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CES Has Its Biggest Year Ever

ces_1.jpg

Chris Smith

CES attendee tries out virtual reality.

A personal helicopter. A virtual reality gym. A robot to pour your drinks and make your bread. 

 

All that and more is on display at CES this week. CES is one of Las Vegas’ biggest conventions, drawing 180,000 people this year.

The busy floor at CES/Photo Credit: Chris Smith

“Besides all the traditional tech … we also see things like autonomous vehicles and virtual reality and augmented reality," said Lesley Rohrbaugh, research director for the Consumer Technology Association. "All these various technologies that have already touched our lives or will in the future.”

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It’s easy to see why the show is so big when you learn that sales of consumer technology are expected to top $330 billion this year in the United States alone. 

Lesley Rohrbaugh speaking with Joe Schoenmann/Photo Credit: Chris Smith

Rohrbaugh said the show keeps growing because of that demand— technology is becoming more and more part of our lives in big and small ways.

“Technology is the part of everyone’s lives every day, whether it be in the personal sense or in a business sense," she said. "So, it’s hard not to see the growth. You see at CES everything from televisions all the way through vehicles, but there is also the commercial sense.”

She said the technology that is getting buzz at this year's show includes augmented reality, which is when you can use an electronic device to give you more information about the real world in real time, like the Pokemon Go game that was a sensation of a few years ago.

Another talked-bout technology is 5G, which is faster connectivity for all electronics. 

The show is only open to attendees, which are usually companies looking to bring a new gadget or new piece of technology into a store; exhibitors who are trying to get people interested in their newest product; and the media, who are there to tell everyone about it all.

One of the members of the media at this year's show is Todd Prince. He's a reporter with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Todd Prince speaks with Joe Schoenmann/Photo Credit: Chris Smith

Prince said CES is really a show for just about any industry from cosmetics to farming.

“Here you can find just about every industry, every sector," he said. "For instance, you have John Deere, which is an agriculture maker … this is their first time showing at the event and they’re going to be showing off smart farming technology.” 

Prince has seen a new toothbrush that lets you brush your teeth in 10 seconds, a smart mirror that helps you look your best and a flying camera that allows you take pictures from 20 above.

He has also seen technology that might make its way into hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, like Amazon's Echo device, which is already in some hotel rooms, and Google Assistant, which could also work as a hotel room assistant.

CES brings thousands of people to the city every January and provides a major economic boost, but Prince said the size of the show is starting to outstrip the city's available space.

A few years ago advanced cars became one of the hottest items on display at CES/Photo Credit: Chris Smith

“It is clearly banging up against the limitations of Las Vegas in terms of capacity here at the LVCC, as well as hotels," he said.

A few years ago there were complaints about how much hotel rooms cost during CES. Prince said that will eventually become less of a problem because of new projects that will be adding several thousand more rooms over the next few years.

Rohrbaugh, whose association brings the show to Las Vegas every year, says attendees and exhibitors love coming to the city for this show.

“Las Vegas is one of those towns that you can really experience the world in just one city," she said. "It’s nice to bring in international leaders and also everyone around the country to experience that here."

Plus, she said some hotels are already implementing technology featured at the show.

While it is fun to see new technology in hotels and casinos around Las Vegas, there are concerns that automation could replace people on the Strip.

Elizabeth Phillips is a robotics expert with the U.S. Air Force Academy. She is on a panel about robotics at this year's CES.

Elizabeth Phillips speaking with Joe Schoenmann/Photo Credit: Chris Smith

She said that while there a many tasks robots will be doing in the future it is unlikely they'll replace every job.

“Right now, where they exist in those types of industries like the hotel service industries, they are more on the delivery sector," she said. "We can deliver room service to you … whether or not they’ll get to the point where they can clean the whole room for you might be further out because those types of behaviors in robots are really hard to build in."

She said robots are good at specific tasks, but they can't yet do general tasks like clean a room.

While they can't clean a room, robots apparently can bake bread. One of the exhibitors on the floor this year is a company called Bread Bot.

CEO Randall Wilkinson said his new robot solves the problem of bread being baked at a factory and then sitting around to be shipped to the store. 

Instead, the Bread Bot bakes the bread at the store and produces 10 loaves of bread an hour.

Randall Wilkinson speaking with Joe Schoenmann/Photo Credit: Chris Smith

Wilkinson said it seems like the Bread Bot is taking away jobs from a factory but he believes it is actually helping employees.

“The aspect of losing jobs isn’t necessarily always the case with robots,
 he said. "It may be that it’s improving the lifestyle and the pleasure of work for the person who is involved with that job because they have the appropriate assistance."

CES runs through Friday.

Joe Schoenmann enjoying a slide at the Samsung booth at CES 2019

Producer Casey Morell also enjoyed the Samsung slide/Photo Credit: Chris Smith

Guests

Lesley Rohrbaugh, research director, Consumer Technology Association; Todd Prince, reporter, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Elizabeth Phillips, robotics expert, U.S. Air Force Academy; Randall Wilkinson, CEO, Wilkinson Group

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