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2017 is the biggest year ever for CES in more ways than one

Every year, hundreds of companies from every industry — from homebuilding to computers to retinal scanning — showcase what they have in store for the coming year and beyond at CES, the international consumer electronics event. Digital Trends spoke with Jeff Joseph, the vice president of communications and strategic relations for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the group behind CES, about just how big it is.

His response: “It’s damn big.”

In terms of physical space, Joseph says this is CES’ biggest year, with 2,600,000 net square feet of exhibit space, which roughly equates to 20 soccer fields. Joseph attributes CES’ expansion to the broadening influence of technology across different industries.

“Years ago, in the late ’90s, when I first started this job, it was still a lot about audiovisual, and we were beginning to move into digital. But, with the advent of digital, technology is everything. It’s in every industry,” Joseph said.

More: Digital Trends Top Tech of CES 2017 Award Winners

As CES has expanded, it has developed into being one of the premier auto shows, along with the annual Detroit Auto Show. Next year, the entire four-day CES event will overlap with the Detroit Auto Show, but Joseph thinks that won’t be a problem as both offer something distinctive to the auto industry.

“I think many companies go to [the Detroit Auto Show] to talk about next year’s model, to talk about performance, and new features,” Joseph said. “But they come [to CES] to talk about technology, innovation, and really take that future look. Here’s where you debut, certainly cars that will be in the market soon, but it allows them to have a longer-term view.”

CES has built a reputation on having almost all of the major brands from multiple industries converge for a four-day marathon of innovation, but the startups are also a big part of the event. According to Joseph, there were more than 600 startup companies at this year’s CES.

As emerging technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality are expected to have big years in 2017, it will be interesting to see how much bigger CES can get.