The Covid-19 pandemic this week staged a takeover of the world’s largest electronics show, forcing the event online and dominating the range of new gadgets on display.
The 2021 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which traditionally draws tens of thousands of buyers to Las Vegas to see and touch the latest TVs, smartphones and gadgets, still featured a few cutting edge concepts.
There was a smartphone with the screen rolling larger or smaller, a transparent TV, and a 240 mph driverless race car. But the dominant theme of this year’s event was technology to keep people healthy, well, and comfortable as the pandemic continues.
There were sanitizing robots, a myriad of tools to help with hand washing, and augmented reality apps to entertain and recreate pre-Covid social life.
Razer, which makes gaming computers, unveiled “the smartest goggle ever made” with built-in neon lights, a microphone to amplify muffled speech, and a wireless charger that cleans it with UV light between uses.
Mohit Kumar, managing director of UltraHuman, a wellness app, highlighted the range of health technologies on display and highlighted a blood glucose monitor from Japanese start-up Quantum Operation that sits on a wrist and does requires no needles.
“If we start recording data from these sources, it can give us massive insight – or a way to process that data and present it to the consumer in the most usable way,” Kumar said.
Steve Koenig, vice president of research at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which hosts CES, said the U.S. market for connected health monitoring devices grew 73% last year to 632 million of dollars, and is expected to increase by 34% this year.
New laptops, headphones, and computer monitors were in abundance at the show, though it was hard to judge, for example, which 75-inch 8K screen looked best through a dark computer screen.
Some products have managed to impress despite the distance. The WowCube, a digital Rubik’s Cube-like gaming device first introduced in 2018, has announced that it will start taking orders next quarter. The $ 249 cube, consisting of 24 screens, can be used to play puzzles and other games, or display apps and widgets.
Cheryl Guerin, chief marketing officer at Mastercard, suggested that consumers can’t wait to spend money on these kinds of new things.
When Covid-19 first struck, she said, consumers responded by spending more on small indulgences. But now, with savings rates reaching historic highs, we are seeing “an increase in revenge spending,” she said. “There is now a pent-up demand to splurge, to bring a little joy and happiness into people’s lives.”
GM was one of the companies that used the platform to declare an inflection point for electric cars, offering details of its next line of vehicles in a five-year, $ 27 billion plan to take on Tesla.
Other large companies have been disappointed. Some used their limited speaking time for little more than commercials, while others took advantage of the virtual nature of the event to reveal digital renderings of concept products.
LG and Chinese electronics brand TCL, for example, showed off what a ‘roll-up’ display could look like, in a step up from the foldable phones that created a buzz at CES in 2019. But it wasn’t. not clear if rollable screens, currently just digital renderings will become a reality this decade.
“It looks like the electronics vendors are focused on this next screen innovation, but we are many years away from mass market adoption,” said Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the Indy Autonomous Challenge, a 20-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, showcased a driverless race car they called “the fastest autonomous vehicle ever developed.”
The race is scheduled for October, with the hope that it will lead to real-world security improvements. “If we can go 240 miles an hour and keep cars from colliding, then surely we can make road traffic safer,” said Mark Miles, general manager of Penske Entertainment, owner of Indianapolis Motor. Speedway.
CTA has done its best to recreate the CES buzz online, creating a LinkedIn-style website for all 200,000 attendees to network with each other and recruiting influencers such as Justine Ezarik, better known as name of YouTube star iJustine, as host.
But the dizzying experience of stumbling upon hundreds of start-ups at a Las Vegas convention center proved impossible to replicate with just a few mouse clicks. “From an event perspective, I just didn’t think they were able to get close to the live event,” said Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Creative Strategies.
Still, over 1,800 exhibitors showed up with pre-filmed presentations, live question-and-answer sessions and virtual booths. Many have been keen to show that everything electronic only needs a “smart” upgrade.
Bridget Karlin, global chief executive of CTA and vice president of IBM, cited projections that AI will add “nearly $ 16 billion to the global economy by 2030 – and it’s fueled by our access to vast amounts of data, software advances and more. powerful calculation. “
Elon Musk responded to the claim with: “Much more than that and more and more quickly.”
In the long run, the disappointing nature of the virtual event could be a boon as it underscored the importance of reality, suggested Geoff Blaber, analyst at CCS Insight.
“We can endlessly debate the future of the work desk, but CES 2021 suggests that the immediate future of these conferences will pick up exactly where they left off – as big physical events,” he said. declared. “As much as the tech industry complains about the January schedule, this year has brought to light the reasons why we reluctantly pack our bags at the start of the New Year.”