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Live From CES For The Next Three Days

I’m leaving for Vegas in the AM to spend several glorious days in Las Vegas at the annual gadget porn fest known as the Consumer Electronics Showcase. I’ll spend about 72 hours wandering through giant exhibit halls at the Las Vegas Convention Center looking for the few truly remarkable new gadgets amidst the sea of cell phone cases, flash drives, digital photo frames, and Wii accessories.

Before my first trip to CES, I had a concept in my head that no event could ever actually live up to. CES, to me, was nerdvana. It was like a car show featuring nothing but concept vehicles – and all of them were cool. Unfortunately, the reality is the show is like the world’s largest Eatser Egg hunt. You have these enormous rooms full of iPod docks, bling kits, and batteries, and tucked into this cavern of a room is one or two truly interesting technologies.

In a way, it’s sort of sad. I imagine the one guy who has come up with a revolutionary idea, scraped together enough cash to rent a 10×10 booth space, and ends up surrounded by 10 booths full of junk nobody will buy that will end up in a dollar store in Topeka. His dream of being discovered and becoming a billionaire is lost in a sea of cheap Chinese imports.

It’s probably fitting that the event is held in Las Vegas – given that city’s tendency to quash dreams, take fortunes and create hollow alcoholics and strippers. This paean to consumerism could only fit in a city based on squandering cash on the great gamble.

Perhaps I’m jaded on Sin City. I have ended up on some sort of Hell’s Holiday vacation plan that takes me there three or four times a year. Spending that much time in Vegas is like spending that much time at Disneyland. Pretty soon your going to run into a ride that’s out of order, or maybe a chunk of the Peter Pan flight will fall on your head as you careen over Neverland. One way or another, you’ll see the rather sketchy workmanship that holds it all together.

Vegas is like that. Eventually you stop seeing the carefree celebration and you see nothing but desparate people, clad in a trashy wardrobe of sequins with hair bigger than the skies of Texas. Vegas becomes a cavalcade of the beat and weary fresh off the front lines of their life.

The upside to this trip to perdition, and the quest for that one cool gadget that makes the trip through hell worthwhile, is that there are, occasionally, some truly incredible things on display – technologies that make life more enjoyable.

My favorite from last year is the 3D TV. My understanding is this year will see even more of these. They’re difficult to describe, but they offer some cool functionality. Imagine, if you will, two people playing a head to head game on the Xbox360. Watching the game from behind them, the screen is a mess of color and imagery. If you’re one of the gamers, wearing the special 3D glasses, the game not only occupies the whole screen (as opposed to split screen games today) but also stands out away from the TV. You have depth and width not possible on even the best 2D TV.

Over the next few days, I’ll bring you the best of the Easter eggs I find. If I stumble upon the guy with the billion dollar idea, I’ll give him your best.

Written by Michael Turk