CES diary: Scenes from the show floor

CES diary: Scenes from the show floor

CES is essentially its own suburb of Las Vegas for the week or so it's in town

CES, as you may have read in this very publication, is big. Like, really, really big. The Las Vegas Convention Center has 3.2 million square feet of floor space, of which CES this year used about two thirds, and it's easy to get genuinely lost in the vastness of the main halls.

It's not my first time at CES that was last year, as you can read in this somewhat fanciful piece I wrote at the time so I'm considerably less star struck, and therefore able to give you a better insight into what it's like on the show floor.

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Of course, given that, as I mentioned, CES is essentially its own suburb of Las Vegas for the week or so it's in town, I'd probably have to write a book to give a complete overview. There are 3,200 individual exhibitors, whose booths range from cavernous, glitzy stage sets full of Lamborghinis to miniscule little stands with plain-lettered signs proclaiming the attendance of the Shenzhen something-or-other-company. (There are lots of these.) Here instead, are a few highlights from the floor on opening day.

*The Lamborghini

One of the gaudier publicity stunts at this year's CES is audio giant Monster's inclusion of a $4.5 million Lamborghini Venona, modified with a custom-built Monster sound system, in its exhibit. The sound system apparently cost $50,000, which I guess shouldn't faze you if you're in the market for a $4.5 million car that you're probably not cool enough to drive anyway.

The system, along with ludicrous trimmings like subwoofers in the footwells, includes an Android-powered control touchscreen, according to Pocket-Lint. That's in keeping with one of the big narratives of this year's show, which is the twin rise of automotive and "Internet of things"-type technology.

*Lots of weird fake cars

Also in the automotive section, there were lots of technology demonstrators that required the general suggestion of a car shape, but didn't require an actual car. Hence, you got plenty of mock-ups like this one, which lended a further level of futuristic surrealism to the show floor. This, for the record, is a mock-up of Pioneer's NEX navigation and car control system.

The phenomenon was particularly common among car stereo makers, though there were also plenty who took the opportunity to show off well-appointed real vehicles. Nobody else brought a Lamborghini, though, so Monster can rest easy.

*A little robot that cleans your grill

If I'm honest, this is something I've done maybe once in my life, which may explain why I don't grill that much anymore. Still, let me just say that if I did have a grill-cleaning robot, rest assured my grill would be among the cleanest in all Massachusetts. Heck, I probably wouldn't cook food any other way. I'd have to figure out some new pasta recipes, that's for sure, but I would make it work.

The Grillbot, as it is known, looks and behaves sort of like the hyperactive child of some long-suffering Roomba couple, skittering around the surface and using its brass or stainless-steel brushes to grind away grime with an erratic aggression in stark contrast to its more deliberate parentage. (N.B. this is just my flight of fancy, the products are, as far as I know, unrelated.) At $120, it's a lot more expensive than most things you'll use to clean a grill, but also a lot more entertaining.

*Vinyl? Really?

CES 2014 features a car that can park itself in a garage, thanks to Audi. It's got gargantuan, mega-high-def curved TVs, thanks to Samsung and LG. It's got inventive new smartphones and slick gaming gear and virtual reality headsets.

And, thanks to the nice folks at VOXX International, CES 2014 features honest-to-anything vinyl record players. Fits right in there, like Wilford Brimley at a rave. Nor are these the sorts of turntables that DJs are using at said raves these are regular old three-speed record players, the sort that your mother listened to Brahms on.

Say what you will about the merits of vinyl recordings the devotees are still out there, and there's obviously something to be said for a purely analog method of sound reproduction (how's that for a lossless format!) but it's nonetheless a little surprising to see something so comparatively archaic amid a sea of the latest and greatest. It's even a little comforting.

*Michael Bay blowing a tire on stage and eventually just wandering off

OK, this is neither from the first day of the (official) show, nor was I in attendance, but frankly it had to be highlighted once again, in case you hadn't seen it already. Michael Bay, during a presentation hyping a characteristically feature-stuffed new TV from Samsung, lost the teleprompter and appeared to become highly anxious, fluffing his lines and abruptly leaving the stage.

Obviously, my sympathy is with Mr. Bay I'm a nervous person myself, and can only imagine how spectacular my own crack-up might be in a similar situation. Nevertheless, it does seem amusingly appropriate for the director of, well, Michael Bay's movies to have turned in a performance so readily described as a bomb.

Email Jon Gold at and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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