Yet another CES recap

A researcher’s angle

1. Put a chip in it
If they can put a chip in something, they have. Bras. Pants. Belts. Cups. Fridges. Thermometers. Dog Collars. Baby Bottles. Evidently, we are no longer asking why should we make something “smart.” We are taking it on blind faith that a chip and an internet connection can make anything better.

2. The internet of dings
Once we’re outfitted with all of these glorious items, how will they vie for our attention? What are we going to do when all of these things are notifying us? And what are my pants going to notify me about? (That last one was rhetorical.). Lastly, how many things will we have to plug in and recharge? Will I have to charge my shoes every night?

3. The black hole of insights
So many companies, so little insight. CES is an odd place for a researcher because it highlights both the importance and superficiality of insights in the modern tech industry. Every company there has some theory or insight into what humans need and want. But the depth of said insights is…not deep. The challenge, as they see it, is to make something the press reports as new and that people might possibly want.

4. CES and Las Vegas. Perfect together
Usually, combining two crappy things together does not result in a better thing. See most corporate mergers. In the case of CES, though, it kind of works. Las Vegas without CES is not a place where I want to spend time. And an insane electronics trade show without Vegas would lack the requisite theater. Together, they create a phenomenon that is hectic-bordering-on-frantic, completely absurd and highly entertaining.

5. The shadow show — what happens off the floor
When I get back from CES, everybody asks, “What did you see?” The honest answer is not much. Most CES regulars don’t spend much time on the trade show floor. The Verge is much better at covering product announcements and what’s new than most attendees ever will be. But that’s okay, because CES really isn’t about things, it’s about people and what happens off piste: the top-to-top meetings in special LVCC rooms and all over the city, the private product displays in ballrooms in every major hotel, the invite-only parties and one-on-ones at bars. Together, these eclipse the real show, and are probably the reason CES is still a draw.

6. Oh, the humanity
Man, there are just so many people; it’s amazing and horrifying. It feels kind of like a giant, week-long annual college reunion of a whole industry. And the hustle of everyone, bleary eyed and focused on either finding a story or making a buck, is both impressive and depressive.

7. The unseen and wannabe seen
It’s amazing that this all works even though today’s prime CE movers — Apple, Google and Amazon — have no official capacity at CES. They have people at the show, but no space on the floor and no keynotes. They are replaced by companies yearning for the world to see them as digital. This year’s most noteworthy example was United Healthcare’s sizable booth at the Sands. Odd right? Although, when my HMO does seamlessly integrate with my smart pants and digital belt buckle, disrobing for my annual physical will be a snap. Something to look forward to, I guess.

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