Here’s How You Should Be Looking at CES
CES stands for Consumer Electronics Show and some might see that as a bit of a misnomer. Although the show certainly shows more products that are meant for consumers than prototypes that are destined to stay in a lab, there are expectations that people have about the show that simply don’t match up with reality.
In any broadly visible show, the general public wants to be awed more than it wants to be fed reality. For companies that show their products at CES, that means that they are far more likely to show products that are eye-catching and awe-inspiring, rather than products that are more mundane and expected. Then, as expectations remain at this level, consumers have a hard time accepting that the things that they’re seeing in presentations and on the show floor at CES might be several years and several iterations away from their release. By which point if they were announced just before their release rather than several years in advance, the technology would no longer impress.
CES is two things above all else. It is a show to allow companies to boast their shiny new technology, put in an eye-catching but not necessarily convenient box. CES is also a platform for showing the state of technology as we know it and how that relates to consumer goods that we could be seeing in the near future. Take for example machine learning which has been around since as early as the 1950s when it was in its infancy, but has only in the last few years become refined and useful enough to become widely commercialized. So when companies show something off at the event, they are more closely saying “Hey! We are finally able to make something with this technology! Expect something similar in the next few years.” Rather than “This is completely new technology.” or “Coming to Best Buy next week.”
CES brings out the cynic in a lot of us in that a lot of what is shown isn’t released in a form that is anywhere near recognizable what debuted at CES. This year’s Samsung Ballie could be a perfect example of that (although I hope its not, I want one now). The device is a small ball that rolls around and follows its owner, acting as a personal assistant meant to be used in a home or office setting. Although, like many devices at CES, Ballie could certainly be released in its current form, but it’s more likely it will take several years and several changes before that happens. The case might change, the voice might change, the features might change; but what’s important is that the technology will stay the same and the vision will stay the same.
And that’s what CES is all about. It’s about the state of consumer electronics and what we might see in the next few years. It’s not a catalogue of items that will be available later in the year, but it’s also not a place for pipe dreams and unreachable technology. The show is so exciting because of its cutting edge tech that’s also tangible, it’s the most exciting part of technology; we see what’s possible and we see it manifested right before our eyes before the devils of viability and other business realities take hold. We see the possibilities of creativity when its matched up with the latest technology without restraint from budget or high-volume manufacturing needs. It’s the best that technology has to offer and it stands as a beacon for what manufacturers strive to achieve and what consumers are eager to use.