CES 2023 — My First Impressions
For those don’t know, Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is held in beginning of January every year in Las Vegas. I have been hearing about CES since I was 19 (or younger). Fortunately I was able to experience it this year (2023). They’re not kidding when they say that CES “is the global stage for innovation”.
CES is THE largest trade show of its kind in the world. And as such, more than 300 of the fortune global 500 companies were there represented by more than 170 countries. At least 60% of the registered attendees were senior-level executives. All in all, if you want partnerships and conversations with quality folks in the industry, this is the place to go.
“Amazing“ is the only word that comes to mind when experiencing the amount of innovative technologies you see there. Simply speaking, CES brings together folks from big corporations, startups, suppliers, purchasers, technology journalists, and other businesses.
(Un)fortunately, CES is not open for everyone. It is only open to folks involved in the consumer electronics industry. As a result, everyone you run into there is a part of this industry in some way or the other.
This year it was held from January 5th to January 8th (Thursday to Sunday). I was initially going to be there from January 6th to 8th. But later decided to go on the 5th because Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) was sponsoring an event related to the automotive industry on the night of 5th. I wanted to be there to support my state and hard working folks at MEDC. And I am SO glad I went on the 5th. I’ll explain why a bit later.
I went to Las Vegas Convention Center directly from the airport. First thing I did was to look for a place to check-in my bag! I didn’t want to carry it / roll it the entire day. Luckily there was a FedEx bag check-in hub right outside the Center/North hall entrance for a nominal fee of $5 per bag. This was quite convenient.
First thing to know about CES is that it is a very big trade show. More than a million square feet spread across 3 halls big.
After I checked-in my bag I went straight to Central Hall. Once there, one of the first things I noticed right away was a large room where LG showcased their products. In my opinion, LG had the best product showcasing at CES 2023. Imagine a 20 feet tall and 90 feet wide wall put together by 291 TVs (91 inches each). That was the entrance into their product showcasing. See the short vid below:
LG was also aggressively showcasing ‘world’s first wireless OLED TV’. And this showcasing was done strategically throughout their room. I did go up close to one of the TV displays to check it out and to my surprise it was not entirely wireless. The TV itself had a power cable (strategically hidden in the flooring). The TV gets the video / visuals from a box that can be placed about 30 feet from the TV. This box IS wired for all the connections: HDMI, gaming consoles, power, etc.
It is this box that does the magic and shoots out the visuals to the TV wirelessly — it does so 6 times faster than WI-FI signals! While the full process is not wireless (disappointing) — the way it works is still cool enough. Though I can’t see myself spending thousands of dollars on a ‘wireless’ OLED TV that’s not actually wireless.
LG also showcased some very awesome looking refrigerators that I’ll talk about a bit later. After being in awe of the LG room, I moved on to the main central hall and, let me tell you, it was massive.
There was simply no way I’d be able to visit every booth. It’s just not practical. Luckily, I had prepared a game plan before coming. My company (EPIC Translations) supports global brands in translating their content into multiple languages. As such, I had prepared a list of companies I wanted to target. Truth be told, as much as I tried to stick to this list, it proved to be too difficult and nuanced. It was more enjoyable to simply talk to companies as I came across them.
One of the first companies I visited was Bosch. And while I like what they make, they were just doing repeat presentations done by a marketing company they had hired for CES. Was it informational? Yes. Was it enjoyable? Not for me.
In case you haven’t heard, augmented reality and / or virtual reality is a big thing nowadays. And there was certainly no shortage of companies showcasing their AR/VR products at CES 2023. I’m personally not too much into AR/VR space (I enjoy real world and real people more) so I didn’t bother testing any of these products (glasses with ear covering headphones — see pics below). Plus, the line to test them was generally more than 45 minutes!
One of the things I noticed right away is that only a handful of companies were handing out giveaways. I suspect there are multiple reasons for that, including the fact that people would be traveling light and the exuberant costs to ship items either on trucks or on planes. The only company I saw handing out anything meaningful had an hour long line. Thanks but no thanks!
Otherwise there were a few companies handing out pens and lanyards. Again, thanks but no thanks. Though on my last day I did come across j5 Create and they were handing out super cool mouse pads. Other than that, not much in terms of giveaways. In case you’re wondering — yes, I did pick up one of the mouse pads.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the future of monitors / tablets / smartphones is all about bending and folding and rolling. While product marketing / advertising is generally always optimistic and well ahead of actual product launches, there was a showing of bendable monitor in the Microsoft booth! No, it was not manufactured by Microsoft, but they were showcasing it for their gaming consoles. The monitor was by made by Corsair (Xeneon Flex) using LG components. It was 49 inches! Check the vid below.
