CES 2013: Highlights, Tips, and Other Memorable Moments

Thanks to our wonderful partners at Intel, I just came back from Las Vegas where I attended the 2013 International CES (short for Consumer Electronics Show) to check out the world’s latest and greatest tech toys made for consumers like you and me. I wanted to share my top 10 CES Do’s & Don’ts, including some highlights even collegiettes who couldn’t care less about technology shouldn’t miss, some tips for those of you who might find yourself at a future CES, and some recaps of the more notorious moments that made up CES 2013. Enjoy!

The packed Intel booth at CES

10. DON’T pack your heels

Unless you’re going to be partying it up at one of CES’s closing parties (read: nerds hilariously trying to pick you up with lines related to their companies’ tech – there is a story, but don’t ask), leave the heels at home! Walking around the 1.9 million square feet of exhibition space at CES is going to require some serious thinking around which of your shoes is going to give you the best comfort and support while not cramping your professional chic style. I opted for a pair of velvet Cole Haan x Nike Air loafers – perfect!

9. DO plan out your agenda (but DON’T load up on the printed literature)

The walls at CES are always lined with a dozen or so pamphlets, maps, and other literature introducing all the vendors, giving detailed info about shuttle services, and so on and so forth. Don’t be tempted by the pretty printed materials! They weigh a ton (which doesn’t help your comfort situation – see #1 above) and most of the contents are unnecessary. Instead, hop on to the official CES website and use the MyCES planner tool to check out the vendor descriptions and print out the relevant single-sheet maps. Way less clutter and way more efficient!

8. DO leave room for serendipity and discovery

If I could sum up CES in one gross overgeneralization, I’d call it a giant show-and-tell of more flashy TV’s than you will ever see anywhere in the rest of your lifetime. Overstimulated by the endless booths boasting thinner screens, higher resolutions, and wider displays, I walked down one quiet aisle and found myself faced with a trailer of the film Conan playing in 3D on an HD TV, but with no 3D glasses in sight. This was a glasses-free 3D TV experience: definitely mesmerizing and worth my time but not something I would have flagged on my agenda. Leave some time for serendipitous discovery, and keep your eyes open as you wander around CES!

7. DO learn a thing or two about effective marketing from the uber interactive booth designs…

Booth after booth caught my eye with super flashy, interactive displays. At Canon, ballroom dancers whirled and twirled endlessly in front of a counter topped with a plethora of digital cameras, demonstrating the cameras’ quick shutter speed. At USPS, a free-throw contest drew a crowd of young men wanting to win a free basketball. At the New York Times booth, a cool app made a word cloud portrait of yourself out of keywords from your favorite NYT article headlines. Gibson passed out yellow buttons declaring “I <3 Gibson” – if you wore it prominently and were tapped on the shoulder by a secret roaming Gibson rep, you won a free guitar! Eye-catching interactivity is really just the ante to the game when you’re competing with thousands of other exhibitors for attention.

6. …but come on guys, DO keep it classy

Sadly, many exhibitors took the “eye-catching” mandate way beyond appropriate levels. Over and over again I was frustrated and disgusted at the many examples of “booth babes” manning exhibits and serving as visual bait for bored CES-goers looking for something to catch their attention. I saw dancers wearing no more than a corset and thong perform synchronized high kicks and other provocative moves at one otherwise nondescript booth. Even worse, one booth featured four completely naked women save for underwear and tape over their nipples, completely covered in body paint and standing motionless several feet above the crowd. What was the point? Or take the booth pictured below, to which I was initially attracted due to its colorful design. I was disappointed to find the reps were all body con-clad models (read: not actually employed by the company) who had no idea how to answer my very basic questions about the products on display. The only answer I ever got was, “I don’t know…?” Come on, exhibitors. You should be better than this.

5. DON’T pay extra for travel unnecessarily, but DO know when to spend smart

It’s always important to stay savvy with your spending, and CES is a great place to put this into practice. With tons of transportation options available, know when you should and should not spend a little extra for convenience’s sake. Traveling between the airport and hotel is cheap and convenient with the several shuttle services available ($14.50 roundtrip). Getting from hotel to the main convention center is best accomplished via the free and speedy CES shuttle. The line always looks massively long but is never more than a few minutes’ wait thanks to the constant supply of shuttles. Meanwhile, getting anywhere else not on the main CES shuttle route is definitely worth the extra cost of a cab. Be prepared to wait for a while, but pass the time with conversation in the taxi stand line. If you can, try to find other attendees trying to get to the same place as you and split the cost.

4. Highlight: DO get a really unique iPhone accessory

Seriously, there was an entire exhibition hall at CES devoted to Apple accessories, most of which were iPhone cases. I saw all sorts of cute, creative, and plain crazy designs. Some were completely blinged out with hundreds of Swarovski crystals, some featured brightly dyed Brazilian leather and fur, some were laser-cut from a single piece of wood, and some had built-in stands in the form of a tongue that would stick out and form an ad hoc stand – no thank you to that last one! My takeaway: one should never settle for a plain phone case when there are so, so, so many options out there!

3. DO try a demo or two – they’re the whole point of CES!

Advances in perceptual computing technology (the ability for our devices to “sense” via visual, audio, and touch cues from us) was one of the topics covered in Intel’s press announcement which I definitely wanted to check out at their booth. One of the demos showed how a 3D camera attached to an Ultrabook could perceive incredibly fine subtleties in movement, even capturing the individual gestures of ten fingers at once -- see below (previously, cameras used for interactive gaming experiences could only recognize your entire hand as a single rough nub). After his spiel, I wanted to give the game a try! Though I came away realizing I need to really work on my virtual ball-handling skills, I also left with a huge grin on my face after having so much fun interacting with the challenging game myself. At another booth, I played Bejeweled on a gigantic screen, which was incredibly satisfying! I highly recommend not just sitting back and passively taking in all the information that’s presented at CES. The exhibitors take a lot of time preparing demos that show off the coolest aspects of their work. Take them for a spin!

2. DO realize that traditional computing as we know it is gone baby gone!

As I discussed at length in my article about the new breed of Intel-inspired Ultrabooks, 2013 will be a huge year for Ultrabooks with new convertible, detachable, and touch-friendly features. The advancements in chip technology that make Ultrabook convertibles possible are also powering a wide array of other flexible computing options, like all-in-one PC’s that can function as both desktop computers and as tablets that lay flat on a table for an interactive group experience. In a demo, Intel folks showed a group of friends gathered around an all-in-one flat on a table and playing poker on the surface of the device, while using smartphones that had been synced to it to hold cards in their hand. Cool stuff!

1. DON’T worry about fitting everything in; DO trust you’ll be able to read about the coolest things you missed later

As I was only on the actual CES floor for one full day, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see everything I wanted and catch all the craziest unveilings (for example, I kicked myself for missing the bendable Samsung phone that wowed audiences, and the hilariously bizarre Qualcomm keynote that made headlines). But the truth is, no one can; there’s simply too much to see and not enough time. At the end of the day, you’ll miss some things but discover other gems no one was expecting. Don’t sweat! If it’s at CES, we’ll probably see it in stores tomorrow.