My 15th year of covering CES brought a slew of things I never thought I would see. Let’s start with 5G…because I didn’t see it! Rumors swirled for weeks that many companies would be touting new 5G services and products that could utilize the highspeed bandwidth. Bust. I saw a few products that wanted to latch on to the 5G hype but nothing solid because there is no actual 5G yet. I’ll save that story for CES 2020.
What I did see was plenty of companies touting partnerships with Google and Amazon, the leaders in voice assistants. Alexa was the only player here a few years ago but this week was tough to get away from a product that didn’t turn on after hearing “Hey Google.” The search company which is much more than search built a monstrosity of a booth in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center that was part mansion, part “It’s A Small World” ride.
A Google rep told me they had to pour a slab of concrete – on top of the current parking lot concrete – to construct the temporary shrine to the five colors. Visitors walked through “rooms” made to mimic a kitchen, living room and even a garage complete with Google-made and 3rd party-made products. The other part of the building housed a roller coaster-like ride that moved through scenarios of a typical day in a home. Voice activated curtains opened in the morning continuing to mom asking the Google Assistant how to make a birthday cake. The queue had a waiting line of sometimes up to 45 minutes; not really worth it save for the Google Home Hub that was given out to all riders at the end (so yeah, I guess it was worth it).
TVs continue to be a big thing and 8K was the winning number-letter combination at CES (sorry again 5K). LG showed a 65″ TV that rolls up-and-down at the push of a button. Samsung, TCL, and other manufacturers had so many monitors I was afraid of getting sunburned as I walked by. 8K screens (twice the resolution of 4K) looked great even side-by-side of 4K monitors. But wake me up when networks and providers start delivering even 4K content on a prevalent basis. My guess is my grandkids may one day enjoy 8K TVs with content to fill the screen. Note: my kids are relatively young.
CES has seemingly become the de facto national car show as most every major OEM – from Audi to Mercedes to Hyundai – had massive booths and displays to tout their new vehicles and concepts. Audi always brings it A-game booth design and tricked out an A8 with front and rear seat video screens along with seats similar to a D-BOX rumble seat found in movie theaters. A quick screening of “The Avengers” while sitting in the back seat reminded me of a 4D ride at Universal Studios. All they needed were motion sickness bags.
No new smartphones were announced at the trade show; most companies are waiting to release them next month at GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Bad news: my travel budget does not reach that far so I’ll have to report from afar. While smartphones were not found amongst the 4,000+ exhibitors it seemed like half of the vendors were handing out smartphone cases. I got one for my Samsung Galaxy S9 that apparently can withstand a drop from 5 floors up and continue to work in 10 meters of water.
My main takeaways from CES 2019 were that this massive gathering of tech giants, buyers and media does not seem to be slowing down despite the dearth of new products that are already on the market or planned to be released soon. But it is OK to dream and ooh and ahh. Because I certainly did. Especially when I went to sleep each night after walking an average of 18,000 steps each day (according to my high-tech watch).
For all the highlights, join me in a 12 minute video recap: