What to expect at CES 2023 • TechCrunch

take deep Hold your breath as I write these words: Next week, TechCrunch returns to our first in-person CES in three years.

Pooh. It feels good to finally get it out of my chest.

The last time our team flew to Las Vegas for an event was January 2020. This is an auspicious day. Before long, the whole world will be pear-shaped. It was a massive show with 117,000 people in attendance, according to the CTA (Consumer Technology Association). The event’s governing body wants you not to call it the Consumer Electronics Show, but it’s become a massive event in recent decades.

Trying to watch the entire show is futile. In my younger, more hopeful days, I saw as much of it as I could, running well in every official hall. That has become less and less likely over the years as the show has grown far beyond the confines of the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Venetian Convention Center (RIP the Sands), countless hotel suites and a variety of official and unofficial event spaces surround the Las Vegas Strip.

Like countless other live event producers, the past three years have presented CTA with an existential crisis. After lengthy delays, the organization had to finally admit that an in-person CES 2021 was a terrible idea for all parties, and the move to a virtual event was understandably difficult. Last year, the show coincided with the surge of omicrons, and outlets like TechCrunch decided to launch it. A new, highly contagious strain, plus holiday travel is too far a bridge.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 5: The world's largest annual consumer technology trade show CES opens to visitors at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 5, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA door.  (Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

CES, the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show, will open its doors to visitors on January 5, 2022 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Image credits: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last year’s numbers dropped significantly. The CTA pegs the event’s attendance at “well over 40,000” (the generally accepted figure is 44,000), a 75% drop from 2020. It was a notable drop, but I think breaking 40,000 was a triumph of sorts, given everything that was going on at the time. The CTA says it’s on track to hit 100,000 this year — and given the absence of another prominent COVID-19 variant, it seems like there will be a sizeable jump from at least 2022 onwards.

I’m probably not alone in suspecting that CTAs don’t want people to feel too comfortable with virtual events in 2021. Long before COVID, there was a long-standing question about the efficacy of in-person tech events. CES and other hardware shows have an edge in this debate, focusing on products that would benefit from seeing it with your own eyes. That said, the past two years have proven that it’s really good to cover the show from your living room.

However, we’ve moved beyond discussions about the “new normal” (honestly, when was the last time you heard that term seriously?). The new normal happens when we’re not paying attention. The new normal is that the virus doesn’t exist because we say it doesn’t exist. I got it three times, including one for a trade show in Las Vegas? um, yes. Do I realize that being on a show that claims to draw 100,000 viewers means there is a reasonable expectation that I can stare at a fourth time in mid-January? Absolutely. CES COVID protocols are here. All in all, vaccinations, tests and masks are not required, but you can if you want to. At this point, it’s pretty much the norm everywhere.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 5: Attendees walk through the corridors of the Las Vegas Convention Center during Day 1 of CES 2022 on January 5, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  CES, the world's largest annual consumer technology trade show, will be held in person until Jan. 7, and some companies have decided to attend virtually or cancel their attendance amid fears of a spike in COVID-19 cases.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Attendees walk through the hallways of the Las Vegas Convention Center on the first day of CES 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 5, 2022. CES is the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show. Image credits: Alex Wang/Getty Images

Is it still worth going? I think so. I mean, I’m going. Other TC staff will also be there. We’ve reduced our presence over the past few years and I think that’s going to be the case going forward. Given the amount of CES news delivered through press releases and the fact that nearly every press conference is streamed, the right way to cover an event like this is to be smaller and more strategic.

It’s not just a product of this new endemic virus. Overall, this is a product of the changing media landscape. For all my personal questions about the event, I really miss the days of pure, unabridged blogging, when there was still money being poured into the format, before everything turned into a paywall. Shows like this are valuable, but at least for TechCrunch, it’s about getting the right conferences and finding people working on cool things. That’s harder than it sounds, coming back to 1,600 unread emails after a few weeks off. We made this list and I plan to go through it twice before boarding the plane next week.

Stellantis Automaker Software

Image credits: Dennis Chalet/AFP/Getty Images

Even before these particular circumstances, CES has had several crises of confidence. The numbers have ebbed and flowed over the years, and so has the nature of these things. One of the smartest things CTA has done in the past few years is to lean on the automotive side. What started as an embrace of high-tech in-car systems has now seen a significant expansion. It’s as if CES turned into a car show when none of us were paying attention.

