CES gadget gala looks to shake off economic gloom

Las Vegas' premier consumer electronics trade show CES expects more than 100,000 people as it tries to regain momentum

More than 100,000 people are expected at the premier consumer electronics trade show CES in Las Vegas as it tries to regain momentum after two years of a pandemic of unsettling real-world gatherings.

The annual CES consumer electronics show opens in Las Vegas on Thursday, with the industry eyeing the latest innovations to help heal the pain from the ailing global economy.

High inflation, lingering supply chain problems and layoffs at tech companies provide a dark backdrop for the premier tech trade show, which is expected to draw more than 100,000 attendees from around the world through Sunday.

Consumer Technology Association research director Steve Koenig reminded CES attendees of previous innovations from smartphones to high-speed Internet that rose to success after the “last great economic downturn” more than a decade ago.

“This time, I think the strong new waves of technological change that will really correct inflation and restore global GDP growth will come from businesses,” Koenig said during a presentation by the CTA, which runs CES.

According to Koenig, this will include robotics to make workplaces more efficient, virtual reality in the workplace, and automated vehicles like tractors that tend to work farmland without drivers on board.

Technology, through increased productivity, “is a deflationary force in the global economy,” emphasized Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the CTA.

Houses and cars

Stretching from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the ballrooms of a number of hotels on the famed Sin City strip, CES will have televisions, electric roller skates, autopilot baby strollers and more aimed at wowing viewers.

While major TV makers including LG, Samsung and TCL will have stunning displays, “gone are the days” when CES was all about TVs, laptops and gadgets, according to Forrester Principal Analyst Thomas Husson.

“Now that technological innovation and software are embedded everywhere, expect many brands to showcase innovations in electric vehicles, robotics and integrated artificial intelligence,” Husson said.

Samsung Electronics' Bespoke Home appliances unveiled at CES in Las Vegas are part of a trend towards home appliances.

Unveiled at CES in Las Vegas, Samsung Electronics’ Bespoke Home appliances are part of a trend towards home devices that are designed to be more collaborative and independent and make life easier.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s no doubt that we’ll continue to see a lot of robotic toys and gadgets.”

But CES is increasingly becoming a showcase for electric vehicles (EVs), which are becoming internet-connected computers on wheels, analysts say.

“In addition to electric cars, recent US laws such as the Inflationary Reduction Act (IRA) will drive more interest in sustainability innovation,” said Husson.

That was a reference to the US government’s recently approved IRA, which is set to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into green technology and other climate-friendly projects.

“This is definitely the area where the most disruptive innovations can be expected – although I fear too few will be announced (at CES).”

Ongoing COVID

While CES organizers say the show’s attendance is taking “another step toward returning to normal pre-pandemic levels,” the effect of COVID remains.

CES, like many trade shows, went completely virtual in 2021, and last year the real world mixed with online events that drew crowds to Las Vegas.

TV and appliance makers, as well as startups at the forefront of artificial intelligence, returned to CES this cycle, with Meta letting people try out its latest virtual reality gear and Google showing off its own smart home offerings.

South Korean giant Samsung has unveiled a new range of TVs along with kitchen appliances packed with artificial intelligence to work with other connected devices and online platforms.

A large-screen TV that boasts a completely wireless connection was part of a line-up showcased at the show by South Korea's LG

A large-screen TV that boasts a completely wireless connection was part of a line-up showcased by South Korea’s LG at the CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

LG Electronics has introduced an OLED TV, which it is promoting as the first wireless TV with voice control for the consumer market.

“The M3 comes with a standalone Zero Connect box that wirelessly sends video and audio signals to LG’s cinematic 97-inch screen,” the company said.

Tight budgets

Amidst the economic gloom, companies at CES looking to woo consumers will need to make sure prices appeal to people struggling with inflation and perhaps a little weary of life online during the pandemic.

The CTA estimates that spending on consumer electronics and services in the United States will fall to $485 billion this year, down from a record $512 billion in 2021.

Although “the looming recession and inflation will weigh on household budgets,” revenue from the tech industry is expected to remain higher than before the pandemic, according to the association.

Many tech firms have thrived and hired in droves during the pandemic. As lifestyles began to return to normal, these firms began laying off staff and tightening budgets.

On Wednesday, online retail giant Amazon announced it would cut more than 18,000 jobs, the biggest layoff in its history. It also hired at a rapid pace during the pandemic.

Koenig said economic conditions are masking an ongoing shortage of skilled workers.

© 2023 AFP

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