High Tech Carnival at CES

Article By : David Benjamin

At the Consumer Electronics Show, I know that I should be dazzled, disarmed, and starry-eyed about my seamless, end-to-end, infinitely "connected" end-user future.

LAS VEGAS — As an observer for more than 15 years of America’s loudest and sprawlingest high-tech carnival — in America’s most proudly dissolute city — I’ve never really gotten into the credulous spirit of the Consumer Electronics Show. I know I should be dazzled, disarmed, and starry-eyed about my seamless, end-to-end, infinitely “connected” end-user future. Now and then, I am dazzled, like I was by the LG OLED display this year, called the Massive Curve of Nature (see following pages).

More often, though, I’m nagged by skepticism or wearied by the numbing redundancy of two dozen companies making glitzy (Betty Boop, Hello Kitty, Spiderman) shells for mobile phones or — this year — another two dozen companies making driverless shuttle vehicles that seem to have had the same designer. Every one is a box with curved edges and four little soapbox-derby wheels. Inside each is a wall-to-wall TV screen that serves as a sort of visual Muzak.


Las Vegas at night(Photo: David Benjamin)

The antidote to my jaded attitude is to roam the show floors with my Pentax in search of interesting images. Most of these, as is my novelistic wont, are characters — people. The following is a sample.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

VIRTUAL REALITY GOGGLES have been a CES mainstay for several years. I came upon the Display Link XR wireless VR demonstration and hung around while William Whisnant from NTT Data in Plano, Texas, went through an entertaining series of thrusts, flourishes, and dance steps.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

BOXBOT is a cool boxing device that bobs and weaves while you try to hit it. The character here is a genial L.A.-based Serbian slugger named Vanja Kapetanovic. Boxbot spokesman Alex Golunov noted that the market for this machine, priced at $20,000, is fitness clubs and gyms.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

THE CES BLUES. This is just a show-floor scene that appears as your typical conventioneer enters the South Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.


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GUESS these guys have something other than girls on their minds. In fact, conversations like this — not always in a sales mode — are a basic element at CES. And there are precious few places to sit down and just talk.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

BUT IT’S POSSIBLE. In the midst of the maddening crowd, I found Monica Colespring (left) of ADT in Boca Raton deep in dialog with Srini Pagdyala of Aigo AI in Redondo Beach, California. They were sharing intelligence that did not seem remotely artificial.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

DEFINITELY DAZZLING was the FLIR booth, which drew an impressive crowd to a presentation of its thermal imaging technology. Most of this stuff is professional — used in firefighting, drone operations, and police work, among other applications. But FLIR is now selling a consumer smartphone attachment, perfect for tracking down hot girls (or guys). Besides one eerie shot of spectators caught by a thermal camera, I got a look inside the control booth, which suggests how complicated this stuff is.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

THERE ARE STILL a few people like me and — here — Leo Hoarty of Sweetvinyl LLC in Morgan Hill, California who still take notes the old-fashioned way: with paper and pen. The object of Hoarty’s interest was MAD, the Meituan Autonomous Delivery system. The vehicle involved is a box with curved edges and four little soapbox-derby wheels.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

MIRCOD, according to one of the company’s operation officers, Yitzhak Weiss, is an IoT platform that enables a technology device to measure “whatever you want to measure.” This demonstration of MirCod’s working prototype was a “smart boxing glove” connected to a readout display “to show what we can do.” The boxer here, earnestly whacking her dummy, is Joey Courtney.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

THE TSA FACTOR (thousands sitting around) is one of the more forlorn aspects of the Consumer Electronics Show.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

THE SHUTDOWN SIT-DOWN. What’s a visit to CES without a shot of Consumer Technology Association czar Gary Shapiro lounging in a soft chair, fielding softball questions from a friendly interviewer? Shapiro was free to do this sit-down and sign copies of his new book because his annual interview with FCC chief Ajit Pai was cancelled by the U.S. government shutdown.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

THE FLOW of conventioneers at the main entrance to the Las Vegas Convention Center encounters an immediate blast of lights, cameras, action, and distraction.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

LG’s OLED EXTRAVAGANZA, on a vast bank of curved screens, created a bottleneck of rubberneckers at the entrance to the LVCC’s central hall. Here are a few samples of the remarkable display.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

INSIDE THE BOSCH IoT SHUTTLE (a box with curved edges and four little soapbox-derby wheels), Bosch hostess Cynthia Vodovoz helps a convention-goer relax as he takes in the view of the vehicle’s wall-to-wall TV screen.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

SINGSTATION, an “all-in-one” karaoke party system, had the excellent taste to hire an excellent singer, Carly Richardson, to run the product through its paces. She deserved a much bigger crowd than the one to which she was singing.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

CARS, BOTH AUTONOMOUS and “concept,” were a big part of CES ’19. Here’s the gateway to the auto show.


(Photo: David Benjamin)

AMONG THE CARS displayed by Kia, including several boxes with curved edges and little soapbox-derby wheels, the brightest lights emanated not from a car at all but from something called a personality mobility device (PMD).


(Photo: David Benjamin)

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