The massive CES technology show will go on this week in Las Vegas but the annual summit, like many other recent events, is being hindered by COVID-19.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which runs the CES, had planned for a hybrid event to run Jan. 5-8, with some events in-person and others virtually. That’s a step forward from last year’s CES, which was conducted completely online during the coronavirus shutdown as vaccines were just being deployed.
However, in the days leading up to this year’s conference some big name exhibitors have bowed out. And some media outlets have canceled plans to cover CES in person.
That has led CTA to shorten the event by one day, closing the CES after Jan. 7. “We are shortening the show to three days and have put in place comprehensive health measures for the safety of all attendees and participants,” CTA president and CEO Gary Shapiro said in a statement Dec. 31.
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In addition to concerns about the omicron variant-fueled surge, CES exhibitors face other issues including global supply chain issues and cargo backup at ports, both factors that could prevent timely arrival of new products. “There are issues at every show, and this show there’s more of them,” Shapiro told USA TODAY.
However, he notes that because of supply chain issues, business relationships have become even more vital. “Every CEO will say the same thing, face-to-face relationships are so important, and you know, that’s what COVID has taught us,” Shapiro said.
In talking with operators of other recent conferences, “what they’re seeing is lower attendance, but a higher quality and that’s what we’re seeing as well,” he said.
More than 2,200 companies are expected to exhibit in person at CES, the CTA says. In the last pre-COVID CES, about 4,400 companies exhibited at the gathering.
But those wanting to attend remotely will be able to stream more than 40 conference sessions and events including Tuesday night’s keynote address by Samsung Electronics CEO and vice chairman Jong Hee Han (you can watch on Samsung’s website.
General Motors CEO and chairman Mary Barra’s Wednesday keynote will also be streamed. She is expected to unveil the new electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup. GM is among companies that canceled onsite participation at CES; others included Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Panasonic and T-Mobile.
Among the precautions being taken at CES: All attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination to get their attendance badge, and will also get a free Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNow COVID-19 self-test. (Abbott CEO and chairman Robert Ford will deliver a Thursday keynote.)
Masks are required at the show and when using official transportation. Tests will also be conducted at venues and attendees can get a test before their return trip home. The show has improved ventilation and expanded its area, widening aisles to allow for social distancing, the CTA said.
CES 2022 connects to the metaverse
You’ve been hearing a lot about the metaverse in recent weeks and it’s too bad we don’t have a fully operational metaverse through which CES could be conducted. Regardless, the topic will be front and center at CES and even though the reality of an all-encompassing persistent online virtual world isn’t here yet, we will see more signs of its evolution.
Samsung will let consumers step into its metaverse, by decorating a virtual home with its new home appliances and products in “My House,” an online experience hosted on South Korean’s virtual world Zepeto. “My House provides users with a chance to become familiar with Samsung’s products and experiences ways to improve and customize their homes,” Yungwoong Kwon, manager of Samsung Electronics’ global marketing center, said.
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Owo, a tech company in Malaga, Spain, will be showing off a wireless wearable vest that could connect you physically to the metaverse – and make you feel as if you are catching a ball, getting hit or hugged. The vest, currently being tested with video games, uses haptic technology to deliver vibrations that simulate more than 30 different sensations your online avatar may be experiencing.
CES 2022 is almost here! We are more than excited to show you what #OWOGame is capable of, and learn more about new technologies coming up in the sector.
Who else’s going to be there? ? pic.twitter.com/DpoqX35HuH
— OWO Game | #FeelTheGame ? (@owogameofficial) December 22, 2021
“I expect to see several augmented reality and virtual reality metaverse concepts, since everyone is trying hard to figure it out, ” said Shelly Palmer, who is the professor of advanced media in residence at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is well-known for his exclusive executive tech briefings and floor tours at CES but this year, due to COVID, will stream an online-only Innovation Series Summit live Wednesday at 11 a.m.ET/8 a.m. PT on shellypalmer.com/live.
COVID has slowed, but won’t stop CES, Palmer said. “CES is by far the biggest and most important (technology show),” he said. “I don’t think this does anything except reflect the times we live in. There’s always a need for people to get together, to go hang out and have a beer. I don’t think that this response to COVID is any indication of what the future is going to be.”
Other metaverse-related tech expected at CES:
•Virtual makeup chair. Turkey and U.S.-headquartered startup PulpoAR will demonstrate its augmented reality-powered shopping technology, which lets consumers test lipstick, eyeliner and other makeup before purchasing online. “We will be on the stage with our groundbreaking projects in this field and our focus on Metabeauty,” CEO Onur Candan said in a video on Twitter.
•Live VR concerts. South Korean tech company Asimula joins the competition seeking to bring live and virtual concerts to the metaverse using smartphones and virtual reality headsets.
•Super-smart glasses. Workers wearing the Vuzix Shield augmented reality safety glasses can get and send data and video via this Android OS-powered eyewear. The Rochester, N.Y. company is also a CES Innovations Award winner and recently agreed with Verizon to make glasses that deliver AR-enhanced sports and games via 5G.
NFTs and … Paris Hilton?
Another hyped tech trend, NFTs, which is short for non-fungible tokens, will be discussed at CES. Among those participating: socialite Paris Hilton, who has invested in NFTs and digital art and released her own NFTs.
She will be part of a Wednesday panel discussion that also includes Roham Gharegozlou, CEO of Dapper Labs, the company behind the popular NBA Top Shot NFTs, digital video collectibles with a digital certificate of ownership secured by blockchain technology.
Hilton released her first NFTs in 2020 and has been “obsessed with NFTs and the never-ending possibilities of this technology ever since,” she told Bloomberg News recently. “NFTs are the future for creators, creatives and collectors, and this is just the beginning.”
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In honor of my Grandma, I’m so grateful to have included her memory in my first #NFT exhibition with the piece “Hummingbird In My Metaverse.” ??Today is her birthday, I miss her so much.? She was such a force in my life. Thank you @BlakeKathryn for helping me create this piece pic.twitter.com/7XZZU0QzMr
— ParisHilton.eth (@ParisHilton) April 18, 2021
Down on the farm: A self-driving tractor and robots
The evolution of autonomous or self-driving cars has been on display for years at CES. But this year, self-driving technology gets a twist with John Deere teasing the possibility of a self-driving tractor. Ahead of the trade show, John Deere had also been awarded a CES Innovation award for its See & Spray robot, which uses machine learning and computer vision to more precisely spray herbicide on weeds and not plants.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.