It was necessary to dare to maintain the CES in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Omicron variant. At Christmas time, its organizers – the Consumer Technology Association, which represents the world’s largest brands of consumer electronics – had decided to maintain the show for its face-to-face return, after a 2021 edition in 100% virtual mode.
On December 31, 2021, faced with the explosion in the number of cases in the United States, the CTA announced an extremely rare decision: the elimination of the 4th and last day of the show, so as not to take unnecessary risks and prevent the show from becoming a cluster, in other words a source of contamination, despite the sum of precautions announced last summer: the obligation to prove their vaccination status, the free provision of self-tests to all participants, the wearing of a compulsory mask everywhere and respect for barrier gestures (omnipresent freezing and physical distancing).
Two years after its last edition in Nevada, the innovation meeting was back in Las Vegas this week. A CES … with holes, with huge empty areas in the halls, in the location that should have been that of brands that have given up, such as LG whose futuristic stand has been replaced by simple wooden cubes, directly on the ground, with QR codes to be scanned to display the novelties of Korean in augmented reality.
At Sony, the carpet has been unrolled but the stand is only a gigantic empty space for strolling with only four activities presented, including the electric car – with the two prototypes of Vision-S which the Japanese company has announced the launch of. commercial release – and gaming with the Playstation 5. Not quite the usual bubbling CES experience.
And yet, density, animation, the world, we found in particular at Eureka Park, the hall of start-ups and French Tech, in competition this year by young Dutch and Italian shoots. On the flag of Great Britain and Ireland, the humanoid robot that made the buzz was called Ameca. Her face is surprisingly expressive. And when he’s not speaking – aided by a very human voice behind the scenes – Ameca does relaxation exercises with surprisingly human body language.
We also found the characteristic frenzy of CES on the Hyundai booth. Boston Dynamics, which the Korean acquired last summer, demonstrated a choreography of three Spot robots – seen in the series War of the Worlds on Canal + – whose body resembles that of a dog, the neck and head that of a snake. Not really reassuring …
We wondered what effect the Covid-19 pandemic would have on innovation when, traditionally, 20,000 new products are presented in Las Vegas each year. With half the exhibitors – just over 2,300 instead of 4,500 – one could fear that no “wow” effect would take place.
Yet it was enough to descend the escalator in front of the BMW stand to rub your eyes: a car that changes color in an instant! Another trick signed by David Copperfield, the illusionist who sold out at MGM? Not at all. The secret of this chameleon car, which will undoubtedly become a commercial reality, is the electronic ink that covers the body of this BMW iX Flow: the same technology as that used by electronic reading lights.
The metaverse is not for today, but this virtual world is clearly going to turn our lives upside down in a few years, and we have talked about it a lot in Las Vegas, despite the absence of its main promoter – Meta alias Facebook is among the 10 % of exhibitors who gave up CES 2022 at the last moment, because of the pandemic – without really knowing how all this will be organized.
There has never been so little talk of flat screens at CES. Two cool remotes stole the show from UHD and 8K TVs: Sony’s one rings so you can find it under the sofa. And that of Samsung recharges itself by recovering energy from WiFi at home. Well seen ! Samsung again with Freestyle, a small, light and affordable cylindrical projector to take anywhere to make films 2.5 meters diagonally. One of our favorites this year.
This CES 2022 will remain as a truly different edition from all the others. And we will not forget the joy of seeing each other again, in real life, even masked, and of coming back to these exhibition halls which have seen so many innovations appear. What a contrast to last year, when CES only took place online! Discovering innovations with your own eyes, testing them, touching them, yes, it is irreplaceable.
We wondered what the consequences of the pandemic would be on attendance. More than 171,000 visitors were recorded two years ago, during the last reference year.
Gary Shapiro, chairman of the CTA, warned on Tuesday that the numbers would have nothing to do with it. It was enough to note the absence of queues or traffic jams characteristic of CES in Las Vegas to expect a plunge in statistics. Indeed, with barely more than 40,000 visitors according to the first official count, the fall reached 75%.
Finally, the most important assessment: the health assessment. The CTA had set up free PCR and antigen testing sites for all participants, especially those for whom these tests were essential before returning to their country of origin. Participants who had arrived with a negative test, required by the American authorities.
The epidemiological conclusions of this CES at the heart of the Omicron wave will be particularly interesting to study. They will serve as a reference for other major world events planned in the coming months.