CES, the tech industry’s annual event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, returns to Las Vegas this January in hopes it’ll return to what it was before the coronavirus pandemic.
The show changed its name to CES to better reflect the changing industry and the event, which had expanded beyond audio and video to include automotive, digital health, smartphones, wearables and other technologies.
Companies and start-ups will showcase innovations in virtual reality, robotics and consumer products to the media and others in the tech industry during next month’s gadget show, and organizers say their goal is to attract 100,000 visitors.
That would be in marked contrast to the appearance of the last two shows – the last one saw a 70% drop in in-person attendance amid the proliferation of the Omicron variant. The previous one was held virtually, replacing in-person presentations and meet-and-greets with video streams and chats.
Even if organizers meet their target for next month’s event, which runs from May 1st-8th, it would still mean a 41% drop in attendance compared to the in-person show in early 2020, before the pandemic affected much of everyday life took up.
Kinsey Fabrizio, senior vice president of trade group Consumer Technology Association, said more than 2,800 companies have registered to attend CES 2023.
Exhibitors include many startups and routine visitors like Amazon and Facebook parent Meta, both of which have recently cut jobs and introduced hiring freezes after ramping up staff during the pandemic. Other tech companies have also tightened their belts and laid off employees amid concerns about the economic environment.
The Associated Press spoke to Fabrizio about CES and what consumers should expect at the show. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: The technology industry has had a rough time over the past few months. How do you think this will affect the show?
A: Yes, in the last two years the technology industry has been booming. We are now seeing a recalibration, and as part of the recalibration there are layoffs. But when it comes to CES, the companies are making it big. And they will showcase some of those solutions that have been critical during the pandemic and many of the solutions that have continued to transform the way consumers live and behave. The momentum and excitement we’re seeing for the show hasn’t been spoiled.
Q: Are most exhibitors startups?
A: We have many startups and new companies. Over 1,000 new exhibitors for CES this year, which is in line with previous years. There will be some regular customers at Eureka Park, where our startups are mainly based. They can stay there for up to two years. But we’ll also have a lot of companies that have been at CES for a while.
Q: The theme of the show is human security. How did you land on this?
A: We were approached by the World Academy of Art and Science, which has a long history of working with the United Nations on human security. You can think of it as basic human rights – access to food, healthcare, etc. And they wanted CES to really address that because our exhibitors are showing how they’re solving some of these big global challenges with technology.
Q: In the past, CES focused more on convenience and personal tech. So this will be a shift.
A: This is the shift. We talked about how technology solves challenges in the world. But we’ve never had a topic at CES. It’s always been about innovation and great products for the consumer. But for this show, you can see the theme on the show floor and other places. For example, John Deere showcases some of its farming technologies that really contribute to sustainability and access to food. Another company has developed secure voting technology on the blockchain that aligns with the UN theme of political security.
Q: The Metaverse will be another big theme. Many companies invest in it. What can visitors expect at the fair?
A: The metaverse is a key theme. We will have a special part of the exhibition area for Web3 technology. There will also be shared and immersive virtual experiences. Automaker Stellantis and Microsoft have partnered to create a showroom in the Metaverse. There is a company called OVR that has developed a solution where you can smell in the metaverse. People talk about unique ways to reach their customers and different experiences people can have there. So that’s going to be a big issue for big and small exhibitors alike.
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