No matter how many times you’ve been—or how much you think you are prepared for it—that first moment where you step onto the International CES show floor always carries an intense moment of “Whoa” as you look around and try to take in the convention’s size and scope. And like the universe, CES seems to be continually expanding, growing slightly larger each year and encompassing even more space.
After a couple of days away from the vacuum that is Vegas, I’ve had a chance to distill down some of the things that most resonated for me at this year’s show. For more in depth news, check out my two previous posts, “Hey, Google! Welcome to CES 2018” and “Hello Darkness, My Old Friend.”
1. Little Things Can Be Disruptive
After 116 days without rain—a record—Vegas saw around 1.4 inches fall right before the start of CES. This is the kind of rain people would golf through in Myrtle Beach and barely even shrug. I had assumed that the desert environment would suck up this water like a parched sponge—the ground opening in an audible sigh to suck in every drop of moisture. No. Instead it rejected the rain like a bad kidney. Between massive flooding on the streets, water pouring out of hotel garages, leaking hotel and convention center roofs, the complete flooding and shutdown of Google’s demo pavilion, and ultimately condensation on a transformer causing the massive Central Hall of the Convention Center to lose power for about two hours, this bit of rain was the biggest disruption at the entire show. And it just goes to show that with all the millions of dollars’ worth of electronics, the most important ingredient is still electricity.
2. Death of High-End Audio
High-end audio used to be a huge part of CES. For years it took over the Alexis Park Resort, then it moved to multiple floors and suites at the Venetian. Just last year, these high-end audio demos occupied around five floors. This year, however, the entire high-end audio community fit onto a single floor, with many vendors opting to partner up. And even then traffic was moderate at best. Between the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, T.H.E. Show Newport, AXPONA, and ISE, it is starting to seem like high-end audio no longer has a place at CES.
Still, there were definitely some high points on the 29 floor, and for me these weren’t the elaborate six-figure rigs, but rather the properly setup and solidly performing “mainstream” gear that just sounds great. For example, in the Sound United suite, Definitive Technology’s new D11 speaker was paired with a Marantz receiver to produce terrifically rich and big two-channel sound. Down the hall in the ELAC suite, speaker guru Andrew Jones held court, demonstrating his new Argo AirX2 powered speakers, a tremendous pair of bookshelf speakers that clock in around $2,000/pair. And further down, SVS, a company built on providing huge sound with massive value, was blowing the doors off its suite, demonstrating some blockbuster demo scenes to an enthusiastic crowd with new subwoofers the produced massive, tactile low end.
3. Voice Control Goes Mainstream
Between Google, Siri, Alexa, and Bixby, voice was practically everywhere at CES. And if you had any doubts that Google was serious about “Hey, Google” trying to dominate the voice control space, you just needed to look anywhere on the Strip. Between wrapping monorails—inside and out—perpetually looping ads during monorail rides, taking over signage in front of hotels, gumball machine games around town, and a hundred-plus white jumpsuit wearing ambassadors, Google was omnipresent at CES. Hopefully this will continue to push the development of voice from all companies as it is clearly something that users want.
Alexa also continued its integration growth, incorporating microphones into new devices such as a Polk soundbar and iDevices light switch.
Apple HomeKit items were at the show, but in a far more reserved manner and more of an, “And now we have a few products that support HomeKit also” kind of way.
4. Eureka Park
One of the great things about the Eureka Park section of CES at the bottom of the Sands Expo is that you can stumble across and discover those cool new ideas that have yet to make it to market. This section is filled with “the little guys” who had one great idea which they’ve brought it to Vegas to try and obtain enough interest to garner funding to take their concept to the next step. Eureka Park draws countries from all over the world, with large sections divided by country or technology. While many of the items can be “me too” spins on similar concepts—another lost item tracker, or smart doorbell, or 3D printing solution—some are truly unique.
One company that caught my eye was LifeDoor. This product was co-founded by a firefighter who wanted a way to better to protect his family. When the product he wanted didn’t exist, he connected with an engineer friend and together they designed LifeDoor, a simple bit of tech that automatically closes bedroom doors to stop fires from spreading. Studies have shown that closing a bedroom door is the best way to reduce the spread of fires in a home, and that temperatures can vary as much as 900 degrees on either side of a closed door! LifeDoor can either sense a smoke detector via built-in microphone or respond to a Z-Wave alert from an automation system.
5. Glimpse into Future Tech
One of the great things about CES is that it lets you not only look at the tech that is right around the corner, but also what will likely be shaping our lives in the years to come. Self-driving cars, fully aware vehicle spaces, entertainment that automatically follows you wherever you go, augmented reality concerts and sports events, and kitchens that suggest recipes based on what’s in your fridge (as well as how many calories how have left in your daily plan). Technology is getting smarter and developing at an even more rapid pace, and CES is where you can get a clear glimpse into that. Check out the, “A Better Life, A Better World” video from Panasonic to get an idea of where things that company thinks things are headed
I’ll finish my CES show wrap with part 2 tomorrow!