Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Descent Into Madness: My Three Days At CES 2012


Monday 9:07 a.m.

Got in last night. I have to admit, I'm really pumped about CES! Yeah, the event is always pretty crowded but it's just so awesome to be here this year. I can't wait to see all the latest and greatest products that are being unveiled. It’s my sixth straight year at the show, but I still feel like a little kid on Christmas morning, just brimming with anticipation.

The CES opening press event was last night and I was blown away by the innovative products the sponsors were showing off. And there's a great energy in general in Vegas right now, a very upbeat vibe. Even the Vegas Strip's unrepentant soullessness seems to have dissolved, replaced by a glowing friendliness that’s evident in the smiles of passersby. There is also a pervasive sense of camaraderie from my international media brethren.

The weather is excellent too -- clear desert skies and surprisingly warm for January.

Monday 10:33 p.m.

Went to Samsung and Microsoft press conferences this afternoon. Samsung launched about 20 products -- TVs, monitors, notebooks, a tablet and a smartphone. All kinds of stuff. People were eating it up.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer keynote was fun. He brought out Ryan Seacrest and they sat together and talked about all the cool stuff Microsoft is doing, in an informal chat type of presentation. I enjoyed it.

Heading to bed now. Hope I'll be able to fall asleep after all the excitement of the day. Can’t wait to walk the show floor, which opens tomorrow.

Tuesday 9:45 a.m.

I’m standing outside South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, in a crowd of around 5,000 people all waiting for the doors to open at 10. It’s pretty chaotic. For some reason, people seem to think that shoving and jostling their way up to the entrance means they’ll get in faster. Pretty irritating if you ask me.

There are a LOT more people in Vegas than yesterday. Huge monorail line at the Venetian stop where I’m staying. Yep, CES is definitely under way. I had forgotten what a mad crush of humanity the show can be. Now I’m heading onto the show floor.

OK, I’m walking around in North Hall and it’s a little less crowded here. Problem is, I haven’t seen anything interesting yet. What I am seeing is row after row after row of booths displaying iPhone and iPad cases. Some are ridiculously outlandish, like the ones encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Are you kidding me? Hey, I guess there’s no accounting for taste. These cases look like something you’d see in a Jersey Shore episode.

Tuesday 1:14 p.m.

I’ve made my way over to Central Hall, where all the television vendors are showing off their latest models. It’s loud in here. And by loud, I mean, deafening. Good thing there are a massive amount of people here, packed into the exhibit areas like a bunch of helpless sardines, powerless against their desire to see more HDTVs.

The HDTVs on display are truly amazing examples of humankind’s ability to harness technology. But though it’s easy to fantasize about owning one, I realize that I’d never read another book, or have another meaningful conversation, if I did. This is scary technology, and after craning my neck at a few companies’ booths I move on.


Tuesday 11:49 a.m.

Chaos in the LG exhibit area. An impenetrable thicket of humanity. I snap a quick photo and hightail it outta there.

Tuesday 2:37 p.m.

Everywhere I turn, there is bad mobile etiquette on display and frankly it’s starting to piss me off. Literally 95 percent of the people I see walking around have their eyes glued to their devices and are paying ZERO attention to where they’re going. So of course, they’re constantly cutting people off, while remaining completely oblivious. I actually saw a guy texting while walking backwards down one of the bustling hallways.

The irony is that these idiots with their smartphones are rushing around so they can look at other, newer smartphones on display at CES.

Tuesday 5:12 p.m.

I’ve walked probably about three or four miles at this point, although it could be a lot more. Still haven’t seen anything all that interesting, except for a couple booths here and there surrounded by useless garbage. Oh goodie, ultrabooks. Oh wow, more tablets. E-writers? What, regular paper doesn’t work anymore?

There comes a point at CES when you’re on the show floor, and you’ve been walking for hours, and you just hit the wall. The noise of the hucksters in the exhibit areas braying for attention is getting inside my head, and it's not going away. I’ve seen enough and am heading back to the room.

Tuesday 9:37 p.m.

Exhausted, but still intact (physically, if not entirely mentally) after Day One on the CES show floor. I’ve heard the first couple of days climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are pretty easy, but then the difficulty ramps up dramatically. If that’s true, I can’t even imagine what tomorrow might have in store for me. A deep sense of foreboding washes over me, and I have trouble falling asleep.

Wednesday 9:19 a.m.

Back on the show floor. Still pretty wiped out. I’d rather be having my wisdom teeth out right now than on the CES show floor, if you want to know the truth. Thankfully it’s my last day here. Hopefully I can make it through the day without snapping. That is by no means a given, though, as the show floor has already attracted its customary hordes of attendees.

I’m walking around South Hall and again, there’s not much going here. Unless you count the hazy, eye-stinging cloud of international, mostly male colognes that's hanging over the proceedings. It occurs to me that this is a regular CES feature, the sampling of liberally applied fragrances. Fortunately I am distracted by the noise, which is also reaching a painful level.

I walk for a while and realize I’m surrounded by booths selling iPod docks shaped like pigs, whales and Charlie Brown characters. Many of them are smiling. That’s great, I’m happy you’re in a good mood. But I can’t get around the fact that these things are made of hard, heavy plastic, the kind that’s destined to sit around in a landfill for millennia. I keep walking, trying to forget what I’ve seen.

Wednesday 10:52 a.m.

The burning fatigue in my legs has started up again. I don’t even know what hall I’m in at this point, but there’s a bunch of home automation products on display, with pitch people loudly proclaiming their benefits. I pass by one booth and they’re talking about how their product lets you adjust the temperature of your home using a tablet. ‘Great,’ I think to myself, ‘because people in our sedentary culture need more reasons not to get off their couches.’

Walking further I come to a booth showing off little video cameras that you can hide places, and presumably, capture footage of people doing stupid and/or illegal things. Around another corner, I come across yet another booth selling iPhone cases, but these ones have hair. I try to scream, but the sound catches in my throat and is muffled. No one hears, and so after collecting my thoughts, I keep walking.

Wednesday 1:07 p.m.

Still no idea where I am. Was seeing darkness at the edges of my vision, so I stopped to get something to eat. Waited in a long line, then got to the counter and all they had was a hot dog wrapped in a soft pretzel. It looked disgusting, but I ate it anyway. I needed the sustenance.

I feel slightly less dizzy, but am still finding it difficult to process what’s going on around me, all these products of dubious practical value, being loudly hawked. I keep walking, hoping that I will come to the edge of the convention center soon, or that a forklift will fall on me and I won’t have to see this any more.


Wednesday 2:58 p.m.

I think I’m hallucinating. I close my eyes and see rows and rows of iPhone accessories. For some reason, Hello Kitty -- a human sized version -- is peeking at me from around corners as I approach. Soon I realize that it’s following me around, like the penguin in Billy Madison.

A couple more days here and I will have to be institutionalized. Actually, maybe just a couple of hours. I just have to make it until 5 p.m though. Almost there.

Wednesday 5:02 p.m.

I make it to 5 p.m., and stagger outside into the sunlight. I look around -- no Hello Kitty -- and my heart rate starts to drop into the normal zone. I breathe in the crisp desert air, and cough, because someone is smoking a cigar nearby. I've wandered into the smoking area. But it's so much better than the show floor.

I survived CES, again. But it left a toll on me this year, just like it always does. You know what’s really pathetic? I’ll probably be back again next year. Because I love the pain and the chaos.