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CES 2021: Online And On-Target In A Pandemic World

Ordinarily, early January each year brings with it a level of anticipation and hype around the Consumer Electronics Show [CES] that’s rivaled only by the ramp-up to the NFL’s Super Bowl a few weeks later. This year, hype around CES seems to have stepped aside in favor of hope … 

Alas, these are not ordinary times. Heck, not even close.

And while we’re all relieved the calendar flipped six days ago to a new year, the reality is we’re still smack-dab in a learn-as-you-go quagmire of quarantines and vaccines, masks or no masks, face-to-face or virtual.

The wildly popular CES, typically attended by 180,000+ tech/electronics industry professionals in Las Vegas [a town with only 150,000 hotel rooms, BTW] who pay $300 a pop to see the latest and greatest, weird and wacky gadgetry, has also fallen victim to the pandemic and will go 100% online this year, January 11-14th. The fee to tune in has been slashed in half to $149 and many expect the number of online viewers to exceed typical show attendance.

Several hours of online research turned up little in the way of jaw-dropping innovation and blockbuster launches we’ve come to expect at CES. Part of the problem is manufacturing shutdowns brought on by COVID outbreaks, as well as supply chain disruptions, and the tech industry in general having to take a bit of a timeout to figure their world out like the rest of us.

Mix in the inability to interact F2F with industry professionals and trade media and, like so many things, CES this time around will be different. That’s not to say it can’t be great – it probably will be – but it will undoubtedly be different than last year and different than next year when event organizers plan to stage CES as a hybrid event.

While there’s a scarcity of truly crazy reveals and introductions, there are some interesting products you might find alluring as we all adjust to the new how-to-live rules that have been in place since last March.

Perhaps most important to note is what’s written between the lines in this year’s array of new tech products and services, a message of hope – hope for a healthier world, hope for a more connected world, hope for a more convenient world, and hope for the world family. The attitude this year seems to be “let’s embrace what we’ve got … and make it better”. And that’s a pretty cool place to be.

Here are a few of the eyebrow-raisers that will hit the CES virtual show floor next week with the vast majority of announcements occurring Monday, January 11th during Media Day in hopes of creating whatever buzz is possible in a 2-dimensional convention environment.

LG Smart Bed – A smart mattress that monitors sleep patterns, movement and body “hot spots”, and features a 55” OLED [Organic Light-Emitting Diode] TV screen that rises from inside the footboard on command and is safely stored when not in use, reducing clutter in the bedroom.

Robots, Robots and More Robots – More and more, robots are venturing beyond mass-production lines and into homes, businesses and restaurants. Start-up tech company Embodied has a teal-faced robot named Moxie that “helps children build social, emotional and cognitive skills through everyday play-based learning and the delivery of educational content”. Designed with input from educators and child development experts, Moxie has taken online security to the safest possible level and sales are expected to explode as home schooling of little ones continues.

Daesung’s Hive Controller – As you might expect, this robot tends to your honeybee operation, removing honeycomb from a beehive in 1-2 minutes, replacing an hours-long process traditionally handled by 2-5 skilled beekeepers. With bees at risk and honey achieving superfood status, expect this one to succeed around the globe.

New robots are also being launched with the sole mission of sanitizing surfaces, filtering and freshening the air, and instilling confidence in those who venture into restaurants and retail shops.

Medical industry professionals will be happy to see several robots launched next week that enter patients’ rooms, take temperatures, check vital signs and triage them accordingly, reducing direct interaction and maintaining social-distancing in a high-risk environment. The robot will also sanitize the patient’s room with UV lights before leaving.

“I Screen, You Screen, We All Screen for New Screens!” — Most of the major manufacturers of televisions [Sony, Samsung, LG, TCL, HiSense, etc.] are unveiling new Micro-LED TVs at CES 2021. Don’t let the oxymoronic category name fool you. Featuring better contrast and brighter, sharper imagery, Micro-LED technology offers improved picture quality versus LCD-based screens at a price cheaper than OLED class televisions. One company plans to launch a new 110” screen for the home. Think about that, a “Micro”-LED TV that’s more than 9’ diagonally. Hope you have tall ceilings.

eBikes – Harley-Davidson, king of the throaty, baritone motorcycle roar, will release newer versions of its completely silent e-bikes which are exploding in popularity despite their hefty price tags. As people opt out of public transportation where it’s often hard to practice social distancing, they’re gravitating toward eBikes to get them from Point A to Point B with a bit of exercise, fresh air and scenery to enjoy along the way.

Bluetooth Trackers – While Tile was the trailblazer for this device that saves the day for those who routinely lose their keys or can’t quite remember where they dropped their backpack, Samsung and Apple are announcing new mini-Bluetooth trackers with increased functionality. Stay tuned for details …

Smart Toothbrushes – Seems all the world has fallen in love with powered toothbrushes that help you adhere to the “two-minute” brushing rule. Several companies are launching new versions of rechargeable toothbrushes that are app-connected and gather data on the frequency, duration and forcefulness of your brushing efforts. Some even have built in alarms when you’re working those molars a little too hard. Somewhere, your dental hygienist smiles her Pepsodent smile!

While CES 2021 may not feature the usual splashy fanfare that makes it one of our most popular tradeshows, it is emblematic of a world in search of hope and dreams and a better tomorrow. Where there’s a will, there’s a way … and probably a tech gadget to help make that happen.

Finally, on behalf of the entire dynami team, I want to wish you a happy, prosperous and better new year. One of the by-products of the pandemic has been a greater, heartfelt appreciation for things in life that matter most – and we count you among them.

Stay positive, test negative and, together, let’s make 2021 our best year ever!


Kenneth Jones