In the best sometimes, THESE is disgusting. Prior to this year when the CES went live due to a more and more deadly pandemic, the flagship event of the consumer tech industry was notorious for being a sump of germs. Hundreds of thousands of attendees gathered in Las Vegas each January to congregate, cough in the air, and unwittingly smear their excreta on touchscreens, rotating televisions and robot bartenders.
“We talk about CES as a petri dish,” says Carolina Milanesi, technology analyst and founder of market research firm The Heart of Tech. “You touch a lot of things all the time. Catching the flu at CES is something we always do, every year.
But this year virtual event will be the cleanest of all, and not just because there are no crowds to sneeze at. With the world still gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, the very first online CES has become a place where companies can showcase new technologies designed to make the world healthier.
So far we have seen dozens of cleaning gadgets, antimicrobial backpacks to purify the air and spit out the really insane UV light the robots. There are portable UV cleaners for your car, for your glasses, or for nothing else. Components designed to kill germs have been incorporated into a multitude of air purifiers, wireless chargers and refrigerators, launching a new breed of multi-purpose Swiss army gadgets.
Even gadgets that don’t clean directly are designed to to be cleaned faster. Phone cases, screen protectors, laptops and touch screens made from an antimicrobial material that promotes fast and thorough disinfection. (“Antimicrobial,” “antibacterial,” and “antiviral” are all vying to become the “gluten-free” consumer gadgets.)
There’s an even more elegant solution to becoming germ-free, which is to simply create technology that you don’t have to touch.
“I see more and more companies using voice and contactless experiences with devices,” says Milanesi. As an example, she says that places of business can be designed to verify people’s identity through facial recognition or authentication with a phone or other device with an RFID chip, thereby limiting the number of surfaces that employees or visitors must touch.
Manufacturers must be careful not to over-press when marketing their products to crowds frightened by the pandemic. The not-so-keen impression of all the claims companies make at CES about their latest disinfection technology is that none of the methods they use guarantee prevention of Covid. (Scrubbing a dirty touchscreen won’t help kill an airborne virus.) Nonetheless, the pandemic has raised more dirt in the world awareness, and marketers are taking advantage.