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9 Lessons Learned From CES 2018, From Robots to ‘The Blackout’

Didn’t go to the world’s biggest tech convention? We’ve got it covered for you

Three days in Las Vegas will have anyone aging like a president by the time they leave — especially when you’re schlepping past thousands of electronic booths in a convention center for CES 2018. But it had to be done, with more than 4,000 exhibitors landing in the desert from across the world to show off the latest gadgets and breakthroughs in the tech world.

Here’s a rundown of the nine things that stood out at the world’s biggest tech convention1.

1. The Blackout

This had to come first. Even one year from now, many of the hyped products on display will be technologically obsolete; but “The Blackout,” on the other hand, will be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of CES 2018. Thousands of companies — including Samsung, Intel, and Sony — were left in the dark for more than an hour at the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday morning.

How do you lose electricity at the biggest electronics show in the world?

The Consumer Technology Association, which puts on the convention, pointed to “condensation from heavy rainfall” as the culprit. Yep, that’s just rain to everyone else in the country. CES handlers wiped the egg off their faces almost instantaneously, however.

“Besides the blackout, which was out of our control, I think the convention is going well,” one CES promoter said Wednesday evening at The Bellagio.  

The comment had shades of “other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”

2. Facebook is heading to China

Well, not the social network itself, which is still banned by China’s strict internet laws. But Oculus — Facebook’s virtual reality company — announced a partnership with Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi on Monday. The companies will team up to bring Facebook’s first VR headset to China. No price or time frame for its launch was mentioned, per usual for CES launches. But Facebook investors had to be slapping high fives with the company weaving behind China’s “great firewall.”

3. Sports won’t be getting cheaper for TV

Hulu CEO Randy Freer said during a keynote conversation at the Aria on Wednesday that he doesn’t see the competition for sports rights slowing down anytime soon.

“I don’t believe the value of sports rights will go down,” said Freer. “When you think there is a bubble, there is always someone else to buy.”

As TV scrambles to counteract cord-cutting, networks are paying a premium for live sports. Disney is paying more than $2.6 billion per year through the mid-2020s to keep the NBA on ESPN and ABC; Fox, NBC, and CBS are all paying more than $1 billion per year to broadcast their share of NFL action, while ESPN is paying $2 billion for Monday Night Football.

With the FANG companies — Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google — all circling pro sports as their current deals inch towards the finish line, the bidding could get even more crowded. Amazon — which paid $50 million to stream 10 Thursday NFL games this season — and Facebook, which has a deal to stream Major League Baseball games, are already dipping their toes in the water.

4. “The Wall”

I still can’t get over how damn big Samsung’s “The Wall” television is — and I don’t even care about TV! The appropriately named 146-inch screen features a MicroLED display — something Samsung boasts is a significant leap forward from the standard LED screens on most new TVs. No release date or price was attached, but it’s expected to come out later in 2018.

Samsung The Wall CES

Samsung’s “The Wall”

5. Smart mirrors will grade your face problems 

Looking for a mirror to pinpoint your imperfections right when you wake up? Powered by Amazon’s Alexa, HiMirror displayed the latest edition of its smart mirror at CES 2018; it’ll spot and score your wrinkles, dark spots, and clogged pores — if you were having a problem doing it yourself.

6. Tech parties 

When you’re about to go public, like Spotify, why not throw a party at Hakkasan and bring out Wiz Khalifa? Between the fancy rooftop cocktail hours and reserved nightclubs, CES seemed like a tech battleground for not only the best products, but the best parties. If you’re looking to rage with a bunch of guys dressed like Hank Scorpio (sports coat and jeans), CES is the place for you. Also, some of these parties have Moet vending machines.

Vegas has it all, including champagne vending machines

7. Robots might be a thing, finally

Going back to the weird electronic housekeeper in “Rocky IV,” doesn’t it seem like we’ve been teased with robots being the “next big thing” in tech for more than 30 years now? Well, we might be finally reaching that point, at long last. China’s Avatarmind showed off iPal, its three-foot tall robot for kids. The bot — which will tell kids bedtime stories, play games, and “safely” connect to the internet, according to a company spokesperson — will come out later this year in the U.S. and run about $1,500.

Aibo, Sony’s robo-dog, also turned heads at the convention, letting visitors pet its sleek head. The updated electro-mutt, which first launched in the ’90s, goes on sale for about $1,700 next week in Japan, but the company didn’t give a timeline for other markets.

Aibo, Sony’s robotic dog

8. Crytocurrency isn’t going away

Easily one of the most talked about topics at CES was bitcoin and the hundreds of other cryptocurrencies skyrocketing in value. Several investment bankers, in town to throw money at tech companies, told TheWrap this isn’t Beanie Babies 2.0: cryptos like bitcoin and ether, fueled by millennials and Gen Z’ers, are here to stay.

9. AR > VR, for now

CES confirmed what TheWrap has been arguing for months: augmented reality has the upper hand on virtual reality — at least for now. Functionality, minus the clunky headwear that comes with VR, gives AR the upper hand. As Pandora SVP Susan Panico put it on Thursday, VR needs to become “untethered” and more “natural” to gain widespread adoption. Plus, no one likes their hair getting messed up with a VR headset.

Still, there are plenty of kinks to work out for AR, too. Engadget noted Rokid’s upcoming AR glasses are “janky as hell.” But its Terminator-esque ability to overlay someone’s personal data — their Facebook profile, or contact info — just by looking at them, hints at a future where AR seamlessly integrates into our day-to-day interactions.