The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the most important U.S. gathering for anyone who thrives on the business of consumer technology. Every January, more than 180,000 industry professionals travel to Las Vegas to be part of the largest tech show of the year. With more than 2.6 million net square feet of exhibit space (the equivalent of 52 football fields), the show ensures attendees are the first to know technology trends being set for the upcoming year. CES represents all aspects of the tech spectrum, from computing and home theater to the latest in wearables, drones, and electric vehicles. This year’s show will be held between January 9-12 — and we’re here to help you survive the biggest CES yet.
What can we expect from these high-profile technology brands? While most of the products to be unveiled remain under embargo until the day of their announcement this week, we can anticipate a few big launches in the following spaces:
- Autonomous vehicles: The industry has only begun to scratch the surface of self-driving cars, the most eye-catching and buzzy showpieces of CES. But it’s not only the vehicles at car maker’s booths that you’ll want to check out: most big tech companies have their eyes on autos. Intel’s many initiatives at CES include the technology under the hood, like graphics giant Nvidia, which has transformed itself into a leader in the machine-vision that lets cars pilot themselves, as well as speech-recognition pioneer Dragon which aims to help you and your car chat, and so on. Watch for it throughout CES.
- Home video: Televisions are a mainstay of CES, and flat-panel displays have seen a renaissance in recent years. Beyond tech specs like 4K and HDR, the hardware itself continues to evolve. Based on last year’s offerings, from LG’s Wallpaper TV to the Sony Bravia A1E 4K UHD TV, this year’s Home Video category will not disappoint. More important is the content those screens will display, which lags woefully behind. Will this year see announcements from content providers of support for 4K?
- VR and AR: While consumer demand for VR headsets has not met supply, CES will remain a showcase for what might be in this space. Expect streamlined concept headsets that don’t depend on your mobile phone and cut the cord from your computer. And with recent launches of AR/VR kits from Samsung, Google, and Apple, virtual reality promises to be a hot topic – and a spectacle. In 2017, Samsung Mobile put on quite a performance with a VR roller coaster. How will the company top itself this year? Swing by to find out – and be sure to get there early, because the wait gets far too long.
- Appliances: The humdrum, white-box appliances in our kitchens and laundry rooms become dazzling showpieces of technology once a year at CES, attracting the same oohs and aahs that razor-thin smartphones do for the rest of the year. Appliance giants take the opportunity to roll out cutting-edge models that streamline and simplify your life. While these tech-filled triumphs will be eye-catching, sales of very expensive fridges and washers with built-in Wi-Fi and LCD screens have yet to catch up with the hype.
- Robotics: Artificial intelligence is more than just Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, it’s actual robots roaming your living room floor. Last year, we saw the cute Kuri robot, and this year we will certainly be treated to more of the same. To check out how these autonomous machines are influencing our everyday lives, visit the in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).
- Startups: Every year, new companies will join the ranks of the big brands at CES by featuring their emerging technologies, including some innovations in fitness and health, the Internet of Things, and smart sensors. You can find these smaller yet mighty brands at Tech West: SandsExpo/The Venetian, The Palazzo, Wynn Las Vegas, and Encore at Wynn.
For a full list of exhibitors at CES and to plan your route efficiently, check out the floor plan here.
Conferences Worth Watching:
While the show floor at Tech East and Tech West features product demos and supplies the free swag, the conferences are where industry leaders and speakers hold more than 300 sessions on everything CES. The Consumer Technology Association – the organizing group behind this annual event – expends enormous effort planning keynote speeches, panels, and more, on topics that range from baby tech, sports, music, and smart home products to business topics like distribution and advertising and the impact of tech on society. Some sessions may require a Deluxe Conference Pass, but you can access many of them with a Basic Individual CES Badge.
If you plan to check out the sessions and panels, please note that getting anywhere in Vegas during CES seems to take an extra 45 minutes. It’s essential that you plan your trip ahead of time as seating is limited. If you can’t get to everything on your list, many of the keynotes and SuperSessions will be posted on the CES website in the weeks following the show. Types of conference programs include:
- Keynote Addresses, which are open to all CES attendees and feature global industry leaders on the main stage;
- SuperSessions target up-and-coming emerging technology topics and feature expert panels, and are also open to all CES attendees;
- Conference Tracks, which are focused on single topics, but only about half of which are accessible with the basic badge; and
- C Space, which specifically targets the advertising and marketing world with programming for those industries.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich: A keynote speech from Intel has signaled the start of CES for years. This year the chip giant’s CEO plans to address many of the top trends we will be watching over the year ahead, including artificial intelligence, 5G, autonomous driving, and VR. This keynote may be your one-stop guide to what’s hot in . But beware, lines for keynotes have become longer than the keynotes themselves in recent years. Be sure to show up at least an hour before to ensure you can get a seat – and make it an hour and a half for this one.
6:30-7:30 PM January 8, Monte Carlo, Park Theater
Huawei CEO Richard Yu: Chinese technology giant Huawei wants to translate its success in its home country to the U.S. market, and a keynote address from the CEO could be a spot for the company to reveal its game plan. Is Huawei the next Samsung? Plan to arrive in time to secure a spot in line.
2-3 PM January 9, Venetian, Palazzo Ballroom
SuperSessions we are most looking forward to:
Insights from the FCC and FTC: Given the recent vote around net neutrality, an appearance by Ajit Pai (chairman of the Federal Communications Commission) and Maureen Ohlhausen (acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission) seemed like it would be a highlight of the entire CES. Moderator Gary Shapiro is no stranger to public policy, and given the tech industry’s support for the recently repealed rules, we anticipated a real spectacle. The FCC head cancelled his appearance at the last minute, however, making his no-show the talk of the town. If the panel proceeds, it’s sure to make headlines.
11:30 AM-12:30 PM January 9, LVCC, North Hall N257
Self-driving cars: The future of personal transportation: Autonomous autos are clearly the future, with every major car company (and every major technology player!) spending millions on R&D in an effort to be seen as a leader. But who’s really ahead, and how far off is this future? We hope Michigan governor Rick Snyder and Ya-Qin Zhang, president of Chinese super-company Baidu, will be able to shed some light.
10-11 AM January 10, LVCC, North Hall, N257
Conference Tracks to watch:
For the first year ever, CES has added a series of panels and fireside chats on smart cities, connected ecosystems driven by technology that offer the potential for faster economic growth, increased accessibility, and an overall better quality of life. The CTA’s attention to this area has yielded a variety of interesting presenters from around the country, including Detroit, LA, and Boulder, as well as tech leaders from Lyft, Avis, and Amazon. The presentations begin at 11:15 a.m. on Day 1, January 9. More information can be found here.
Connections Summit: Another buzzword you’ll be sick of hearing about by the end of CES is IoT, or the Internet of Things, which covers topics including smart homes and the connected consumer. 2017 was a breakthrough year for connected devices, from smart lightbulbs to garage door openers, dishwashers, dryers and more. 2018 may well be the year IoT goes from novelty to necessity. This track is held by Parks Associates, who have a history of bringing together interesting speakers for lively presentations. This Conference Track has an admission charge and information can be found here.
Reimagining Television: A conversation with Hulu and Turner: Streaming media companies won top industry accolades for the quality of their content in 2017, and the changing nature of the media world continues to fascinate. This conversation between Turner CEO John Martin and Hulu CEO Randy Freer promises to be one of the highlights of the entire show. 3-4 PM January 10, in the Monte Carlo’s Park Theater.
The most important thing to know about getting around is that hotels are a lot farther than they look on a map, so don’t try to walk. Also, you cannot hail a cab or a rideshare service on the street as you can in most major cities. Instead, cabs stop at designated pickup areas at hotels or restaurants. It might take 10 minutes to walk to one if you arrange a ride using your mobile phone.
