The Consumer Electronics Show is considered to be the largest convention in the world. Completely covering the convention facilities in multiple venues within Las Vegas – and that is just the companies that choose to exhibit. Many companies will set up suites for demos and not even attend the show. CES is a meeting place for all things tech and that is its greatest strength.
This year however it’s greatest strength was not showing the world “What’s new” in technology and consumer electronics. As a matter of fact it was a disappointment by and large.
There is no misplacing the excitement you feel when walking onto the convention floor. This is where a company will bring what is best and show it off in the best possible light. The splash of geeking out as you walk through the front portal to tech nirvana is unequaled for someone who considers their admiration of such things as just short of religion. However, something was off this year…especially in robotics.
Case 1 – Telepresence
There were two categories of robotics at CES this year: telepresence and drones. Telepresence robots are robots such as Pepper. These are very good robots for what they do, which is stand there and talk to you, tell you where things are, tell you when to take medication or in the worst of circumstances, tell you to wake up in the morning (because it is creepy to wake up with a robot watching you sleep!) These typically do their job very well but when people see a market emerge then the market fills. To borrow a phrase from my step-father, “You couldn’t throw a rock in CES without hitting a telepresence robot.”
Case 2 – Danger Will Robinson
So many things wrong. I found multiple instances of problems on the first day that shocked me. One company didn’t even have their product functional.
“But you can see it here tomorrow!”
“It’s an app, isn’t it?”
“No, it’s marvelous artificial intelligence encased in an app.”
“Then can I install it?”
“No, but you can see it here tomorrow!”
“And when can I install it?”
“When do you want to install it?”
“Ummm, no, maybe in the spring…”
In addition to missing products, there were malfunctions galore. Robots with incorrect messages showing on their screens, video screens that didn’t operate, etc. and the list goes on…
Case 3 – So Many Things, So Little Time
If you don’t spend enough time at CES then you won’t see everything. I should also note that if you spend all week at CES you won’t see everything either. It’s just too big and there is not enough time to see it all.
In the end, CES is a great conference because of the people you meet and the things that you see – probably the best. Will you sell things? Most likely not. But will happen is that you will see the most amazing things and meet some amazing people. However, unless you have real business there then it’s best viewed from your couch at home.