I went to CES this year. There are a lot of places you can read in-depth reviews of some of the more impressive tech to come out of the powerhouse electronics manufacturers. But for those of you who have never attended, I wanted to give you a slightly different look at what it's like to actually attend, some of the true realities of the show, and some things that specifically caught my eye as an EVE player. I'll ask your pardon in advance for some of the picture quality, since all of the photos were taken with my cellphone.
CES Is Big
First a little about the show itself. I got there late at night - 11 PM local time. Which is lucky. Why? Because the cab lines the first day at CES are legendary.
Normally, the lines are twice this long and four times as wide.
Next, you get to your hotel room. Don't expect the rock star treatment. You're paying over $350 per night, but got there Monday night. So you get this view:
Happily, you won't spend much time here.
This year's show was record big - 150,000 people. That's the entire population of a sizable city, similar to Springfield, MA or Sioux Falls, SD or Salinas, CA. The show took up 1.85 million square feet. That's over 23 football (soccer) fields or over 32 football (American NFL) fields. It's a lot of walking, and I didn't get to see all of it. Some is squirreled away in hotel ballrooms offsite, but most of it is housed at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center. The convention center is further split into a North, Central and South Hall, all of which are massive. The North Hall has an upper section of meeting rooms, the Central is two stories and the home of the big shiny vendors, and the South Hall is split into two floors.
This is a shot down the edge aisle of South Hall to give you an idea of scale. You can see about halfway to the end. The building is about as wide as you see here.
The booths range in size from an overgrown cubicle (most of the North Hall and significant parts of the South Hall) to the gigantic footprint of the Sony booth. Don't be confused by the people in the foreground, check out the folks in the distance, close to the huge wraparound screen, to get an idea of scale. Here's a shot:
CES is Not Really About You, the Consumer
OK, thematically it is, but really it isn't. This is the first dirty little secret of CES. In order to get into the show, you need a badge. The badges are carefully sorted into groups to define the purpose of the show. I had two badges.
For anyone looking for the big scoop, these two badges are the worst you can have.
As you walk the show floor, EXHIBITOR gets you a long look at your badge, because in many of the more crowded areas of the floor, it generally means "competitor". So, when I'm walking the floor, I wear the INDUSTRY AFFILIATE badge. That translates to "attendee". Go ahead, look around, ask questions, but you won't be getting any special attention from anyone in a larger booth, and the ones in the smaller booths will be constantly on the lookout for other badge types.
The two magic badge types that the companies at CES care about are these: MEDIA and BUYER. These two are who the show is really for. The companies here are either here to sell product to buyers who will get it to consumers, or to pitch their new ideas, brands and innovations to the press in order to move mass market consumer sentiment.
The Interesting Bits Are the Minority
What follows from the magic badge types is the second dirty little secret of CES. Based on a walking tour of the show, fully a third, if not more, of all that space is filled with two things: mobile device covers and audio (speakers and headphones). Another huge chunk is made up of televisions. If you eliminated those three types of item, my unscientific estimate is that you could get rid of half the vendors, and maybe half the floor space. So before you buy your ticket to Vegas to see CES, make sure those three things are of some interest to you.
So with the EVE player in mind, let's hit the first two - audio and cellphone covers.
In an average-sized booth in the South Hall, a small company called Aftershokz is hawking headphones (as is about a quarter of the South Hall). But they have something different. As you can see in the picture, the headset is not on his ears. Rather, the sound is carried through the bones of the skull. This actually debuted last year at CES, and the rumor is that the military version was used in the raid on the Bin Laden compound. I tried them out. Maybe the most astonishing part was how easily I could switch my attention back and forth between our conversation in my ears and the blaring music reverberating in my skull. It's not uncomfortable or unpleasant in the least and they worked amazingly well. So well, in fact, that I asked him if they had plans for a gaming version, since they already have a bluetooth version and a version with an inline mic. He said that they were, for upcoming development. I love my big-earcup Plantronics, but after 3-5 hours of EVE form up, roaming and ISK-making, I still get cauliflower ear. I'd switch them for this. Panasonic was also showing a prototype bone-conduction headset, but they are clearly well behind the curve by comparison - quality was worse and volume was difficult to hear over the crowd noise without plugging my ears.
Your official EVE cellphone cover?
As I mentioned, however, mobile device covers were the most rampant category, taking up the vast majority of the North Hall and significant portions of the South Hall as well. Most were custom designed, designed for heavy environment (immersion, dirt, drops, etc.) or in many heavily branded designs like the ponies. But I went looking for something in keeping with the EVE traditions. And wouldn't you know it, I found something for the Drunken Roam community.
When you're done laughing, you can check out HeadCase for more info on how to order yours.
OK, so enough of that. What about the TVs? Well, there's a little problem. I have a crappy little cellphone camera, but the big TV vendors are showing 4X and Ultra-HighDef TVs. If I took a perfect photo with this thing, it would not do justice to the picture - you need to see it for yourself to believe it. These things look like analog photographs blown up to unbelievable sizes. There are no pixels you can make out. It's so good it almost looks fake (check out the fish video in the Sony link below) - like an animation rather than a picture. That said, I'll try as best I can.
I'm told that technically, Sharp's version was the highest resolution of the lot - and it was pretty impressive. Sadly my camera shot of it was so bad it's not worth posting, so I'll post a couple of others.
Here is a shot of Sony's. This picture is paused, not moving at the time I shot it. What I want you to notice here is the sand. In person, you can actually make out the individual tiny rocks and sand clumps.
Samsung gets the nod for "OMG IT'S HUGE". This prototype puppy is 110" - take a look at the woman next to it for an idea of scale.
Last one in the TV category: take a look at LG's 84" UHD set. This one will give you an idea of the kind of detail these new TVs are capable of showing. Every building in this was crystal clear and distinct. LG also had a crazy-huge 3D wall and were handing out 3D glasses to everyone who came in their booth.
Next installment, we'll get a bit more into gaming at CES - what was good, what was bad, and a couple things that particularly reminded me of EVE players.