TCL also displayed their 49 inch curved monitor. Though it’s not bendable, but it sure looked great! Did yo know that there are only 3 companies in the world that have vertical manufacturing capability in the TV space? Meaning only these 3 companies have the capability to manufacture all of their own components for making TVs and monitors. Everyone else uses components from these 3 companies: LG, Samsung, and TCL. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know. I learnt this just a few days ago myself. 🙂
Please tell me you remember Atari? Because I sure do. And it brought many smiles to my face seeing a modern version of it! As a teenager, when I couldn’t play tennis during the winter season, what d’u think I did? That’s right, I played tennis on Atari all winter long. And I’m happy to tell you that I beat all the pros during 4 cold winter months from the comfort of my home! And back then Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were probably just little babies! 🙂
There were well over 50 companies showcasing their autonomous vehicle products (mostly software at the automotive event sponsored by Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility & Electrification (OFME). The event was put together by COVESA — they are a collaborative technology alliance designed to accelerate autonomous vehicles. One of the coolest companies I met here was creating a tool to enable American Sign Language in autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles of the near future need a way to communicate with the drivers. And the primary way this communication happens is through voice. But what if the driver is deaf or hard of hearing? This is where ASL capabilities in the car would come handy. Conversations that took place at this event will certainly lead to a good deal of partnerships to bring the future of autonomous vehicles a little bit closer. I discussed a partnership opportunity for a new product idea for the blind and deaf folks with this company and another organization called AISIN. Hopefully the idea is able to come to fruition!
Honorable mention: Michigan’s Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist was there to showcase Michigan’s commitment to the future of autonomous vehicles. He took the time to tour the event and to meet with companies and attendees.
Going back to LG. Did I tell you they had the coolest product showcasing there? I mean…just look at their refrigerators below.
Yes, you guessed right. The refrigerator door panels can change colors to YOUR liking! I had a pretty long chat with one of their representatives showcasing the fridge. I don’t think she was an actual LG employee. But she had sufficient knowledge about the product to hold a good conversation.
When I asked her whether the displays can show video, she seemed to hint that capability might come in the next version of the fridge. However, she was not aware that Samsung makes a fridge that has a big display on the right door. I told her about it along with showing her a few images of the Samsung fridge. But otherwise this fridge by LG looks far cooler.
Did I tell you that CES is massively large? Over a million square feet spread over 3 massive halls! One of the ‘positive’ things about CES is that you get to walk a lot! More than your daily required steps. And while I did wear tennis shoes for added comfort, my feet were still hurting. A lot. Thankfully there were quite a few companies showcasing their state of the art massage chairs.
Needless to say, these were all designed with technology in mind. On my 2nd day there I decided to test out one of these chairs. I went over to the booth of a smaller company that didn’t have a 30 minute waiting line. The CEO of this company had the coolest business card I saw at CES. It’s an electronic card (similar to credit cards). Your phone camera is able to scan the card and downloaded his contact info to your phone. Voila! No need to hand out paper business cards. The CEO was super excited about his massage chairs. I’m not sure if I was more excited about the massage chairs or about the electronic business card!
But at any rate, they were offering a free 20 minute massage to test out the chairs. And let me tell you, even though there were times when I felt my back was going to crack open, these free massage sessions were heaven sent. I set the pressure setting at 3 out 5. I did manage to hang in there with the heavy pressure of the massage chair on my back. The pressure on soles was SO NEEDED. Conveniently, I restarted my session after the first 20 minute session had ended. 🙂
While most products at CES could be generally useful for most people, there were some products that I felt just had too small of a target audience. One such product is a climate controlled shoe storage cabinet of sorts. Take a look at the pics below:
Sure, I like the idea of preserving my sneakers for the long haul. But let’s be honest…how many of us are really going to spend a grand ($1,000) for this climate controlled shoe storage cabinet? I’d rather spend that money on more sneakers. Or tennis rackets. Or watches. Or on a vacation for that matter! This concept of sneaker preservation ‘devices’ were very underwhelming for me personally.
Okay, on to better things! Such as a conversational humanoid that can draw (sort of) your face. Really! While we’ve all seen the future humanoids in TV shows that help us clean our homes and act as our personal assistant, the reality is a little bit less exciting as of January 2023.
There are different kinds of humanoids out there…some can speak even multiple languages! But the one I’m talking about is able have a calm and cool conversation with you while ‘it’ draws your face. It can answer different kinds of questions related to various topics. The way it works is pretty straight forward.
The robot gets its visual input about you from the connected camera. Then the robot is able to draw your face. While the drawing is not perfect, it gets the job done. And yes, the drawing and talking happens at the same time (sort of). Check out the pics below:
Another type of humanoid I saw was multilingual and it can roam around on its own. While I don’t think it can clean homes yet, but I think we’re headed in that direction for sure.
There were many many cool technologies at CES 2023. One of the coolest ones I liked was related to hologram. Yes, we’ve come long ways in this regard when it comes to everyday use. Not just on CNN during election cycles.
There was a company showcasing “see your virtual-self” technology that allows you stand in front of their ‘camera’ and it shows your virtual-self on your right side. Computing power in order to do all of this has definitely become more affordable and my hunch is that as computing prices fall even further, you’ll see an influx of such companies.
Speaking of hologram, there were displays of a few different types of birds…not real birds. But rather virtual birds…see for yourself. It was amazing seeing this in person.
There were simply too many companies to visit all of them. I did have an opportunity to talk to a few companies that make music equipment and they ALL said they’ve seen an uptick in vinyl record player sales!! Who’d have expected that?
It turns out the reason is quite simple. Younger generation is wanting real life experience, not just virtual. And they see vinyl record players as a nice way to connect to real music that they can touch and feel!
In case you’re wondering, #AI was the top trending hashtag, startups and home entertainment hardware were the most talked about topics, followed by gaming and vehicle technology during CES 2023.
In conclusion, everyone at CES is a lover of technology and could probably be considered early adopters of all things tech. There is simply no way to visit all booths and see everything that CES has to offer. You have to identify what’s important to you and make that your starting point!