Side Views

CES: A vision of the future — Alvin Chong

January 15, 2013

JAN 15 — It celebrated its 46th birthday this year, having seen the birth of the video cassette recorder (VCR), the LaserDisc Player, the DVD, the Microsoft Xbox, and it has come to be known as the place where many ground-breaking technologies are unveiled. Owned and produced by the United States’ Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), it is the annual International CES — also known formerly as the Consumer Electronics Show. But in this age of the Internet, where people are getting up-to-the-minute updates in real time, some would argue the show has lost its shock-and-awe factor.

Firing the first salvo was Microsoft, when it announced in 2011 that last year would be the final time it will deliver its keynote address — a tradition spanning over a decade. Microsoft said the timing of CES just did not gel with its product release dates. That Tech titans such as Apple, Facebook and Google have chosen to hold their own lauded events without CES added fuel to the fire.

Walking the showfloor added to the gloom. The sprawling venue was lined with row after row of product cases for Apple’s devices in multiple halls, and previously announced products on the other — nothing to wow the mind. And then there are the token OEM makers showing off their latest version of the mobile battery charger.

However, to use that experience to sum up CES would be unfair. In the absence of Microsoft, companies like Qualcomm and Samsung have stepped up to show off their latest technologies, from new mobile chips to curved OLED screens — Microsoft Research also screened a video of its concept IllumiRoom, which projects images from the Xbox to fill the entire room.

Of course, there were other innovations such as the tablet that feels and behaves as if it is made of paper, and Chinese appliance maker Haier attempted to bring mind control to TV viewing. And in one of the satellite exhibitions in the Venetian, companies like Lego showed off cool, geeky gadgets.

I may have been blinded by a billion crystal-encrusted iPhone cases, but spending my time to really browse showed that there are a lot more diamonds shining through.

Perhaps the biggest gem this year is the Razer Edge gaming tablet, which won Best of Show People’s Voice Award at CES — gaming company Razer’s third in a row — as well as the actual Best of Show Award. For Razer CEO Tan Min-Liang, CES represents not just a platform to meet partners, but it is also where they get their validation.

“It’s great validation in the sense that the best tech companies in the world are all here ... And to be nominated year after year is kind of a testament to the kind of talent our team has,” said Tan.

“I think Microsoft is here in spirit, in a huge amount — we’re running Windows 8 (on the Razer Edge), for example — and (CES) is bigger than ever, there are more attendees than ever, and it’s exciting. I see Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gatecrashed (Qualcomm CEO) Paul Jacob’s keynote. It’s a great show, and the top companies are here so it’s exciting,” said Tan.

The attendance numbers for CES this year have not been released but the crowded aisles — despite larger floor space and the online response — is testament to how it still has the power to excite.

From quirky tech (a fork that tells you if you’re eating too fast) to future-tech (the Nvidia Project Shield mobile gaming device), CES is still the place to claim — as the show does — that you saw the future here first. — Today

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.