Okay, I've made it to CES. The drive from West Los Angeles was a bit less than four hours. The elves taking caring of the homestead were glad to hear I'd arrived safely, though wished I'd quit keep bugging them with the news, preferring to be left alone until I get back.
It was also my first chance to test using Sirius-XM while driving through the Mojave Desert, and it worked perfectly. I switched between various channels, but what stood out was being able to listen to MSNBC. In large part that's because they covered President Obama's farewell ceremony with the branches of the military. If you haven't heard or watched it, do try to track it down. It was very moving. Ostensbility, as I gather, this event was to honor him, but he said at the start that "I am still the Commander in Chief, so I can make the rules. And I want to honor you all here." And his speech was clearly heartfelt and emotional. Not only was it absolutely lovely and meaniful, but it was difficult for me to listen to this and not think throughout, "I cannot even begin to imagine Trump come even close to saying any of this.
On to CES.
And my first reaction has zero to do with the show itself. Much as I greatly dislike Las Vegas, one of the few things I like about the city, outside of endless buffets..., is that you can go to any hotel and park or free, rather than be gouged. That's because hotels want you to come to their casinos and gamble. Well, apparently that's changing. Not for all the hotels and casinos yet but all the MGM properties and some others are now charging for self-parking. And a substantive amount. I heard a lot of grumbling, and I think this is counter productive, so I wouldn't be surprised if it eventually goes away. But who knows, maybe hotels will only look at the small picture and not the larger one. For instance, if you pay a certain amount for (say) four hours, and those four hours are almost up -- at which point your parking will double, then I can see people leaving to go somewhere else. Or all the local residents who go to hotels for dinner and now have to pay a lot for parking, they might decide to dine at other restaurants instead. (I spoke to several locals, and they were not happy with the change. One said that a reason given is that the places wanted to "be more like Los Angeles and San Francisco. I commented that the whole point of Las Vegas is that it's nothing like Los Angeles and San Francisco...or anywhere. They agreed.)
As for the show itself, it doesn't officially start until tomorrow, and it's largely only press conferences during the day, although there are two events on the schedule that always interest me. One is tonight, Pepcom (also called Digital Experience) that puts companies and reporters together in a big ballroom for the night -- with a buffet. (You may have noticed, I like buffets...) And then this afternoon, there was the Launch-It event put on Showstoppers, one of my favorite groups that also puts on one of those company-report events (and always with an even better, ahem, buffet...), which will be tomorrow. But Launch-It is sort of a competition for about a dozen pre-selected start-ups.
I didn't stay for the whole thing, but a few of the presentations caught my eye. Not that they were all necessarily practical for the mass market, but I admired the creativity and technology even if their application is limited. None are available to the public yet (and may never be, if they don't get their full venture capital investment), but most are reasonably advanced.
Akoustic Arts is a speaker that focuses its sound waves so that it doesn't "bleed" to fill a room, but can only be heard in a confined area. For instance, if the speaker is placed above with the sound beaming down, only when someone walks into that zone will they hear it. (My immediate thought was, oh, my god, this is the "Cone of Silence" from Get Smart come to life!) There are real-world applications for it, though mostly commercial, I think. For instance, in museums or hotel lobbies, that sort of thing. The representative also mentioned use in cars and smartphones, and also for the blind., though that may be more limited.
Cosmo Connected is a connected brake light, mainly for motorcylists who get into a high percentage of accidents when they slow down, and the cars behind them don't see the low-level brake light go on. This attaches to any helmet and a bright light flashes at eye level when the bike slows down. Also, there is an emergency application - the device has a gyroscope built-in, so if the bike and rider fall over, an operator gets a signal and can call a receiver in the device to check on the rider. If there's no response, they'll call an emergency vehicle.
The oddest product was the Foldmiate. This will fold almost any clothing you give to it -- and will remove most of the wrinkles if you buy the add-on (though it doesn't iron). I suppose it's good for a family with a lot of children, though again it's the industrial and commercial market where it probably has its best application -- laundramats, hotels, clothing stores and places like that. It's about the size of an ATM, though the company is working on that. Also, at the moment I think their anticipated price of $750-1,000 is much too high, at least for the home, but that will likely be adjusted, as well.
That's all for now. More to come.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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