The Consumer Electronics Show is where all the gadgets you need and don't need come together to find out which category they belong in. CES (as it is always known) is defined by its scale: 2,700 exhibitors showing their wares on 1.6 million square feet of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It is a kind of profane Mecca for the tech world, and it spills out into the streets and hotel rooms of Vegas for days on end. It is obviously appropriate that the party is held in the nation's symbol for the wanton satisfaction of consumer desire.
From inside the Convention Center, senior editor Alexis Madrigal reports:
What to Expect From Our CES Coverage: I'm headed to CES tonight to write about the show, but expect profiles and dispatches, not reports on gadgets. I'm going to try to tell you stories from the trenches about how the people of the electronics industry work, while salting that deeper coverage with some of the whizbang of the showroom floor.
The Crimefighters: Two retired cops were sitting on a black faux-leather couch off a hallway of Central Hall. Bruce Powell, the Texan, has a glorious belly and moves like an old athlete, creaky but graceful. He calls the New Yorker, Artie Mahor, his partner. Artie, dapper in a surprising pink shirt, is the suspicious type, and he's not too sure he wants a reporter sniffing around the CES security apparatus.
The Carpets of CES: Perhaps they introduce cognitive noise, distracting gamblers from their profit-losing enterprise. Maybe an evil sorcerer cursed the town long ago, following a dust-up with a conniving magician promoter. Whatever the reason, these carpets exist, and that should be enough to make you question this whole idea of Western civilization.
New, Weird Tech: The Television Hat With the Really Long Brim: So, here's how it works. Inside the hat, there's a magnifier, so when you put your mobile device in the very front of that brim, it ends up feeling like the picture is right in front of your eyes. I tried it and it does work, but man are those hats ridiculous looking.
The Chinese Ghost Booth: A few weeks ago, a post on the "ghost city of China" swept the Internet. The TIME story explained that the Chinese government had built the town of Ordos to be the home for one million people, but it's standing empty. I couldn't help but see the same symbolism in the New Jialian Electronics booth here at CES.
Best Brand Name for a Camera Company Ever: Cansonic: Let's say you're a fledgling Chinese camera company, and you want a name that commands respect. What do you do? Well, Canon is a pretty good camera company, you know that. And Panasonic is also a pretty good camera company. So, put them together and you get: Cansonic.
A Very Short, Very Dubious History of Technology: One company was bold enough to put their new product in proper historical perspective. After the abacus, typewriter, and desktop computer, NewMine's Phone-PC is the natural next step in technological evolution. What makes it so special? I couldn't really tell.
New, Weird Tech: The Washable Keyboard and Mouse: Let's be honest, keyboards are filthy. Even if you take pretty good care of your keys, you apply layer after layer of bacteria onto them every day. SealShield now claims they've got a solution: waterproof keyboards, mouses, and remote controls that are "dishwasher safe."
The Hassidim of the Consumer Electronics Show: "Known as 'Beards and Hats' because of the many Hasidic Jews who work there, B&H has become an authentic New York experience," the Associated Press wrote in 2006. "Shopping there is akin to ordering a pastrami on rye at Katz's Delicatessen." There are several distributors run by Hassidic Jews here at CES.
The CES Secret to a Happy Marriage: Vegas is a karaoke-loving place. Respectable places turn into amateur hours at a moment's notice. One minute you're chewing a decent sirloin, the next some guy is shoulder thrusting his way through Warren G's "Regulate." So I shouldn't have been surprised when my dinner turned into a karaoke extravaganza.
Adult Nerd Toy: A USB Stick and Bottle Opener: I spotted this combination USB stick and bottle opener at the otherwise forgettable Oscoo booth. It'd make a great stocking stuffer for the nerd in your life. Although if you decide to include the beer, I can think of a few better choices than Bud Light Lime.