CES 2013: Amazing spectacles and awkward moments

No, CES is not a simple exposition of electronics wares. It is a visual overload of high-tech pageantry and stupid human tricks.

Did that just happen?

LAS VEGAS— Erase all misconceptions. CES isn't just a sprawling exposition of electronic wares. It's a three-ring circus of shock and awe, of surprise and delight. Exhibitors pony up major coin for booth space, and once that ante has been tossed, they need to attract eyeballs with something, anything, that stands out among the visual noise.

Nikon gave us colorful ballroom dancers with swirling tassels and unseemly hips thrusts. Take a photo and observe the speed of Nikon's image sensor! This spectacle and many more show us that CES will never run out of methods to jump the show booth shark.

And, yes, some CES happenings are downright awkward...

Thank you, sir, for demonstrating first-class slumber

For some inexplicable reason, Panasonic devoted a few square feet of booth space to show off Singapore Airlines' first-class cabin pod. The technology to focus on? I was told the seat is the hardware innovation in this particular tableau. Our friend in the recliner certainly seems satisfied. But now it's time to wake up, sir. You have more CES ahead.

Ultrabook flower power

Intel wins my personal award for Best CES Light Show Spectacle. That award usually goes to Samsung, which every year finds a new, creative way to arrange a veritable art installation of flat-screen TVs.

But in 2013 I must give props to Intel for this blooming flower of Ultrabooks. Yep, each block of light is a partner machine, and all the Ultrabooks are color-synchronized for the effect you see here.

Mr. Kilmister, CES attendee

Headphones can't just be headphones in 2013. They must be directly associated with musicians of high-decibel repute. You would have thought hip-hop artists had this market cornered, but this year Motorhead rolled out its own branded audiophile products. And frontman Lemmy Kilmister himself dropped down into CES to promote the ear-splitting volume of his wares.

I tested the Motorheadphones. Yes, these are the cans you want if you give not a damn about premature hearing loss or tinnitus.

Shooting the unshootable

OK, work with me here. Walk me through this. First, Sharp makes CES headlines with an 85-inch, 8K TV that is not only too big too fit in anyone's home, but also way too high-resolution to make use of existing video content. That's bad enough.

But even worse are the throngs of attendees taking photos of this monster display. News flash: Nothing in your resulting image will showcase the visual clarity of this 8K hoodwink. Your camera sensor will not pick up the pixel density that your human eyes cannot even perceive in the first place.

But the best irony of all? I, of course, took a photo too.

The 'Let's hope she knows how to steer this thing for the sake of all humanity' robot

Meet the Mondo Spider, a 1700-pound, eight-legged, hydraulic-activated, electric-powered walking machine. It was developed on Lenovo workstations, and not once did I hear a report of it running amok, breaking through tents and trailers, and causing mass panic and mayhem at CES 2013.

Real versus synthetic, part one

There will come a time in the not-so-distant future when you must decide between a traditional massage—one delivered by real human hands and fingers—and a newfangled electronic massage delivered by a back-roving robot, like the WheeMe pictured here. Are you ready to explore new horizons in rest and relaxations? Get your massage quickly, before the synthetic people take over completely...

Real versus synthetic, part two

Ack! Too late. The synthetics have taken over. Nothing says "technology is scary" more than a robot massager rolling over the back of a robot human. Well, it's really a department store mannequin, but it speaks volumes about how, well, nothing is real anymore, gosh darn it!


Ah, the poetic juxtaposition. A strapping young man pitching landline hardware for senior citizens is seen checking his smartphone—at a booth no one seems to care about, because this is CES in 2013, and we can't even get that excited about Huawei, let alone big, honking speaker phones.


OK, well this is a delicate situation. Do you ask her what she's demoing, or do you just avert your eyes, and keep shuffling down the CES carpet? Do you engage her marketing patter, or do pretend you just didn't see that—and just didn't contemplate the wisdom of bringing back product samples in your carry-on luggage?

Everybody dance now!

To demonstrate its whole-home Play-Fi music system, DTS stuck four sassy young people in a life-sized dollhouse, and made them shake and shimmy like real-world sims. I felt like I was watching the CES version of Step Up Revolution and kept waiting for the salsa dancers from the Nikon booth to wander over and "serve" these spry millennials.

Yes, it's true: Everyone looks cuter when wearing cosplay kitty-cat ears

Don the Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears, and your furry headset will (apparently) perk up, wiggle and rotate in response to your changing states of relaxation and focus. Our friend in pink seems to know an awkward moment when she sees one. Our friend in gray is a damn good sport.

How come silver is always the body paint of choice for near-naked robot men?

To show off its line of fashion-design iDevice cases and audio products, iWave enlisted the help of a very, very slow-moving robot man clad in uncomfortable-looking body paint. Because, you know, standing in the middle of CES wearing nothing but a tight-fitting diaper really isn't the worst part of the job.

I'll need beer for this gig

Hey, look, it's Adam Carolla! At CES! In the Ford booth! Interviewing a race car driver! CES is da bomb!

But can we really blame the guy? Like Adam Carolla, I too was at CES in the service of my profession. He has a job, I have a job, and everyone in attendance has a job. We're all trying to get through the madness with as much dignity as possible.

Is there ever such a thing as too much Bieber?

This is one of my favorite show floor still lifes. I call it "Seemingly Sensible Middle-Aged Man Watching Giant-Size Justin Bieber Promo In the Company of Dancing Robots." I think it just about encapsulates the small, poignant moments that can only happen at CES.

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