Wow, what a first day. There aren’t words for how overwhelming this show is. It just goes on and on, relentlessly throwing USB hubs and cell phone chargers in your path as you stumble from booth to booth. And earbuds, my goodness, the earbuds! I never knew so many different types of earbuds could exist in the same time and space. There’s just too much on the show floor for an army of GeekDads to try and cover, and we certainly don’t have anything close to an army here in Las Vegas. What I will try to do, however, is share some of the things that really stood out to me on this first day of the show.
Most Impressive Booth: Samsung
CES is the place where the big hitters come to play ball. Booths from Microsoft, Dell, T-Mobile, Cisco, Sony, and Mastercard are spread all over the Vegas strip. If you can think of a major player in the technology marketplace, it’s a safe bet they’ve not only got a booth at CES but they’re handing out corporate branded stress balls and USB keys like Halloween candy. There’s one company that has outdone everyone else by a country mile this year, though. Samsung does a trade show like no one else and, for my money, they’re the absolute cream of the crop this year. I’ve never seen anything like the acreage they’ve filled with televisions (breathtaking), smartphones, refrigerators, and computer displays. I’m really not easy to impress, but I’m being honest when I tell you Samsung could host a trade show and fill it with only their own products and I would gladly fly there and spend three days covering all they have to offer.
I certainly heard more expensive setups today (and I’m really looking forward to heading up to the high-end listening rooms in the Venetian tower later this week), but I don’t think I enjoyed anything more than the MegaMini – HE400S combination from HIFIMAN that I had the chance to sit and listen to. I even had the opportunity to sit and listen to HIFIMAN’s own reference system, the Shangri-La (which apparently is in the “if you have to ask how much it is, you can’t afford it” realm), and as impressive as it was I don’t think it was as enjoyable as the MegaMini/HE400S combo. Maybe I was nervous with some of the megabuck systems or maybe it’s just how much I love The Dark Side of the Moon–it’s hard to say why I enjoyed it so much, but I absolutely did.
Most Interesting Trend So Far: Consumer Mesh Networking
All of the people who know what they’re talking about will tell you that CES this year is about IoT and Smart Homes. Some of them will admit that it’s still about drones, to some extent. I would argue that a solid case could be made for earbuds, but really, for me, the trend that is going to be most interesting for GeekDad readers to follow in the coming year is mesh networking in the home. Eero, Plume, and, most recently, Google WiFi have made a big splash in what has otherwise been a stagnant part of the home technology marketplace. To some extent, each of these offerings has been a timid play using somewhat cobbled together technology into a space that has primarily been owned by commercial solutions providers. For most people, Wi-Fi is a single router and maybe a repeater or two if coverage is weak, but that’s about all the time they want to put into it. With these mesh setups, adding multiple access points is the norm and simple to use apps allow users to configure the networks for maximum bandwidth and stability. At CES this year the major players in consumer networking gear, most notably Linksys, have made bold moves into mesh, and I’m very excited to see how this affects adoption for everyday consumers. Keep your eyes peeled for reviews all year long!
Most Important Press Conference: Releasing the Findings of the Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety
No, I’m not kidding. There were some incredible announcements and press conferences today, and I get really, really excited about new televisions and mobile phones. I love polished presentations and glamorous product unveilings and I get as excited about new wearable tech as the next geek. I went to this announcement mostly because it was the only thing going on at 5 pm and I really wanted to sit down and catch my breath. This announcement was so off-the-radar that it was being held in a conference room that doesn’t exist. (Seriously, there’s no 227A on the map.) But it was the real deal. The Commission on Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Safety has done a tremendous job studying the emergence of autonomous vehicles and the impact they will have on driver safety. In this conference, they released their recommendations to government and industry concerning the adoption of autonomous vehicles. It’s really interesting and might just help you make up your mind on how we should approach the adoption of this somewhat frightening (to some people) technology, give it a read. TL;DR – Get these things on the road as soon as possible and start saving lives.
Finally, let me share some of the things that make me fall in love with trade shows like this. Sure, it’s exciting to see a company like Samsung or Microsoft spend a fortune to wow attendees, but what really keeps me pounding the pavement are the little companies who throw everything they have into developing a working prototype just in time to get it in front of us at the show and I’d love to showcase a few of the ones I stumbled across on day one.
Most Interesting Take on Earbuds: Wraps Wristband Headphones
You may get the impression from me that there are earbuds everywhere you turn at CES. That’s because it’s true, they are EVERYWHERE. There is one company that has a product that jumped out at me and theirs is a very interesting take on how to carry your headphones. Wraps has created a very cool connector for their headphones that allows you to wrap them around your wrist and wear them like a bracelet. If you’re like me and always dealing with a mad tangle of headphone cord, then this might just be a product worth taking a look at. I’m especially interested in having my kids try them out; my daughter can’t tie a bowline, but she can create the most complicated knot you’ve ever seen simply by putting her headphones in her pocket for ten seconds and she does it at least three times a day. The sound quality is good enough for casual listening, but their best feature is really the huge number of designs integrated into the cord which results in a really cool bracelet when wound up.
Most Innovative Accessory: Avido WiBa
OK, it’s a backup battery for your mobile phone so don’t get too excited. Next to USB hubs and earbuds, this is probably the next biggest category in the basement of the Convention Center. But Kevin, the creator of the wireless battery charger, has really done something cool with portable batteries and I have to say I’m impressed. I think a lot of other people were impressed too because he won a CES Innovation Award this year for his Qi-enabled wireless charging pack. Perhaps it’s because I’m an iPhone user and I’m still somewhat in awe of people who can use Qi wireless chargers, or perhaps it’s just because this thing looks so darn cool (the fit and finish are excellent), but either way, this is just a really neat product. It’s simple too; you sit it on your Qi charging base and it charges the battery. You sit your phone on top of the battery pack and it charges your phone. It’s hard to explain why it’s so cool but, trust me, if you have a Samsung phone you’ll want to pick up one of these when they’re available!
Most Exciting Future Kickstarter Project: Cleo Photo Drone
You know you’re on the cutting edge when you’re looking at a prototype that will one day soon be moved to a Kickstarter project. Seriously, though, I’m looking forward to putting this one on our curated Kickstarter page when it goes live. This little drone is cute and I want to carry one in my pocket everywhere I go. There are drones everywhere at CES and there are a lot of photo drones–the kind you send up into the air with the job of taking pictures of you, your dog, or your kids on their BMX bikes. None are quite as adorable as the Cleo drone and it’s really the only one I could imagine actually carrying with me. It’s almost completely automated. You simple push a few buttons on your smartphone and tell it what you want it to do (take epic selfies, obviously) and you toss it into the air and it floats up and starts streaming footage back to your handset. It has two counter-rotating props in the center of the body so no need to worry about cutting up little fingers, and it features a high-quality camera and 15 minutes of flying time. Keep your eyes peeled for this one!
That’s all for day one. Stay tuned for more tomorrow!