Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the biggest and most exciting events in the world of tech. As proper tech nerds, our hosts Will and Brandt always check out what the year’s biggest innovations and trends are. They have covered the CES 2019 in the past, and it’s high time they go over the CES 2021.
Because of the unprecedented state the events industry finds itself in, the CES 2021 moved from Las Vegas into the virtual space. One of the main appeals of the CES in general was sorely missing: the visitors couldn’t try out innovative new products themselves. And while Brandt and Will would have loved to give the newest flying cars a go, that didn’t sour their experience. Here’s their take on the tech highlights of the CES 2021 as well as the execution of the thrilling event itself.
CES 2021: The Pros And Cons Of Going Virtual
Brandt and Will start out the conversation by weighing the pros and cons of the CES 2021. “There were things that people liked about it. They didn’t have to travel and they didn’t get sick and feel exhausted. But clearly people were feeling that it was missing something. It’s that in-person connection. The meeting people in the hallway that you haven’t seen for a year. It’s the networking that can happen when you get big brains in a room. It’s touching and feeling the product, seeing it in person,” Brandt sums up.
There was no shortage of virtual events this year, so the CES 2021 didn’t get as much attention. It’s not just that the in-person aspect of the CES is an essential part of it, though. “What I heard listening to ‘normal folks’ was how much they liked a lot of the other stuff that was done this year. In the course of the last 10 months, there was a lot of praise for Microsoft’s and Apple’s events. Apple did more events than they normally do over the course of the year, which online gives you the ability to do. You don’t have to gear up that whole in-person event machinery of getting everything going,” Brandt explains.
Will is delighted to say that was a good year for tech events this year. As opposed to waiting for the CES and then not hearing any tech news for months afterwards, it was very eventful. “Every single week I was reading articles about someone having some virtual announcement or just a press release of some product. This also created this independence from the event in a lot of ways, versus the dependence on needing to be there to announce it.”
Decoupling And Its Effect On The CES 2021
Next up, Brandt talks about the rising trend of decoupling. “Products that would or could have normally been announced at the CES were done in their own events. So Samsung did their own Galaxy 21 event. Totally separate, but it was released around CES.”
“A lot of these manufacturers have had products that are they’re ready to release in the pipeline for a while. People are probably still going to release their products at the time of the event because they’re on their own product cycles. And so pushing the event back, doesn’t make them want to push their product release back six months. So they know that’s only going to further serve to decouple these product events from these big shows.”
CES 2021: What Was The Platform Like?
Accessibility in virtual events is important, but data privacy comes first. “Since each one of those vendors is going to be the one who gets your name and email address at the end of that conversation, you have to click on that agreement positively, you have to agree to it every single time. A lot of folks were blaming the platform for that. But I really don’t know that there would be a better way to implement that because of the way that GDPR is written with that kind of affirmative consent,” says Brandt.
“Overall I heard positive comments about the platform and how it worked,” Brandt concludes. “Because of the reduction in vendors and the decoupling, it felt like a really iterative year. Otherwise, a lot of the stuff that appears at the CES never comes to market. It’s a lot of prototypes and fun to play with eye-candy. We can speculate that people didn’t bring those because you can’t really do that over a video chat.”
The Highlights Of CES 2021
“A lot of manufacturers of computers were pushing out tons of new laptops, laptop updates, especially focused on business. They realized all those desktop computers that are sitting in offices right now are doing nothing there. They need to get rid of them and they needed to send laptops to all their employees,” says Will. He also makes some predictions for the CES 2022. “I saw a big focus on trying to improve the webcam and microphone experiences. And I see that really affecting the events industry because better webcams and microphones mean that that whole series on presenter kits we just did is less and less needed.”
“I think there’s always been a fair amount of laptops being released every year, but they’re usually overshadowed by the bizarre and the crazy, weird stuff,” Brandt replies. So what were some of the extraordinary products at CES 2021? The first innovation that Will finds worth mentioning is the world’s smartest mask by Razer.
Next up is 8K resolution. “TCL now has an 8K TV,” Will announces. “But until Netflix releases 8K on streaming, it’s not going to happen. Just look at 4k streaming which is now commonplace across all the streaming networks. We still don’t push for even our virtual events to go 4k. It’s just too much for most people to be able to handle on laptops. So guys, 8K events industry is still far away at this point.”
CES 2021 Trends: Safety & Sustainability Tech
Will and Brandt noticed noticed that safety tech and contactless tech were a huge trend this year at the CES 2021. A wonderful example is the touchless video doorbell by Alarm.com. “It’s like Google’s Nest doorbell, but it uses a mat. So you may stand on it and that rings it so you don’t have to touch it.” The contactless technology will play an important part in the future because, as Will puts it, “people just don’t want to touch things anymore”.
The events industry has been tackling issues around waste reduction and recycling. What caught Brandt’s eye at the CES 2021 were sustainability and green initiatives. A case in point is Lasso robot. “It’s about the size of a mailbox – which so not small – but you put it in your kitchen or wherever and you throw in cans and bottles and paper. Then, it sorts, it, grinds it, chews it up and spits it out into proper buckets,” says Brandt. “They’ll start shipping them in September 2022. And this auto-sorting robot will cost you $3,500”, Will adds.
CES 2021: The Main Takeaways
If an event like CES can go virtual, do we even need in-person events? “Obviously, it’s been a challenging year for our industry as a whole. But there’s been a lot of advancement in the online capabilities and a lot of advancement in the technology. We can start to incorporate more of that in our events and accommodate people. We can give people who can’t normally come to our event the ability to come in. Either in a hybrid or by having more events like Apple. Some of them are online and some of them are in person,” Will says.
“Don’t just assume that in-person is the way forward just because that’s the way you were doing it in 2019 and before. Use this as an opportunity to really think through the why of your event. Take the lessons from the CES 2021 and using that as a guiding star, as we start to come back. Maybe we do six online events as a way of driving traffic to our in-person event that it still takes place once a year,” concludes Brandt. “We’ve advanced more in these last 10 months than we did in the previous 10 years. When we get back to ‘full strength in the industry’, it’s going to look very different than it did before. And in a lot of aspects, it’ll be better.”