One of the keys to this show is timing. Much to the chagrin of everyone trying to enjoy some vacation time over the holidays, it’s being positioned as the first show of the year to try and set the pace for the remaining 11.5 months. CES technically starts on January 5th, but the press conference is two days earlier. This year, I’ll be flying out on 2 just to make sure our base is covered. For several years I flew here on number one. Let’s just say I’m glad I quit drinking a few years ago.

By positioning the show early in the year, it’s months ahead of the big auto shows in Chicago, Atlanta and New York. A technology angle means we can get a good look at many electric vehicles and autonomous driving systems, as well as electric VTOL and micromobility. Expect some big news, including keynotes from BMW and Stellantis. Chipmakers like Qualcomm and AMD also always have a lot on the automotive side of things at the show.

Hyundai CES 2022 Plug and Play Drive

Image credits: modern

Hyundai will also shine at the show, walking between cars, mobility and robotics. In fact, judging from my stuffed inbox, it’s going to be a bumper year for robotics, with the emergence of key industrial startups in a variety of different categories, from consumer to. Robotics is always a thorny issue at CES. Big corporations love to show off flashy robots that never go anywhere (believe it or not, the recent Sony Aibo is a relative success story), and there will be plenty of crap robot toys out there. But the show is still a great place to get an up-close look at some legitimate breakthroughs. Stay tuned to next week’s Actuator for a full breakdown.

My inbox is also full of web3 and encryption pitches, though I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve written on the topic in my 6+ years at TechCrunch. Saying the industry is struggling in 2022 is like saying Elon is “still feeling his way” as Twitter’s CEO. Believers still believe their method is a panacea for all problems plaguing humanity. Expect it to permeate every aspect of the show, including, somewhat ironically, the climate.

I’d love to see sustainability being a major talking point at CES. Apparently there’s an area in the North Hall of the convention center. There were mainly climate companies at the show, but I certainly was never overwhelmed by them. Hopefully this year is the year that starts to turn around. Ditto for accessibility. I’ve heard several companies focus on this at the show, but it’s another thing that really needs to be at the forefront.

Remote Control/Smart Home Image credits: Erhui1979/Getty Images

A lot has been written about Amazon’s Alexa struggles lately. It’s safe to say that the smart home market isn’t going the way everyone planned. However, I do expect a lot of media coverage at CES with Matter behind it. Backed by the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google, the standard has really started to catch on over the past few months. If all goes according to plan, this year’s CES will be a big moment, as various categories of connected home devices will be fully displayed.

Meta Quest Pro

Image credits: Yuan

AR/VR – Yes, I say that every year. Yes, compared to the smart home, the smart home hasn’t been out of the woods like many had hoped. The recent debuts of Meta’s Quest Pro and HTC’s Vive tease will anchor big VR news. AR may become even more ubiquitous. Augmented reality is more like the Wild West than virtual reality. There are a ton of hardware makers vying for a spot in your face right now. Traditionally, CES hasn’t been very focused on gaming, but Sony does tend to make that the centerpiece of its own press conferences, and we’ll likely have a face-to-face meeting with PlayStation VR.

Wearables should get some love at the show. Oura’s success fueled the development of ring products. We’ve written a pre-show announcement for Movano. These days, big companies like Google, Samsung, and Apple mostly unveil their gadgets at their own events, but CES provides a chance for some smaller companies to grab attention. I expect companies like Withings to focus more on health metrics monitoring. Driven by the initial pandemic, connected home fitness remains a key trend to watch.

Image credits: oura

As ever, phone calls are mostly out of the question here. Mobile World Congress is where magic happens. Otherwise, expect a handful of announcements from hardware companies like Lenovo and Sony, which have little presence in the North American market. However, this has traditionally been the big show for the PC. Dell, Asus, and Lenovo all have a big presence, while AMD and Nvidia may offer some big news about the chips powering these systems.

We haven’t covered them much, but in every way, CES is big for TVs, too. LG, Samsung, Sony, and TCL may have the latest, greatest, and greatest. QD-OLED and MLA OLED are magic words – letters I guess.

Press days are January 3 and 4, and the CES showrooms will officially open on January 5. Plan accordingly.

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch

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