show and a big part of the emails that I got leading to CES.

The Consumer Electronic Show is quite an insane show, to say the least. It’s overwhelming at times, but definitely enjoyable. I found that I had a ton of fun just meeting some new faces, enjoying the back and forth banter with the people behind the counter, and even running into some old faces that I met at E3. It’s moments like these that make me enjoy this job, no matter how insane the day can get. Did I get to see every press conference, even though I had the ability to? Not really, but I did get to see the latest technology in action, and that’s what counts. Stay tuned for Day Two of The CES Experience, where I’ll tackle Tech West.

Today’s side notes:

  • Holy God I walked ten miles today. Not too shabby but definitely an underachievement compared to E3.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens, even with its box office domination, still finds a way to get on the show floor! I managed to get a picture with BB-8 and some stormtroopers, but I just missed Darth Vader. *sigh*
  • The people manning the booths are amazing folks and not enough credit is given to them. Most of them, anyway.
  • A lot of these hallways look the same. Easy to get lost. Security and personnel are helpful to get places.
  • Not as many press benefits as E3.