The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), like so many other film, trade, and technology events this past year, went digital. CES, however, was different.
I’d begun to feel some burnout after so many ZOOM or other technology based online experiences. As I should have expected, the CES sponsor, the Consumer Technology Association, aided by Microsoft, did online right. They presented the event in a much more engaging and immersive format than other shows I’ve “attended.”
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) is a standards and trade organization representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies in the United States. CTA works to influence public policy, holds events such as the Consumer Electronics Show, conducts market research, and helps its members and regulators implementing technical standards. It started as the RMA – Radio Manufacturers Association – in 1924.
How They Did It
The custom web-based interface reminded me of online schedules from shows like SXSW or NAB, but you went right to the event by clicking on your personalized schedule. The schedules were updated in real time. After live events concluded, most went to on-demand status. A communication and a meeting app were integrated into the interface. I’d still prefer to do events like this live, but CES raised the bar for online events. The Q&A sessions with panelists were handled with Microsoft Teams, which came up without any involved installation procedure.
Who Was There?
Over 1900 companies were listed as exhibitors on the site. The only vendors who seemed to be missing from presentations were those who in Las Vegas tended to need massive display areas such as Toyota, Ford, and Honda. Mercedes, however, pushing the electric technology envelope, did attend.
The ability to get hands-on experiences was of course missing, as well as the serendipity driven discoveries one always makes when walking around the exhibit floor. None the less, this was the most enjoyable virtual yet.
The Major Themes
Many vendors played off the COVID-wrought changes from the past year. But there was also a focus on a better future through technology. Areas explored included transportation, video, and the new ways of managing your home.
Our cars still play a big part in our lives, maybe bigger than before. With the re-emergence of drive-in movies theaters, drive throughs, and drive-by pick-ups of just about everything, vendors gave the driving experience an even greater focus than usual. Technology to keep the interior air cleaner and make them more entertaining and autonomous were all highlighted.
Mercedes-Benz demonstrated a completely glass dashboard for their new electric vehicle. All gauges and controls were digital, a first for any car. The passenger has a separately controlled section of the dashboard from which sound and video can be controlled for the entire car.
Electric vehicles were also a focus of the General Motors keynote.
Consumer demand for home entertainment changed during the past year. Disney+ reached subscriber levels last year that took Netflix seven years to attain. The emergence of 5G lets companies bring entertainment to new devices in new ways. Samsung demonstrated this by finishing their press conference with a performance by a band, which you could watch on your phone from your choice of three cameras positioned around the stage.
The robots are coming! No, they’re here. Robots have been vacuuming for years, but they are better at it now. Also, new robots can watch and feed your dog for when you do get to leave your house. And if you don’t have a robot handy, more voice automation and gesture controls are instore.
2020 kicked tech development into high gear, and many more amazing changes are on the way.