CES 2021: The Experience

After months of speculation, the CES digital experience is finally here. And, it comes with all the excitement of a deflated balloon. It’s not that I expected any more, but I hoped. Man, did I hope.

The exhibitor experience

CES claims about 1,800 exhibitors signed up for the show this year. I’m sure that’s true. But it seems like a lot of our favorites sat it out this year. The big boys are all still there, including Samsung, LG, and GM. But “there” doesn’t really go too far in explaining the show.

You thought it would be like being there?

Well folks, I called it. There’s no “virtual show floor experience.” There’s no expansive augmented reality real-time extravaganza. There’s no 3D modeling of new products or chatbots ready to draw you in.

Here’s what you get when you go to any booth:

You get this message with EVERY SINGLE BOOTH you go into. You can’t globally opt-in, not that I can see anyway. It’s a little annoying. I like privacy as much as the next guy but seriously, it’s a little jarring to get this thing every time you go to a page.

Once you get past that annoying popup you’re greeted with…

It’s just a directory

I took a screen capture of the Samsung “booth.” Not that you’ll be able to read it, but just so you can see how utterly unspecial it is. It’s really just a MySpace page. There’s a video and a few bits of contact information. Seriously.

Samsung, because they’re Samsung, also created a site specific for the show, with a little more interactive content. It’s open to the general public here.

The keynotes

But oh, the keynotes. The people who run CES really think that you want to watch keynotes. I don’t know, maybe other people do. I have never wanted to spend my time watching someone talk when I could actively scour the show floor for something interesting.

The only keynote that was available for review when I wrote this article was the Verizon one. Now, maybe other keynotes are going to be better but this one is an absolute mess. I took two excerpts, which needless to say, are courtesy of Verizon and CES, and no ownership is implied:

This keynote was literally nauseating. I think that they were trying to make the point that their 5G can support this level of constant movement. But seriously this keynote is impossible to watch for more than a minute or two. And I am not sure what the dead tree motif in the background is supposed to tell me.

There was nothing really new either. I listened to the whole thing (watching it was utterly out of the question.) and there was nothing really new. I’m sure some keynotes will give you new information, but this one didn’t.

Overall grade: D

I’ll grant you that exhibitors only had about six months to produce their pages. The CES folks were very late in announcing that the show would be virtual. But I’ll say it again and again: we deserve more from the country’s pre-eminent tech show than a glorified version of MySpace. I’ll be scouring the exhibitor directory to see if I can find any exhibitors who accepted the challenge of creating an immersive and engaging experience for their CES pages. I’m willing to bet it will be a waste of time, but hey… nothing wrong with trying.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.