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CES needs to be in person, as soon as it’s safe

CES needs to be in person, as soon as it's safe
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Attendees pass through a doorway at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday, the first day of CES 2022.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

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Dave Morgan He’s been attending CES for 25 years and has seen all kinds of gadgets and gadgets along the way. If you stare at pictures from previous shows, you may find him staring at curved TVs. Or it could be in the background where someone is controlling a computer through a headband to sense their thoughts.

But on Wednesday, on the morning of the opening of the 2022 expo, a longtime advertising-industry CEO and investor saw something completely out of the ordinary while doing some early exercise. As many as 180,000 attendees who usually flock to Las Vegas for one of the world’s largest trade fairs.

“Run early in the morning on a very empty Vegas strip,” he tweeted, before adding that he was “actually looking forward to exploring the floor of #ces without the crowds.”

Morgan’s experience at the quieter CES in Vegas is one that many have missed. But it wasn’t just that. The sharp drop in crowds – estimated at less than half of the 150,000 who attended CES two years ago – has meant an even bigger hurdle for small businesses that have relied for years on participation from the show to spontaneously turn them into superstars. Surprising products that catch the attention of the industry.

“When you’re a smaller company, CES can be your biggest marketing spend,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, who attended CES this year in person. “It can be a successful or wonderful event for you.”

The CES Challenge illustrates another way in which the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way we work and live. The pandemic has not only resulted in 9.5 million confirmed cases and killed 5.4 million people worldwide, it has also made many people question what a post-COVID world will look like, not to mention how large-scale events like CES are organized.

Read more: The Five Big Meals Everyone’s Talking About at CES 2022

The uncertainty about the pandemic has hit everyone, whether they work in education, finance or real estate. In the tech world, that means small businesses for which CES could be the ultimate launch pad may struggle a bit more to boot.

In the past, companies such as Oculus virtual reality glasses Demos shown at CES 2014There was a buzz just months before Facebook Bought the company for more than $2 billion. There are also impossible foods, plant food company which secured a deal with fast food giant Burger King after the CES meeting.

“It’s hard to do this in a digital environment,” he said. Jane FosterC., chief of marketing for the Consumer Technology Association, which sets up CES.

After trying last year with an all-digital show, she said surveys of attendees and media alike agreed that holding the event in person would be best. And so this year the CTA decided to go ahead with an in-person event, with a warning to attendees You must have proof of COVID vaccination International travelers must submit a negative COVID test, which will be done within one day before taking their flight. The CTA has even distributed free COVID test kits when people arrive.

As health experts have repeatedly noted, none of us have ever experienced a pandemic of this magnitude. This means companies are learning how to operate in this environment without a clear game plan, backed by decades of business school studies and success stories.

“It’s a different model that’s set up for people,” Foster said.


CES brought great gadgets, even if there aren’t the typical streaks of crowds.

Getty Images

Mixing the real and virtual worlds

For more than a decade, CES attendees have debated the importance of the show. Is it up or is it down? Is it as exciting as before or is it just an empty spectacle?

The pandemic has given us some answers. Over the past two years, tech giants like Samsung, Sony, and Facebook have pretty much figured out how to do it Set up all virtual events that catch their attention. Apple announced two-year iPhones through these events. Meanwhile, Microsoft used online presentations to reveal both Windows 11 software and the latest Xbox game console.

But CES regulators needed to recalibrate the more than 2,300 companies that came together during one of the tech industry’s busiest weeks of the year.

One thing that has changed in the CTA is the length of presentations. The organization noted that viewers tend to drop by about 20 minutes into presentations given for All CES Online for 2021. Therefore, this year’s press conference periods have been shortened to about half an hour per conference.

The CTA has also reduced the number of live broadcasts offered through its site so visitors don’t get confused. To help attendees connect with exhibitors, chat and set up meetings, the CTA has also relied more on the social features built into its website and app.

“The importance to us is just to be flexible,” Foster added.


Jong Hee Han, Vice Chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics, led the keynote for his company, CES 2022.


Searching for the future

Tim Bajarin thought he would be attending CES this year. But then, as Thanksgiving approaches, the omicron variant of COVID-19 . kicks in Rapid spread around the world.

A month later, Bajarin and his doctor together decided that his pre-existing health conditions posed a significant risk, despite being Fully vaccinated. Other major companies including Google, Panasonic, Amazon and media organizations Cut back on plans to attend the event in person Around the same time, citing health concerns.

“One of the reasons I was originally planning to go is because we are going to have face-to-face meetings with a lot of companies that we haven’t been able to meet over the past couple of years,” said Bajarin, a longtime now industry analyst with Creative Strategies. This would have been his 47th winter show at CES. “Literally, it’s about trying to figure out the next step.”

Although CES began half a century ago as a way for product makers to talk to buyers such as TV and radio stores, it has evolved into a broad show of consumer electronics. It’s also been where Bajarin has caught up in new trends, like when companies started creating concepts for noise-canceling earphones a little less than a decade ago, when Bose over-ear headphones were a must at the time.

“Now you have noise cancellation everywhere,” he noted.

Morgan, who posted a photo of the mostly empty Vegas strip, said he flew to the show from New York because he appreciates meeting people in person. After his morning walk, he shared stories about technologies he’s seen over the years while running his own startups or working as an Executive Vice President at AOL.

Now founder and president of TV ad technology company Simulmedia, he wants to see technology that could change his job up close, particularly the ever-evolving smart TV software. And with his and his family vaccinated back home, it’s worth the risk.

“I’ve been here for most of the past 20 years,” he said. “I love walking around those areas with the little stalls on one side with these different companies that make things like connected forks and I wonder how that works.”

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