Category Archives: CES

Journalists’ jobs getting easier thanks to better tech

My first Consumer Electronics Show, in 2007, was a nightmare. It wasn’t just because I had booked my trip late, which meant staying miles and miles away from the Las Vegas Convention Center, it had more to do with the gear I brought with me to do my job. It was heavy, clunky and didn’t work very well.

In my previous post, I talked about how the nature of covering the show has changed. Equal to that, however, is the incredible evolution in the equipment used to cover it. In just five short years, it’s amazing how much easier it has become for us journalists to attend and report on such events.

Computers: Five years ago, I lugged a big, heavy PC down to Las Vegas, then all around the show. It was back breaking, yet it didn’t really allow me to do much well, other than write simple stories. Windows Vista had trouble with different internet connections, meaning I spent almost as much time trying to get online as I did writing. This year, I had a Macbook Air, a computer that I toted about most days without hardly noticing it in my backpack. It connected to Wi-Fi everywhere with no problems and let me do basic video and audio editing with no hiccups.

Connectivity: Speaking of Wi-Fi, five years ago it was barely existent in Las Vegas. It has steadily improved over the past few years, with a new high being achieved this time around. Before the show, I was hesitant to commit to supplying video to my employers, but upon arriving in my room - and in the press room at the event - I was pleasantly surprised. Uploading large-file videos was actually faster than on my home connection. Similarly, cellphone networks were way better this year. It was still frustrating to upload photos via Twitter from the convention floor, but you could eventually get it done, sometimes by simply stepping outside. As recently as last year, it was nearly impossible to send any data wirelessly because of the congestion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in apple, CES, samsung


CES 2012: another manic show

Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee is mobbed by reporters.

It was whirlwind madness as usual at the Consumer Electronics Show last week. No matter how much I prepare in advance, it never seems to be enough. The event ends up being one long, exhausting frantic dash from one place to another regardless.

On top of it all, this year I contracted a nasty chest cold, which made the last few days of the show even more challenging. I’m spending the next couple of days recuperating, with a short vacation to Cuba over the weekend. In the meantime, I thought it would be neat to look back at some of the stuff I saw.

I ended up covering CES for two outlets. I looked at many of the bigger trends for my old employer, the CBC, and blogged about some of the odder curiosities for New Scientist magazine. Between the two, I talked to a huge breadth of people and companies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in CES


CES and the law of accelerating returns

With the Consumer Electronics Show wrapping up for another year, it’s time to reflect back on the mega techno circus and try to decipher what all the hubbub was about.

Before the show began, the Associated Press ran a story asserting that CES has a poor track record. In assessing how recent shows had done, the story concluded that the annual event was becoming a big dud factory. After all, netbooks, 3D television and a swarm of tablets were all introduced over the past few years, most of which  didn’t make it to market or made a resounding thud if they did.

From one perspective, it’s true - CES does produce its share of technologies that fail to catch on. But for the most part, the AP story missed the point. For one, it glossed over some obvious facts, such as that 3D has basically become a standard feature of flat-panel TVs. I remember doing radio interviews at the 2010 CES show where such sets were first unveiled and saying exactly that would happen - while 3D was the big thing at that event, it would eventually become just another TV viewing option, like gaming or vivid mode.

The story also mentioned “smart” TVs, which were also introduced at previous CES events. Far from being duds, such sets are fast becoming the norm, with about half of all TVs to be shipped this year expected to have internet connectivity and features. In other words, the show may produce some high-profile failures, but it also kickstarts a lot of gadgets and features that quietly catch on. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on January 13, 2012 in CES, ray kurzweil


My CES lowlight: the sex robot that wasn’t

I’ve seen a lot of duds at the Consumer Electronics Show over the years, but the biggest one actually came from the “other” sister show in Las Vegas, the Adult Entertainment Expo, which has typically run concurrently with CES.

Two years ago, I was one of many mainstream journalists lured to AEE - which, let’s face it, typically counted on CES attendees for much of its business - to see Roxxxy, supposedly the world’s first sex robot. Created by former Bell Labs inventor Douglas Hines, Roxxxy was supposed to have the ability to exhibit different moods and personalities. Selling at about $7,000, the robot was to take the adult industry - ailing from free porn on the internet - to the next level.

It didn’t quite turn out that way, as Roxxxy didn’t appear to be able to do much of anything. Here’s my report at the time, as well as video of the press conference:

It was clear that Roxxxy was nowhere near ready for prime time - and indeed, she still isn’t. The True Companion website on which she’s sold doesn’t appear to have changed much since it initially launched.

Meanwhile, AEE isn’t running at the same time as CES this year; it’s kicking off on Jan. 18, a few days after the electronics show wraps up. While the official reason for moving the show was to eliminate CES “complications” and lower expenses, it’s a sure sign of the industry’s decline. Exhibitors at past events told me AEE has been shrinking for years and that the Sands expo centre where it was usually held was starting to feel too cavernous for it.

Nevertheless, even with the porn industry’s shrinking and past robotic failures, rest assured that someone, somewhere is hard at work on the next generation of sex technology.

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Posted by on January 12, 2012 in AEE, CES, robots


My CES highlight: riding in a robot car

I’m knee deep in the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas so over the next few days I’ll be posting some retrospective - and futurespective (if that’s a word) - thoughts on the show’s past and future. With any luck, I’ll post some cool stuff from this year’s show.

Today, I thought I’d start with my most memorable CES experience, which was riding in a robot car at the 2008 show. The car, a GM SUV designed by Carnegie Mellon engineers, was tricked out with GPS, ladar (also known as laser radar and LIDAR) and a host of other sensors, all of which let it drive itself. The Boss, as the vehicle was known, won the 2007 DARPA urban challenge, an open race held by the Pentagon’s mad science division in an effort to spur development of robotic vehicles.

I wrote about the surreal experience in a CBC blog post, which you can read here. Alas, if only video were as ubiquitous back then (it’s amazing how quickly things have changed, particularly the field of journalism, which is increasingly relying on video), I’d post a first-hand view of the experience, since words really can’t capture the feeling. Wired actually did so, although the video can’t be embedded - you can see what it’s like to ride in the car by going here.

Scientific American also interviewed some of the people behind the Boss, which is here:

In a story I wrote at the time, GM representatives said fully robotic cars would be on the roads within 10 years, which is only six years away now. With Google experimenting with such vehicles and more automated features creeping into cars every year, we’re well on the way.

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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in CES, DARPA, robots


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