Share

Nobody can see all of CES. But I tried

navy stands for never again volunteer yourself, but here i am — Welcome to the world’s largest flea market, where you can’t actually buy anything. Jim Salter – Jan 21, 2020 11:30 am UTC Technically speaking, this has nothing to do with CES. It’s just Vegas. I was surprised to see slot machines literally the…

navy stands for never again volunteer yourself, but here i am —

Welcome to the world’s largest flea market, where you can’t actually buy anything.


  • Technically speaking, this has nothing to do with CES. It’s just Vegas. I was surprised to see slot machines literally the moment I stepped off the connecting bridge from my plane, though.


    Jim Salter

  • If there is a less attractive way to identify yourself than with a CES badge, I devoutly hope I never learn of it.


    Jim Salter

  • CES doesn’t happen at any one location; it sprawls across Vegas. Some of it, however, happens at the Venetian—the hotel-cum-casino that I stayed in.


    Jim Salter

  • This dome arches above the lobby of the Venetian, one of the many locations housing various bits of the Consumer Electronics Show.


    Jim Salter

  • Our sister publication Wired reserved this restaurant in the Venetian as an HQ for the first several days of CES. This turned out to be a godsend, because the WiFi in my room was largely theoretical, and my AT&T LTE connection was glacial beyond belief.


    Jim Salter

  • This strange, trompe l’oeil indoor canal lies between the Venetian and the Palazzo, two sprawling hotel/mall/casino complexes sharing a single structure.


    Jim Salter

  • The illusion of sky in here is disturbingly good—especially late at night and badly jet-lagged, which is the way I first encountered it.


    Jim Salter

  • This abandoned Mylar balloon was one of the very few immediately eye-catching flaws to the canal’s “outdoor” motif.


    Jim Salter

  • This display is roughly 30-feet wide by 20-feet high… and it’s utterly unremarkable within the scope of CES itself. I tried to capture a sense of how huge it was, but failed badly.


    Jim Salter

To the surprise and delight of the more experienced Ars staff, I volunteered to attend CES—the Consumer Electronics Show, held annually in Las Vegas—this year. The delight, as it turns out, is because if I hadn’t volunteered, one of them might have been voluntold. I didn’t let the schadenfreude get me down, though; attending CES has been a bucket-list item for me for more than 20 years. I’m not a huge fan of crowds, but the promise of “weird electronic stuff” and sights not offered to the general public had me mesmerized.

One of the things any CES veteran will tell you is that it’s impossible to actually see all of CES. They’re not kidding—it would be an overstatement to claim that CES takes over the entirety of Las Vegas, but it wouldn’t be an egregious one. Parts of CES take place at the Venetian hotel/casino/indoor mall, the attached and similarly gargantuan Palazzo, and the Las Vegas Convention Center. Any one of those locations dwarfs any other convention center I’ve seen, but even all of them together aren’t enough to entirely contain CES—which also has offshoots in other area hotels, convention centers, and just about anywhere else you can cram a few hundred people.

  • As far as I could tell, The Dell Experience was largely a way to get drinks funneled into reporters—but I never went in, so who knows.


    Jim Salter

  • McAfee had a reserved bar/restaurant area in the Venetian as well.


    Jim Salter

  • This glass dome is another one of those things that technically has nothing to do with CES. Sure is pretty, though!


    Jim Salter

  • The Venetian has its own movie theater. Why wouldn’t it? No idea what shows there.


    Jim Salter

  • CES hasn’t actually begun yet—this is what it looked like the day before, on a “media preview day.”


    Jim Salter

  • Amazon reserved an enormous presentation space in the bowels of the Venetian. Most of these things are prior-invite-only.


    Jim Salter

  • Rohm Semiconductors would, apparently, like your help in designing the next Batmobile.


    Jim Salter

  • I never did find out exactly what “the App rLOVEution” was, but I presume it’s a part of the burgeoning field of teledildonics.


    Jim Salter

  • We still haven’t even left the Venetian yet. These lesser-trodden halls hold spaces reserved by various companies for press demos given to 100+ people per room.


    Jim Salter

I hardly left the Venetian on my first day at CES. The show wasn’t technically open at all yet—it was an extremely limited “media preview” with a few high-impact press conferences from the likes of AMD and Intel, and not much else. To the great fury of our most dedicated AMD fans, I ended up covering Intel’s press release a day before AMD’s—because AMD mistakenly invited me to the location of their future party room, not their actual press conference, which was several miles across town.

  • For those of you who complained about covering Intel a day earlier than AMD—you’re looking at the reason why. AMD reps accidentally invited us to their party room instead of to the actual press conference location.


    Jim Salter

  • For those of you who complained about covering Intel a day earlier than AMD—you’re looking at the reason why. AMD reps accidentally invited us to their party room instead of to the actual press conference location.


    Jim Salter

  • For those of you who complained about covering Intel a day earlier than AMD—you’re looking at the reason why. AMD reps accidentally invited us to their party room instead of to the actual press conference location.


    Jim Salter

  • AMD’s party room, once actually put together, included a “Render Bar” with crudites, and this random Ryzen PC. The “Kill Some Time” logo on the vinyl wrap was also on the T-shirts being handed out.


    Jim Salter

  • The AMD party room was chock-full of Ryzen and Threadripper powered PCs, almost all of which were GAMER XTREME TO THE MAXX. I particularly enjoyed catching a couple serving staff dubiously eye-ing a row of Threadripper systems and asking one another “are those things making it hot in here?” Yes. Yes they are.


    Jim Salter

  • Some of the Threadrippers were playing promo videos on a loop. One of those videos was an AMD focused version of the ’70s game show The Dating Game. Hooboy.


    Jim Salter

  • Some of the Threadrippers were playing promo videos on a loop. One of those videos was an AMD focused version of the ’70s game show The Dating Game. Hooboy.


    Jim Salter

  • Some of the Threadrippers were playing promo videos on a loop. One of those videos was an AMD focused version of the ’70s game show The Dating Game. Hooboy.


    Jim Salter

  • Some of the Threadrippers were playing promo videos on a loop. One of those videos was an AMD focused version of the ’70s game show The Dating Game. Hooboy.


    Jim Salter

The next day, the AMD party room I’d first seen as a collection of cardboard boxes and a few people unpacking them was a wild, red-lit gamer’s-paradise extravaganza, packed with greatly-appreciated appetizers and one gonzo Threadripper rig after another. A display on one side of the room ran through several promotional videos, including some kind of crazy processor-focused take on Chuck Woolery’s 1990s cringe-reboot of The Dating Game.

My absolute favorite moment of AMD’s lavish party, though, was a moment between two of the waitstaff during a lull in service. One eyed the table full of Threadripper gaming machines next to her and asked the other “is it just me, or are those things making it hot in here?” Judging by my own time with the Threadripper 3970x, that table was pushing several kilowatts worth of heat—so no, even in a room comfortably packed with milling human bodies, I don’t think it was just her imagination.

  • Approximately half of CES is basically a scaled-up version of the HDTV section at your local Best Buy or similar store.


    Jim Salter

  • Add 15% gaudy DJ/boom box/bluetooth speaker thingamabobs to the 50% generic TV display stat, and you’re beginning to get a feel for CES.


    Jim Salter

  • CES: bringing you the 1990s in the 2020s! There were tons of displays with super-gaudy boom boxes in the late ’80s / early-’90s style.


    Jim Salter

  • Yes, let’s absolutely build a stereo into the thing all the ice and drinks go in and out of. Nothing can go wrong!


    Jim Salter

  • Speakers, controls, and cupholders on the combination party radio / drink cooler. How’s the accidental-spill warranty on that?


    Jim Salter

  • Sometimes, “Innovation” apparently means designing a refrigerator to look like a more brightly colored reject from the 1950s.


    Jim Salter

  • Part of the CES experience is taking quick cell phone snaps, solemnly intending to look them up later and figure out what they were about. Then, later, realizing you don’t have enough context in the photo to know why you wanted to.


    Jim Salter

  • If you’re lucky, you took a second photo to give you the required context. This is TDK’s “Starship,” an autonomous delivery robot.


    Jim Salter

  • For no apparent reason, here’s a couple of Sanrio/Hello Kitty endcap displays from your local Target, eating up insanely expensive floor space in the middle of CES.


    Jim Salter

One of the most disappointing things about CES for me is how little of it felt like “amazing, gonzo thing you’d never see anywhere else” and how much of it felt like either a perfectly banal department-store electronics section—or a “weird goods” table at a flea market—where you can’t actually buy anything.

I did eventually stumble across wild robotic exoskeletons for heavy industrial work, see-through augmented reality glasses something like a poor person’s Microsoft HoloLens, and more—but in order to find them, I first had to wade through 1950s-styled refrigerators, 1990s-styled boom boxes, and—for some reason—a pair of Hello Kitty endcaps, which didn’t look any different from the ones you might find at your local Target department store.

  • Probably the single most popular open display I saw at CES was the Delta/Sarcos Robotics demo of their Guardian XO industrial exoskeleton.


    Jim Salter

  • I couldn’t convince the Sarcos people to let me get in the full-on Guardian XO heavy-duty exoskeleton, shown here with a Sarcos employee operating it.


    Jim Salter

  • TCL had one of the wider-ranging display areas I saw at CES, with products ranging from “smart locks” to anti-pollution washing machines to personal blast coolers.


    Jim Salter

  • SK’s “Battery as a Service” intrigued me, so I took a bunch of photos of their kiosk. I still have no idea what it really means.


    Jim Salter

  • More of SK’s “Battery as a Service.”


    Jim Salter

  • SK Hynix—best known to most Arsians as a RAM manufacturer—had a lot going on in their display area.


    Jim Salter

  • Blockchain coffee.

    It’s an older buzzword, sir, but it checks out…


    Jim Salter

  • One of the many, many things I saw at CES but have yet to visit the website for.


    Jim Salter

  • TVs that double as “paintings” when turned “off” were everywhere at CES. Will the idea catch on?


    Jim Salter

Listing image by Jim Salter

Read More