So, at this point I’ve spent two days at the International CES with some of the other Popzara team, and I have to admit that the show’s definitely different than what I expected. I’m no newbie to conventions; I’ve attended the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) and E3 a couple of times, but CES has a significantly different feeling for a number of reasons. It was definitely an experience I’ve proud to have undertaken and here’s a report of some of what I’ve learned on the show floor of the biggest electronics convention on the planet.
- The Convention Is Freakin’ HUGE
C2E2 is still in its infancy compared to many other shows, though the show that they put on in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center keeps getting bigger and bigger. E3, with its pedigree as gaming’s flagship show, means that there’s tons of content to put in the LA Convention Center, but since it’s pretty much gaming-exclusive, there’s only so much you can expect to see from year-to-year.
But CES is a global benchmark for virtually anything powered with electricity; that means there are TVs, cars, smartphones, gaming equipment, drones, window-washing robots, headphones, microprocessors…and that’s just what I’ve seen in the Las Vegas Convention Center, the part of the show known as “Tech East.” Honestly, there’s so much there I feel like I could spend 4 days just finding what’s there. I’ll be checking out Tech West tomorrow, the part of the show contained in the Sands Tech Center, and I’m actually a little scared to see how much is contained over there.
- The Focus Is On The Future
Unlike E3, where most of the focus is on games of the immediate future and what we may see by Q4 of the same year, CES feels like it’s all about the magic and wonder of the potential future. Driverless cars, full-motion game centers with walking and running, voice-activated virtual reality headsets, automated homes where you can open the door for a guest when you’re not even home…they’re ideas that may not even sound practical or useful to us common consumers, but innovators out there are preparing the tools to make it happen. And even if it sounds unrealistic now, that’s no reason to discredit the idea entirely…who really thought ten years ago that we’d eventually carry more data in our pockets than we ever even dreamt of storing on our desktop computers?
- Minority Report and Star Trek Were Right
Have you seen the Tom Cruise movie where he plays a cop trying to prove that he’s not going to commit a crime that technology says he’s going to commit? Well, I wouldn’t say that we’ve gotten THAT far, but a future where sensors track your eye movement and place information for you is right around the corner. Wearable visors that provide heads-up displays (a la Google Glass, but successful), 3D printers that create clothing, accessories, even food…those things are coming. They’re all powered by the big buzzphrase of CES 2015:
- The Internet of Things
Over and over I’ve heard about the Internet of Things, a catchy phrase which basically means: “We’ve got all these devices, and they’re online! Do you know what that means?” Sure, we’re used to this idea to an extent: we’re all pretty-well tuned in to the idea that whatever we do on the internet is being data-mined by any number of companies, and fitness trackers keep an eye on our exercise and tie in to diet apps and more. But that’s just the beginning of the rabbit hole: imagine sensors that keep track of your activity, then send statistics to be part of your medical records, or a device that can detect if you’re not sleeping well, then change the air conditioning/heating in your house to make you more comfortable.
If big changes like that creep you out, tons of little changes can change the way we live everyday life: imagine a sensor in a dumpster that lets trucks know how full they are, meaning the trucks don’t have to waste gas and time lifting empty dumpsters. Or try walking into a McDonald’s, ordering your food from an app, setting your phone on a table that detects you’re there and takes your order, then paying for the food via NFC payments without ever leaving your table. Both of those solutions exist already, and they’re just a taste of what’s to come.
Even though there’s plenty of theoretical innovation out on the CES floor, not all of it will make its way in to homes. And sure, there’s plenty of new on the horizon, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t plenty of familiar things to love in the future, too. CES gives us an opportunity to get excited about the future, but also think critically about the present and what we WANT to have in the future. The future will certainly be interesting…