Why the Consumer Electronics Show was better this year than last: Peter Nowak


DoorBot (Peter Nowak)

DoorBot (Peter Nowak)

Like every technology writer in the land, I’m breathing a sigh of relief now that the annual Consumer Electronics Show is over. Every year, I find it tough to impress upon non-attendees just how crazy this event is. With 3,200 exhibitors and 150,000 visitors crammed into 2 million square feet of show floor, it’s exhausting and chaotic – like a city within a city. And speaking of, there are also the unique nuances of Las Vegas to deal with: the vast distances between everything, the over-priced everything, the desert air that dries out your nose and lungs and virtually guarantees some sort of illness when combined with the giant plague of exhausted attendees.

But still, if you love technology, CES is the place to be. There’s nowhere else on Earth where you’ll find so much of it – and so much of it new and exciting – all in one place.

I ended up covering the show for a variety of outlets and from a number of different angles. Here’s a quick summary, in case you missed it.

My main coverage, as it has been for the past six years, was for CBC, starting with a preview of what the 2014 version of the show would be about. Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Electronics Association (which runs CES), had some intriguing insights about how the event is spotlighting what he considers to be the third industrial revolution – one in which mass customization is quickly becoming possible.

Once actually at the show, I put together a photo gallery of some of the most eye-catching gadgets from the official CES Unveiled pre-show. That included the bizarre Trew Grip ergonomic tablet keyboard, which gets my vote for the CES product most unlikely to see the light of day.

And there were more gadgets still, which I corralled into a write-up of Monday’s press day events. My favourite had to be the GoJi, a front-door lock that can be opened remotely via smartphone. I also kind of liked Panasonic’s new ion hair-dryer, not that I need that sort of thing.

I had a rare sit-down interview with Samsung co-chief executive Boo-keun Yoon – it’s the first time he’s done an interview with a Canadian journalist – in which we talked about ultra-high-definition televisions and smart appliances. Among his predictions: UHD TV prices will be within reach for most consumers by the end of this year.

There are always many Canadian companies at CES, so I also make a point of talking to some of them to gauge their experiences. This year, I chatted with Thalmic Labs, Whoosh and Nuvyyo, which make gesture-recognition armbands, a spray cleaner for screens and an over-the-air HD DVR, respectively. In true Canadian fashion, the weather played a big role in how they did at the show.

I also try to make a point of filing a radio story for the folks at Spark. This year, host Nora Young and I discussed some of the big trends from the show, including the rise of the connected home, health and fitness gadgets and the coming car technology revolution.

In my CBC wrap-up, I wrote about how I enjoyed this year’s show more than previous years. With the huge mega-booths from giant tech companies shrinking in number, the event is once again becoming more about the smaller companies, which is often where the real new and exciting stuff comes from.

Over at the Globe and Mail, I popped in on QNX, the Ottawa-based software company owned by smartphone maker BlackBerry, to see what was new and also to see what they thought of the big news of Google’s Open Automotive Alliance, which will be pushing Android onto cars starting this year. That story should be running soon, as will my hands-on experience with Valve Corp.’s upcoming Steam Machine game console.

For New Scientist, I went for a ride with the developers of EnLighten, a new traffic app that predicts when red lights will turn green (it actually works, for the most part), and profiled 4K/UHD TV for the next issue of the magazine.

The CanCon cavalcade continued with a profile for Yahoo Canada of InteraXon, the Toronto-based maker of the Muse headband, which helps its wearer relax through brainwave exercises. I first wrote about the company back in 2011 for New Scientist, but just happened to find myself sitting next to some of the principals on the flight down to Vegas this year, which was a great opportunity to catch up on what they’ve been doing. The company’s evolution, from three individuals with an idea to an operation with millions in backing that is about to launch its first product, is just amazing.

Last but not least, I delved further into the connected home in a story for The Loop. Yup, I talked to Belkin, the company behind the Internet-connected crock-pot.

And, of course, there was also the week-long gadget showcase right here on the blog, in which I looked at the June sun sensor, the DoorBot front-door video-conferencing tool, the Magnadyne jumper-cable emergency flashlight, the Roku TV and the Matterform 3D scanner. I’ve got a few more super-cool gadgets to share before I’m done with this, so stay tuned.

Whew! That was a busy week. Excuse me now while I pass out.