Phew. It felt good to finally get that off my chest.
Attempting to see the entire show is a fool’s errand. Back in my younger, more hopeful days, I made a point of seeing as much of it as I could, making a pretty good run at walking every official hall. That’s become increasingly impossible over the years, as the show has spilled out well beyond the confines of the Las Vegas Convention Center. There’s the Venetian Convention and Expo Center (RIP the Sands), countless hotel suites and various official and unofficial event spaces orbiting around the strip.
Last year’s numbers were down significantly. The CTA pegged the event at “well over 40,000” people (44,000 is the commonly accepted figure), marking a 75% drop from 2020. It’s a remarkable drop, but I suppose that, given everything happening at the time, cracking 40,000 was a victory of sorts. The CTA says it’s on track for 100,000 this year — seeing as how there isn’t another prominent COVID-19 variant, it seems likely that, at the very least, there will be a sizable jump from 2022.
I’m likely not alone in my suspicions that the CTA didn’t want people getting too comfortable with 2021’s virtual event. Well before COVID, there had been a longstanding question around the efficacy of in-person tech events. CES and other hardware shows have had an edge in that debate, with a focus on products that do benefit from being seen in person. That said, the last two years have demonstrated that it is, indeed, possible to cover the show reasonably well from your living room.
Is there still value in going? I think, yes. I mean, I’m going. Other TC staff are also going. We’ve pared down our presence from past years, and I imagine this is going to be the case moving forward. Given the amount of CES news that’s released via press release and the fact that pretty much every press conference is streamed, the right approach to covering an event like this is be smaller and more strategic.
This isn’t simply a product of this new, endemic virus. It’s a product of a shifting landscape for media in general. For all of my personal issues with the event, I do genuinely have nostalgia for those days of pure, uncut blogging, back when there was still money being dumped into format, before everything became paywalled. There’s value to be had at shows like this, but for TechCrunch, at least, it’s about taking the right meetings and finding the people who are working on cool things. It’s harder than it sounds, having come back to 1,600 unread emails after a couple of weeks off. We made this list, and I plan to check it twice more before I hop on a plane next week.
One of the show’s key plays is timing. Much to the chagrin of every person who has attempted to enjoy some time off during the holidays, it’s positioned as the first show of the year in an attempt to set the cadence for the remaining 11.5 months. CES technically starts on January 5, but the press days are two days prior. This year, I’m flying out on the 2nd, just to make sure we’ve got our bases covered. There have been years when I’ve flown in on the 1st. Let’s just say I’m glad I stopped drinking a couple of years back.
Hyundai will have a sizable presence at the show as well, walking the line between automotive, mobility and robotics. In fact, judging by my overstuffed inbox, it’s going to be a huge year for robotics, from consumer to the presence of key industrial startups in a broad range of different categories. Robotics is always a tricky one at CES. Big companies love to show off flashy robots that never go anywhere (believe it or not, the most recent Sony Aibo is a relative success story there), and there are going to be a ton of junky robotics toys. But the show is still a great place to see some legitimate breakthroughs up close. Stay tuned for next week’s issue of Actuator to get a full breakdown.
I would love to see sustainability become a major topic at CES. Apparently there’s a section in the Convention Center’s North Hall. There’s mostly been a smattering of climate companies at the show, but I’ve certainly never been overwhelmed by them. Hopefully this is the year that starts to turn around. Ditto for accessibility. I’ve heard tell of a few companies with this focus at the show, but this is something else that really needs to be at the forefront.
As ever, phones are mostly a nonstarter here. Mobile World Congress is where that magic happens. Otherwise, anticipate a smattering of announcements from hardware firms like Lenovo and Sony, which don’t have much of a presence in the North American market. This has, however, traditionally been a big show for PCs. Dell, Asus and Lenovo all have big presences, while AMD and Nvidia could serve up some big news about the chips that power those systems.
We don’t cover them that much, but CES is also big for TVs, in every sense of the word. LG, Samsung, Sony and TCL will likely have the latest, greatest and largest. QD-OLED and MLA OLED are the magic words — or letters, I guess.
The press days are January 3 and 4, and the CES show floor officially opens on January 5. Plan accordingly.
What to expect at CES 2023 by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch