Last month I was invited by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) to attend the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, NV. It was my first-ever experience at CES, and I had the honor of attending as a Key Online Influencer. My badge was met by curiosity as well as respect. I was given a press credential that was a special all-access pass to all of the various venues, and I was also able to use areas reserved for journalists, bloggers and major media from all over the world. I met inventors, CEOs, educators, international executives, journalists, geeks, and all manner of people who were working the showroom floors. It was incredibly exciting!
I spent the first day wandering around in a surreal haze of light, sound, motion and colors, with electronic eye candy in every direction. My real-life friends and family know I lack an internal gyroscope, so it wasn’t surprising that it took me two days to get a good handle on where things were. I can’t adequately describe how huge CES is. And it’s not limited to the Las Vegas Convention Center — there are CES events taking place in hotels and other venues all up and down the Las Vegas strip. Some of the things I saw and experienced were so amazing, there were times I simply wanted to share with someone! Like the moment I went into the Google Donut Shop and won a Google Home Mini, I had to call Reg Saddler @zaibatsu immediately!
There were amazing displays of OLED screens (like the one shown in the video below), phones, cameras, drones, robots, speakers, VR (virtual reality) headsets, and AI (artificial intelligence) integrated into everything from cars to personal assistants, games and more. There were accessories for everything, including accessories for your accessories. There were phone cases, and stuff to clean your phone cases or stuff to protect screens before you put your device into a case, and beautiful and utilitarian gadgets for every imaginable purpose. There were drones, bicycles, motorcycles, and there were cars, cars, CARS. I had no idea the huge role cars would play at CES.
I became interested in autonomous vehicles and spent a lot of time talking with various chip designers about self-driving vehicles, which, up until that point, weren’t of serious interest to me. But after CES, I was ready to roll. Almost. A friend, Doug Dobbins @takesontech, was arranging to have me picked up by a self-driving BMW. Um…wait. Did you say 7:30 AM? It was tempting, but I didn’t know what I’d do once I arrived at CES and had to wait an hour and a half for the convention center to open. Probably I blew it when I said no, but something tells me I’ll have another chance to ride in a self-driving vehicle one day.
I’d like to explain something I didn’t understand about self-driving vehicles: They aren’t simply cars that drive around by themselves using a GPS. There are dozens of sensors located around, in, on, and under the car. And at all times the sensors perceive data: objects, traffic, people, motion, proximity, speed and other factors. Now stop for a moment and think about getting that phone call from your office, informing you of an urgent matter. Even hands-free, can you be sure you are not in the least bit distracted? Autonomous vehicles are always tuned in. I now feel accepting of the idea that an autonomous vehicle might, in some ways, be safer than one driven by a person!
Over the course of five days, and even being surrounded by all sorts of connected devices, I was naturally worried about running out of phone power. So I used both my Verizon MotoZ and Pixel2 to shoot most of the photos and videos posted here and elsewhere on my personal and workplace Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and elsewhere. The Motorola has a battery “mod” by Tumi, and basically was impossible to run out of juice. And thankfully, I found super connectivity in all parts of Las Vegas.
I’ve never been personally impressed by robots. I’ve seen them all my life on television, in cartoons and sci-fi films, and I know robots have changed our world forever and will continue to do so. CES was the first time I had a close-up experience. I was singularly UNimpressed by the robot that straightens up a messy room. Each action took so long, I wanted to jump over the barrier and show the robot I could perform its tasks in milliseconds. But these robots are like children—sometimes you need to stand back and just let things happen.
There were coding robots I thought were amazing, fun and cool. Children are so quick to grasp coding through the understanding of programming a robot, and there were all levels of robots, from small spheres to forms with articulated arms, legs, pincers and artificial faces. And I made contacts that could be useful to my workplace, UPrep.
Not all of the things you see at CES are done deals. There were concept vehicles and machines, like the Laundroid robot, that folds and catalogs your laundry (not ready for prime time) but also massage chairs, 3D images created with emitted light, medical gadgets, smart assistants and VR make-up applications where you could see what you would look like with blue eye shadow. There was even an autonomous helicopter…which didn’t inspire the same confidence I felt about self-driving cars. While most things on display are actually in production, some were conceptual and showing us what we might expect in the future. There was a hall devoted to CES innovation award winners, which included some of the most successful new design and engineering inventions of the past year.
CES has been around for 51 years. My real-life friend, Marsha Collier @MarshaCollier has been going for two decades. I really only became aware of it in 2008 when I would read about friends and acquaintances on Twitter who were making the trek to Las Vegas. Like SXSW, it sounded so cool. But I lacked the self-confidence to venture into such an alien world alone and didn’t know anyone well enough to buddy up. Having gone to this incredible show and spending 5 days by myself, I urge anyone to go and explore. If I can do it, YOU can, too!
Undoubtedly you find yourself meeting a lot of interesting people you would never otherwise meet. Curiosity and common interests make for easy and fun conversations. I wandered into the Gibson venue and was so glad I did. For days I could “HEAR” it from far away and didn’t know what was waiting inside until I walked in. I’m glad I saved it for my final day.
There were so many opportunities to take photos and was glad I had great devices to back me up. I especially appreciated Travis Ames, the drone rep at Uvify who allowed me to film with my hands just beyond the protective netting. And guys, I apologize for the vertical video. Ugh. I can’t stand watching them but I was kind of excited and wasn’t thinking clearly.
If you’ve never attended CES, or even if you’re not a technology geek, don’t let that stop you from going. There is literally something for everyone at the Consumer Electronics Show, whether you’re a hobbyist, aficionado of large or small screens, a music fan, a gamer, or simply curious to see what all the hubbub is about. I learned so much. If you enjoy learning, you will love CES!
I hope some day you have a chance to go to Las Vegas and experience CES. If you decide to go, book your hotel early. By the time I started looking, about a month before the show, it freaked me out. Everything nearby was booked or insanely inexpensive—like $800 a night! Luckily I found a great AirBNB about 20 minutes away, and was even able to convince the host to drive me to and pick me up after the show each day, all for about $450 total, for five days/four nights.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to CTA (Thanks, Erica Corley!) for making the entire experience possible for me, and Richard Kassissieh @kassissieh, the assistant head of school for academics and strategic planning at University Prep in Seattle, who recognized the honor and value of the CES experience, and supported my participation.
Thanks to them, and thanks for reading! I’d love to know if you’ve visited CES, or would like to some day!
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Terri on The Medium