Here’s how we travel to and from the Convention Center:
- Free shuttle bus: This is by far the best way to travel during CES. Buses will pick you up from your hotels and drop you off at the venue where you need to be — and it’s completely free. Here’s a map of the route. In addition to hotel pickups and drop-offs, CES has express buses to and from Tech East and Tech West. It’s not the most glamorous way to get around, but it’s consistently the quickest and most efficient way to get from one venue to another. More shuttle information, including airport shuttles and Americans with Disabilities Act shuttles, can be found here.
- Las Vegas Monorail: Though the Monorail might be difficult to find if you’ve never ridden it before, it is a great option for getting from hotels on the strip to the LVCC. The Las Vegas Monorail is a single track that runs every 4 to 7 minutes north to south from the SLS Hotel to the MGM Grand Hotel. CES attendees also receive discounts ranging from $5 for a single ride to $42 for a 5-day unlimited pass. Prepurchase your tickets here. For a map of the Monorail route, visit: https://www.lvmonorail.com/route-map/
- Taxis: The taxis arrive frequently, but with 180,000 people at the conference, the line gets very long. Our hack is the Bandwagon app, which aims to decrease taxi line wait times by matching you with others headed to the same destination. It allows you to skip some of the lines and get priority access to taxis.
- Ridesharing: Ridesharing has become quite a useful tool while traveling, though at CES, it can be quite an endeavor. You may only exit and enter at specific locations at each venue, and many drivers don’t have the experience to take the shorter routes. But if it’s your preferred mode of transportation, pickup locations are at LVCC in the Gold parking lot or on Sierra Vista Drive, the Sands at the main covered entrance, and The Venetian in the valet area in the parking garage.
Where to eat
Coffee is in constant demand at CES. The number one rule is never to wait until you get to the LVCC to get your morning caffeine fix. Lines for coffee at the convention center can take upwards of 45 minutes just to order! Make sure to hit up the coffee vendor in a hotel lobby. Also consider downloading the Starbucks app and pre-ordering your coffee to have it ready as you leave the hotel. In the afternoon, if you are grabbing a cup on your way to your next meeting, pick up an extra for the person you are meeting. People manning booths often can’t get away long enough to get their own.
When it comes to convention center meals, the choices are slim pickings. If you can spare an hour or so, check out Grill 55 at the Renaissance Hotel across the street from the LVCC, where you can sit for a nice burger or salad. The Sands/Venetian offers a few great options that fit any schedule or budget if you are willing to walk from the expo venue into the hotel proper.
For dinner, it’s imperative to get reservations well in advance of CES. If you want to hit the strip for dinner, these are a few of our favorites:
- The Venetian: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar is famous for its fried chicken.
- Caesars Palace: Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab are all great choices for anyone dining on the corporate card.
- Five50 Pizza Bar in the Aria Hotel: The wait for thin-sliced pizza can be long, but the restaurant features flavors you won’t find at your local pizza parlor.
If you haven’t made reservations yet, expect limited options and long waits on the strip, especially for parties of 4 or more. After years of attending CES, the DT staff has discovered some amazing restaurants off of the strip. It’s a nice way to take a break from the noise and networking:
- El Dorado Cantina — Mexican
- The Black Sheep — American
- Raku — Japanese
- Sparrow + Wolf — American
- Echo & Rig — Steakhouse
- Matador — Mexican
- Andiron — Seafood and steakhouse
- Honey Salt — American
- District One — Vietnamese
Now that you’re prepared for the intense week CES has to offer, follow Digital Trends’ CES coverage for all the news and product launches taking place in Vegas. And be sure to tune into our three-day live-stream presented by Ally starting on at 10 a.m. PT on January 9 at www.digitaltrends.com/ces.
Digital Trends and Ally® Bank present CES 2018: Do It Right, a sponsored guide featuring tips and advice for navigating CES. Visit Ally.com to learn how its banking services can help you do it right.
Ally and Do It Right are registered service marks of Ally Financial Inc.