The annual consumer electronics show, CES in Las Vegas, opens Wednesday to attendees who haven’t canceled their stay despite the pandemic, in the hopes of getting back to business.
“The tech community applauds and applauds our efforts to maintain a safe environment so that business can continue,” Steve Koenig, vice president of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which organizes the event, told AFP.
Last year it took place only on the internet. In 2020, around 4,500 exhibitors came to Nevada to present their robots, cars, televisions and connected devices inflated with artificial intelligence. They will be half less for this edition.
Large companies (Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, BMW, General Motors …) were the first to withdraw or reduce their presence.
In front of the convention center, the huge space usually occupied by the Google tent remained empty, as were many stands during the previews reserved for the press.
“Despite the highly publicized withdrawals of some exhibitors, we have more than 2,200 (…) and all are counting on us to move forward. Because these companies need investors and partners”, insisted Steve Koenig.
– Tech wants people … –
Omicron now accounts for 95% of new infections in the United States, according to health authorities. Participants must provide proof that they are vaccinated, and wear a mask, but there are no mandatory tests.
“We are worried about the increase in cases, but hey, we are vaccinated, and we also had the booster,” said Bhavya Gohil, boss of the start-up Square Off, who considers the measures sufficient.
He is disappointed with the many withdrawals, but has not considered canceling himself. “We had already invested a lot of money for the stand, so we really had to come. All the contracts that we get thanks to CES … It’s very important.”
The show is held in a hybrid format, in person but also online, thanks to software designed by the Web Summit, a European technology fair.
“The advantage of online conferences is that you can meet more people, in an efficient way. There are no trips, no noise, no distractions”, notes Paddy Cosgrave, the owner and founder of the Web Summit. “But personally I do not believe that we manage to replicate the quality of human-to-human interactions. This is undoubtedly why there is a strong appetite for going back to face-to-face”.
– … but also virtual –
On the menu for the 2022 edition, transport, increasingly electric and autonomous, is popular. Space-related technologies are making a remarkable entrance, after a year that has dedicated space tourism, and the booming development of satellite Internet.
Innovations in sustainable development and connected health, strong trends for years, are also taking up a lot of space.
And the metaverse is on everyone’s lips, although its definition is still unclear at this point. The concept designates the emergence of parallel universes connected to each other, to which humans will access via augmented and virtual reality equipment.
Born from science fiction, it has been all the rage since Facebook announced colossal investments in this area and rebranded itself as Meta.
But for now, the industry is focused on more immediate challenges, like global chip shortages and lead times, which are delaying new product launches.
Thanks to the pandemic and health restrictions, the technology industry has experienced substantial growth in the United States, by 7% in 2020 and almost 10% in 2021, according to the CTA. In 2022, it should experience a more moderate increase, of 2.8%, but it will still represent some 500 billion dollars.