This being the 8th month of 2013 and all, now seems like a great time to share what my experience was like on show floor of CES 2012. Sure, I could have published this back in February of last year like I had originally planned, but then it would’ve been swept up in all the post-CES noise and be quickly forgotten. That’s why I’m putting this up so late…
Here’s the video I uploaded on January 20th, 2012 (recorded on an iPhone 4 without any stabilization, sorry, I’m not The Verge) that I think does a decent job of conveying the feeling of being at CES:
Humongous hallways, rows and rows of shiny booths, screens everywhere, 3D stuff flying around, people dancing, robots – that’s the kind of stuff you see everywhere at CES, and if you ever find yourself going to Best Buy just to “see what’s new”, then you’d definitely enjoy attending sometime.
A few extra things to note that weren’t totally covered in the video:
1) The buildings are absolutely enormous
The booths and showrooms are sprawled across three enormous conference halls connected with similarly large hallways that share an equally big parking lot. According to Wikipedia it’s one of, if not the largest convention centers in the world with 8,000 m² of floor space (3,200,000 sq ft). That’s a lot of carpet to traverse, and by the end of the second day of nonstop standing your legs get pretty darn tired. Many booths start packing their things up by the middle of the third day – nobody feels like walking around at that point, and people have typically either already heard about or seen everything they came for.
2) It’s very flashy, but engineers are actually there
I saw more engineers than booth babes at the show, and that was actually a nice surprise. Walking among all the flashing lights and blaring speakers were the people who actually built the devices that would become available later in the year. A cool fellow I know over at the suspiciously similarly-named TinkerTry.com took full advantage of such a rare opportunity, and it’s definitely a great place to network and work on partnerships.
3) Everybody loves the press
Walking around CES with a “Press” badge around your neck is kinda like going to Six Flags with a Flash Pass. When you want to see or try something, you get to see or try the heck out of that something, especially if you brought a camera along with you. The event may be about “consumer” electronics, but the press are what attract so many vendors to Vegas each year (although the cheap iPhone case-makers in the back are usually just there to get purchased by sun glass-wearing Chinese manufacturing agents, who walk around looking for the most valuable pickups).
4) A lot of interesting presentations and talks happen
I didn’t expect to see anything other than a bunch of booths at CES, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a lot of interesting talks and sessions go on in the rooms upstairs. One of the panels I attended was all about batteries and how we’ll charge them up in the future, which I mentioned in my wireless charging post a while back.
It’s neat being able to see and talk to so many people in the consumer tech industry in-person at one event, and I think that’s another reason why it’s so popular. At one point I was able to ask an OnLive employee why their iPad app was so delayed and watch him get frustrated as he hinted at Apple’s in-app purchase policies.
Here’s some video commentary if you’d like to read along while you watch:
00:00 – Looking at everything from a standing position doesn’t really do the size of this place justice. And yes, Beats Audio was there, although I don’t know what compelled me to point that out.
00:21 - Microsoft’s area was right next to Intel’s and looked very neat. It was kind of hard to care about the Windows 7 laptops they had on display with Windows 8 right around the corner, though.
00:43 – Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt did a few interviews at the event, defending the fragmentation of Android soon after the launch of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Those were the days when he was still saying a new creepy thing each month.
00:54 – Sometimes things go wrong during live demos, but when your latest unreleased product gets lost in the extremely high rafters it’s particularly funny.
01:24 – Ford’s booth was definitely a futuristic looker. The techno-bloop ambiance and robotic car were pretty nice, but then the annoyingly generic video started blaring on about “BLUETOOTH AUDIO!” and the car’s passenger side view mirror bounced like cheap rubbery plastic. I left soon after that.
02:14 – Engadget was there debating whether or not Windows Phone users would feel more more comfortable with Windows 8 (the “halo” effect that’s often noted about Apple products). The only person I recognized was Tim Stevens (who looked bored, and is now gone).
02:30 – A Kinect-powered skateboard was there. I never actually got to watch someone use it, but Engadget did.
02:44 – 3D, 4K and OLED were the big buzzwords of the event, and screens were absolutely everywhere.
03:01 – LG’s Magic Remote was a terrible piece of junk. This is probably the last time you’ll see a company attempt motion-based controls like this.
03:27 – Slicing 3D fruit with your hands is mildly interesting. I never saw the booth attendant again after Day 1 – she must have been ridiculously bored by Day 3.
04:01 – Gakai was still its own company back then, and honestly their demo was pretty impressive.
04:18 – You see a lot of random and weird stuff like this at CES. A mouse that doubles as an image scanner is neat, but with the desktop fading away I don’t think many people are interested in upgrading to a new and improved scanner mouse.
04:28 – The demos of Windows 8 that Microsoft gave were pretty good and well-rehearsed, but they didn’t show off anything the press didn’t already know about.
04:53 – Nokia actually took the time to create fake demo content for their Windows Phones, and I loved that. Apple has been doing that in their stores for many years, and it was nice to see another company do the same. Nothing at Best Buy ever gives you as good idea of what the device would be like to actually use, and they’re only connected to the internet if you’re lucky. This was great, and it made the phone more fun to try out.
Also, listen to the Nokia guy in the background. Android devices were kinda like PCs at that time – it wasn’t until very recently that they’ve become even close to as fast and fluid as iOS (or Windows Phone) devices. The battery issues he notes are true of basically every phone out there, though – in my experience Windows Phones aren’t significantly better in that regard.
05:34 – I saw Josh Topolsky and Nilay Patel in-person at their ‘Arguing the Future’ supersession and sat next to Vlad Savov while he took photos. That was pretty neat.
06:19 – Intel’s booth was one of the first booths people saw when they entered the venue, and I have to say the glowing lights and screens overhead were pretty impressive. Their ultrabooks were all running Windows 7 though, which was kind of a bummer.
06:35 - Samsung’s marketing guy represented his company well…
06:49 – You see a lot of weird stuff in Vegas at night. During the day things are pretty normal (although everything looks fake and poorly-constructed) but at night the buildings all light up and people hand you dirty handouts at every corner.
07:05 – Let’s see if Frank Sinatra’s label decides to put an ad on my video. They haven’t so far.
07:38 – The Lumia 900 looked fully functional but the Nokia rep wouldn’t let anyone else hold it.
07:55 – The AR Drone 2.0 booth was very well-done, and demonstrated its product well.
08:21 – My town’s annual Corn Fest has a similar foot-powered guy, except he’s an obese cookie who tries to grab your hand.
08:28 – The MakerBot and 3D printing in general was an up-and-coming movement at that point, though I can’t say their booth was particularly exciting to look at.
08:40 – Ubuntu’s Unity television UI was actually pretty decent and seemingly faster than the Apple TV. The video-scrubbing UI was a noticeable improvement but not quite perfect. I suspect the next Apple TV’s scrubbing UI will look similar.
09:28 – Liquipel’s competitor NeverWet ended up falling a bit short of expectations.
09:37 – Yup, a guy in a robot suit making people laugh. Lots of stuff like that.
10:01 – The nearly imperceptible screen lag of 3M’s multitouch display felt way better than any tablet I’ve used. Taking notes with a stylus will feel a whole lot better whenever this makes its way into the iPad.
10:45 – I don’t know.
11:05 – The Fulton Innovations booth is what got me so excited about Qi. The magazine idea isn’t a good one (think of all the wasted copper) but I like the possibilities of Qi and similar tech. There are still many benefits of wired options like Lightning, though.
13:03 – By the end of Day 2 you feel a lot like that Sphero ball falling off the ramp.
13:13 – LG’s enormous 3D show was pretty cool to watch (but their Magic Remote was still crap).