Blogs & Comment

Please stop complaining about CES

Yes, it’s big and crowded. But if you want to see where technology is going there’s no substitute

Panasonic booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 2014

Panasonic booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 2014 (David Becker/Getty)

Another year, another Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Oh, and another year of haters hating on the annual technology mega-trade show.

Yes, it’s true. CES is a giant, bloated event that is exhausting and often frustrating to cover because of its sheer size. This year’s show is taking up more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, with more than 160,000 attendees expected. That’s a small city within a city.

It’s no wonder so many attendees complain. Especially the journalists. Oh boy, do they complain.

The crushing crowds, the endless lineups, the pointless keynotes and press conferences, the wide array of lame products. Listening to the haters, you’d be hard-pressed to understand why anyone comes to the show.

And yet they come out in droves. There are good reasons for it.

It is what you make it. Sure, the lineups to keynotes and press conferences are long – so why go? Some are streamed, many are live blogged by someone, and all of them get written up ad nauseum by the throngs of journalists who do go.

There are 6,500 of us here. With that much coverage, it’s almost impossible to miss a word.

Instead, I’ve found it much more productive to cover the smaller companies and inventors—the ones who don’t have thousands hanging on their every word. They’re often more interesting anyway, since they’re the ones taking chances.

It’s Vegas. There’s a crazy amount of great entertainment and restaurants here. Who doesn’t like eating and having fun?

Covering the show is hard work, but there probably aren’t too many other places in the world where you can kick back in so many different ways.

Also, my weather app tells me it’s going to be -20ºC back home in Toronto this week, with scanty sunshine. Meanwhile in Vegas, it’s going to be 15ºC with an average of 10 hours of sun a day.

Sure, most of the day is spent indoors, but there’s still plenty of time to get some vitamin D. That’s hard to come by in Canada in January.

It’s journalism. Getting out and talking to people is kind of the whole point of the business.

Sitting at home and pontificating on the latest developments in technology is all fine and dandy, but nothing really beats meeting the interesting and ambitious characters who are actually out there trying new things.

It’s experiencing change first hand. If I was one of the CES haters, I’d likely never have had the chance to ride in a robot car. I did that a few years ago, and it was truly a mind-blowing experience.

Such situations are admittedly pretty rare, but CES and its exhibitors never fail to wow me or spark my imagination.

This year so far, I’ve already played with marble-shaped robots that can be programmed to follow coloured lines by children, and seen smart electrical outlets that shut down when they detect a finger or any other non-plug item being inserted.

Sure, the scope of CES is hard to digest and difficult to deal with. But if you love technology, there’s no better place to be.