Start small? Not on your nelly. Our first foray in the conference calendar was chosen to be the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, from 5th to the 7th of January this year. The show is simply one of the biggest annual tech events around the world. Use of the word ‘consumer’ is, as we discovered at the show, ever so slightly misleading, as there’s a huge amount of tech and innovation on display that should be better described as B2B. Truly it’s a conference that’s about tech full stop.
Nominated for the expedition from Fox were the trio of Axel Tulip (Account Director), Neil Roebuck (Senior Creative) and Alastair Bevan (Copywriter). After an arduous journey including a 10-hour direct flight from Heathrow, the three of us landed at Las Vegas’ Harry Reid airport full of anticipation.
CES takes place over three distinct sites. To three newbies still digesting a mammoth American breakfast, the decision about where to start was a perplexing one, but we chose Tech West, home of the Venetian Expo and The Palazzo.
We arrived at the venue at 8:00am, to be greeted by an absolute maze of floors, mezzanines, conference rooms and halls, but with some navigation assistance from our welcoming hosts, made our way to the first keynote, CTA President and CEO Gary Shapiro.
Electric, autonomous and both
After Gary’s turn, it was time for our first big corporate keynote – GM. GM have a stated ambition to become a zero emissions automotive manufacturer in the coming years, and delivered a slick (though virtual) session underlying their full credentials, including a preview of their powerful new SUV in development, the EV Silverado.
Then it was time to hit the show floor and take in as many of the stands as we could. We met some fascinating startup players from the worlds of 3D audio, fintech and HR to name just a few. We attended a fascinating talk from the autonomous freighting firm TuSimple. The talk brought into relief the direction of travel for road-borne freighting world-wide, outlining a vision of fleets of autonomously driven trucks transporting cargo across the US and around the world without a driver in sight.
The automotive theme continued apace during day one. The Fox team received a sneak preview of Damon’s new electric motorbikes, and an unsupervised test drive of the new BMW i4 around the streets of Vegas – a fabulous all-electric machine.
Farming tech firm John Deere wowed us with their first autonomous tractor – a huge beast that can till countless acres of land on a charge, unmanned, and frees farmers and their staff to get on with the management of their estates from the comfort of the farmhouse.
The rest of day one was a whirlwind of new tech, with a strong Korean theme. We took a ride in cute and nimble electric vehicles from Hyundai, and Doosan delivered an impressive stand and presentation focused on their robotics and drone offerings. Finally, we visited the stand of Lotte, who are pioneering the use of the metaverse in home shopping, including an NFT marketplace and a virtual ‘build your own house’ platform.
The goal of day two? To really get to grips with everything the huge Tech East has to offer. Incorporating the Las Vegas Convention Center, the site is truly awe-inspiring in terms of its size and the number and variety of different exhibitors on show.
Samsung takes centre stage
We kicked things off on the US’s National Technology Day with a personal tour around Samsung’s virtual product demonstration platform. It’s a system that enables retailers and consumers to tour Samsung’s portfolio of consumer products in rich 3D, eliminating the need for expensive sales demos – perhaps all the more valuable and relevant in the age of COVID that we’re still going through.
From there it was a short walk to Samsung City, one of the most glitzy and polished arenas that we revelled in at CES, showcasing all of Samsung’s latest consumer technology in the flesh. We took in the latest S21 FE smartphone with its innovative dual recording capability, through glorious new MicroLED TVs and on to a rotating Neo QLED screen that showcases Samsung’s tie in with NFTs, allowing users to discover, purchase, and trade digital artwork from the comfort of their own homes.
Fulfilling the potential of 5G
Next, a change of tone with a panel session entitled ‘Seizing the Opportunity of Tech Innovation with 5G’. The session was an intriguing look at the ongoing campaign to fulfil the potential of 5G in the US. Samsung panellist John Godfrey talked at length about the importance of opening up new spectrum in the US for 5G, and John Deere’s representative gave a fascinating glimpse into the potential for 5G-enabled IoT to transform farming, not just in the US but around the globe.
And then it was on to the showfloor proper, with some quirkier new consumer tech on display. We visited HapBee, who demonstrated technology for manipulating brain waves to bring greater relaxation or stimulation by virtue of magnetic fields embedded in either a headband or a bed.
Sony to move into automotive?
Sony’s stand was a spacious and chilled affair. Two of their most notable showpieces were their Vision concept cars, seemingly pointing in a very new direction for the firm. Sony confirmed to us that they were launching a new Mobility division in Spring which will represents a serious ambition to enter the world of automotive. As Sony is a client of ours, we’re hoping we can get involved in the marketing!
Hyundai Heavy Industries – building the future
We took in countless other stands on day two, but one worth picking out was another very slick presentation from Hyundai Heavy Industries. The world’s biggest shipbuilder is embarking on a new era that it describes as ‘moving from ship-building to future building.’ Its three core focusses for the next decade will be launching the autonomous ships that they’re currently prototyping, water-borne hydrogen fuel generation and transportation, and service robotics.
Our final day at CES eschewed some of the glitz and glamour that we’d seen on day two in favour of some of the smaller but no less intriguing startups on display at Tech West.
France and Britain wow us
The French quarter of Tech West was impressive in its size and variety of firms. SurgAR gave us a look at their augmented reality platform that enables surgeons to investigate tumours and other anomalies with keyhole surgery.
From there we moved on to the British quarter of Tech West, and one of the highlights of the whole show – Engineered Arts’ spectacular Ameca robot. The robot is fully interactive, can answer questions and start conversations and hold uncanny eye contact. It’s kinesthetics were pretty impressive too, demonstrating very fluid arm and head movement.
Alongside Ameca was Triggo’s city car, which has adjustable width to let you zip between lanes of traffic and intelligent suspension that leans the car into bends.
IoT was a prominent theme on day three. We talked to DeepSea, who are a Columbian firm making waves with their innovative IoT hardware and firmware, as well as Internet of Everything Corp, who have been developing a walled-garden approach to IoT that they claim is a radical and viable alternative to the cloud, and offers greater protection against cyber-attacks.
Fox Agency – good sports
Sports tech featured strongly on day three. We played around with a baseball simulator by Autobat-Ex (hitting several satisfying home runs) as well as the Liteboxer smart boxing machine and the Peloton-esque Hydrow rowing machine, due to launch shortly.
After more exciting startups, we stopped off at Japanese firm SkyDrive. Their prototype zero-emissions flying car was another highlight of the show that has already demonstrated its capabilities in testing, and could be coming to a sky near you in the not-too-distant future.
An extraordinary adventure
And with that, the Fox Agency team came to the end of what has been a thrilling and eye-opening trip.
CES 2022 was extraordinarily intense – the sheer number and variety of tech firms showing off their wares had us gripped for a solid three days. The show was more than just an assault on the senses; it was like spending three days in the future.
When in Vegas
Thankfully, the Fox Agency team had just enough downtime to take in what is a breath-taking city, complete with its ‘strip’ and gargantuan hotels and casinos. And then it was off to the airport for our flight home, back to the dank weather and disinterested customer service that are so reassuringly British, but which are anathema to most Americans.
What a show, and what an experience. Las Vegas, we had a blast.