CES 2012: another manic show

16 Jan

Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee is mobbed by reporters.

It was whirlwind madness as usual at the Consumer Electronics Show last week. No matter how much I prepare in advance, it never seems to be enough. The event ends up being one long, exhausting frantic dash from one place to another regardless.

On top of it all, this year I contracted a nasty chest cold, which made the last few days of the show even more challenging. I’m spending the next couple of days recuperating, with a short vacation to Cuba over the weekend. In the meantime, I thought it would be neat to look back at some of the stuff I saw.

I ended up covering CES for two outlets. I looked at many of the bigger trends for my old employer, the CBC, and blogged about some of the odder curiosities for New Scientist magazine. Between the two, I talked to a huge breadth of people and companies.

For starters, I did a couple of preview stories before the event kicked off. There was the “death of the remote control,” which looked at how this year’s show was going to be big with alternative interfaces such as motion and voice control. That was indeed the case, with companies big and small unveiling such interfaces. I followed up on the trend with CBC’s Spark radio program, wherein host Nora Young and I discussed how these interfaces impressed and also disappointed.

Another preview story looked at which gadgets Canadians really care about. (By the numbers, it breaks down to smartphones, tablets, TVs and car technology.)

Working for the national broadcaster naturally meant I focused quite a bit on Canadian companies. I talked to Research In Motion’s head of developer relations, Alec Saunders, about BlackBerry’s plans for 2012, as well as a number of smaller Canadian firms about what CES means for them. I also spoke with some big international companies, such as Samsung, about their strategies in Canada. Last but not least, I chatted with Aaron Flynn, the general manager of BioWare Edmonton and Montreal, about the studio’s upcoming Mass Effect 3 video game. That story will be running on on Wednesday.

Some of the smaller-picture stuff was also quite interesting. There seems to be a big move afoot to waterproof all those gadgets out there, as well as to connect home appliances such as washing machines to what electronics companies are calling the “smart home.” One of the more fun posts I did for New Scientist looked at high-tech bathroom scales and whether they’ll be effective in helping people lose weight. There was also the quick update on IPv6, which I found to be a rather unusual but incredibly important topic to run across at the show.

Broadband issues also perk my interest, so I spoke to U.S. satellite internet provider ViaSat about its new services. The company announced a new 12-megabit-per-second service at CES – not only is the speed surprising, so is the price tag: only $50 a month. I’ll doubtlessly be looking more at this development in the coming weeks, since even Vint Cerf was into it.

Overall, I couldn’t help but be struck by how covering events like this has changed over just the past few years. At my first CES, in 2007, I wrote a few stories and that was it. This time around, writing was only one small portion of my coverage: tweets, photos and videos may actually have comprised the bulk of it. Although I’m certainly no production expert, I had fun putting together videos such as a discussion about Samsung’s OLED TVs and Sony’s Google TV for Canada. For kicks, I even put up videos of Kelly Clarkson’s and Will Smith’s appearances at the Sony press conference.

Overall, it was a crazy week. I’m going to catch my breath and get over this cold before I think about what it all meant.

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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in CES


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