Oh, CES. You are a disgusting, bloated beast oozing everything that makes this industry horrible. Nay, everything that makes our culture horrible. Sure, to you fine readers it might look like it's all product announcements and good times, but that's far from the truth. In reality, it's a vile clusterfuck of nerds, sluts and suits; a deadly combo. Let me give you some reasons why CES signals the downfall of our society, if you can stand it.
1. Booth Babes
Are we such simple people? Are we so easy to manipulate that all it takes for us to decide that a product is worth writing about or purchasing are some out-of-work strippers in skimpy outfits handing out 64MB thumb drives? Yes! It seems to work. D-Link, a boring company, consistently had loads of pasty, sweaty show goers swarming around its booth, ogling their whorishly dressed booth attendants and grabbing at free handouts that aren't worth the jostling it takes to get them.
2. Gimmicky Booths
If a company is too classy to put half-naked women with no dignity in front of their booths to draw in foot traffic, it's pretty likely that they have some less offensive gimmicky crap in their booth. Cheesy fake game shows? Yes, that'll make me take your company seriously. Magicians? Wow, I an optimistic about your companies potential in the CE marketplace. I am interested in sharing this with our readers, as it seems like something that they should take seriously. Oh, wait, no it doesn't! You seem to have fooled me with your magic! Luckily, I have the sense of mind to ignore you and try to move past without being sucked into your tractor beam of the lowest common denominator.
3. Digital Picture Frames
Variations of these things are shown by the most companies at the most booths. Why? Digital picture frames are the worst gadget out there, tacky garbage that I can't imagine anyone would ever buy. But they do! These companies are all putting them out because you people are buying them by the truckload! They're essentially little flat-panel TVs with no tuners and a crappy frame wrapped around them. They then sit there, sucking up energy 24 hours a day, ruining our environment and making your living room look like the Fox News studio on the slowest news day in history.
4. Press Manipulation and Blog Wars
We get suckered in to covering CES like it's the second coming every year; we brought something like 14 people this time around. For what? So we can cover stuff we normally would pass on in hopes that we can get it up three minutes before Engadget. Companies cocktease us and make us go and do pointless liveblogs of their boring press conferences only to announce minor upgrades of the same garbage they released last year. This is worth 14 round-trip airline tickets and a dozen hotel rooms for a week?
5. Panasonic's 150-inch TV
This is probably the "biggest" announcement of CES, and it's a product that .000001% of the population will be able to afford if and when it's released five years from now. If that isn't a damning enough summation of why CES is irrelevant, I don't know what is. Isn't this show supposed to be about consumer electronics that will be released this year? This thing is neither, it's basically a big billboard from Panasonic saying "Our Dick is Bigger Than Sharp's Dick," and because we on the internet love pictures of over-the-top things, we shoot our loads all over it. Fuck the 150-inch TV.
6. Marketing Speak
The way people talk here is like 1984 if Big Brother was more interested in LCD TVs than suppressing the people. Is the Jook wireless streaming dongle really "revolutionary?" No, not even a little. Is it true that "There's a fine line between art and technology [and]it's called Opus, from LG"? No. That doesn't even make sense, and it offends me that you think I'd take such an idiotic statement seriously. You can't walk five feet on the show floor without hearing some horrible line of moronic marketing speak come out of the mouth of an overly perky 5-foot-tall PR girl in a pantsuit, and it makes me want to stab myself in the ears.
7. Designer Tasers
How are violent weapons with a sassy case one of the most buzzed about gadgets here? How are Tasers even considered gadgets? These things have clearly been erroneously put in the hands of cops and security guards everywhere who see them as a great alternative to handling situations verbally, and now we're supposed to give them to people who see leopard print as a pretty hip fashion choice? Commodifying serious violence isn't funny or cute, and just because you slap the shittiest MP3 player ever in a hip holster for a pink Taser doesn't make it a gadget I'd want to see people carrying around.
8. Knockoffs, Accessories and Other Cheap Crap
Half the stuff at this show is utter junk, created by money-obsessed vultures who would kick their own mothers in the teeth to figure out a way to trick consumers into paying a 5000% markup on something that nobody wants. It's booth after depressing booth of Wii weapons, Nano knockoffs, iPod accessories and any number of other things that are pumped out at alarming rates with no thought being put into innovation or usefulness. When you disregard the top, most visible 1%, pretty much every consumer electronics company eschews good engineering, good design and imagination for getting derivative garbage out to market as fast as possible. It's a marketplace overflowing with lazy ripoff artists, greasy-haired shysters just looking to make a quick buck with the least amount of effort possible. And that's not even mentioning the environmental impact of manufacturing thousands upon thousands of tons of plastic crap every year, a good chunk of which ends up in landfills.
9. MyVu Video Glasses
While marketing weasels love to talk about bringing people together with technology, a lot of the crap shown here at CES encourages just the opposite. Take the MyVu video glasses, for example. If the folks behind this stupid device had their way, we'd all be in our own little worlds all the time, unable to see anything but the video we're watching. Hell, all sorts of "innovations" promote the same thing: don't talk, text message. Don't hang out in real life, hang out in Second Life. Don't travel to the Grand Canyon with your family, check it out on the Travel Channel in HD. The way these things are headed, we'll all be plugged into our own private media centres all the time, with our only human interaction happening when we need to update our credit card info with the home office.
10. CES is Leaving Las Vegas
Apparently, CES might be leaving Las Vegas for greener pastures in the future. This makes me sad. Let me tell you my favourite part of Vegas. In our hotel, the Imperial Palace (the crown jewel of the strip), they have a Dealertainers Pit in its casino. The Dealertainers are celebrity impersonators that deal blackjack. They aren't the best or most accurate impersonators in the world (the J. Lo impersonator is Asian, for example), but they have heart. We befriended the Bette Midler Dealertainer last year, falling in love with her off-colour jokes and sassy demeanour. One of the first things I saw when checking in at the hotel this year? Ol' Bette, looking a whole lot older and a little bit less sassy. But she was here. And if I can't depend on seeing Bette, then what's the point of coming to CES in the first place?
[Photos 1, 2, 3 and 6 by Curtis Walker]