CES is no stranger to some supremely extravagant booths, but this year’s convention might take the cake (in one case, quite literally). The Consumer Technology Association, the group that runs the event every year, was hoping to have 130,000 attendees strolling around Vegas in search of the latest and greatest the tech world has to offer. Being there in person and seeing the throngs, it’s easy to believe the group met or even exceeded that goal.
The biggest tech giants were willing to peacock their wealth to the masses, some with a fair bit more gusto than others (LG always comes out on top with its massive TV screen waterfalls). Meanwhile, the smaller players tried to stand out in much more limited space by pushing attendees into as many pseudo-carnival rides as possible.
That’s no exaggeration. Easily one of the most excessive booths at CES 2024, SK—a South Korean tech conglomerate, took CES-goers through a “SK Wonderland” that included a mini coaster, a “dancing car” that was just a car model attached to spinning pistons, and a “magic carpet” that was supposed to show the environmental benefits of flying cars. Instead, it only helped offer an example of the voracious excess of big tech with the multitudes of new products ready to be devoured. They really would like to have their cake and eat it, too.
On the flip side of that, you had plenty of long lines for secret experiences sitting behind walls. Netflix kept drawing curious eyes with its big, chrome box sitting on the edge of the Las Vegas Convention Center central hall. What seems at first to be a super-secret VR experience is merely a trailer for the upcoming 3 Body Problem shown through some very odd-looking headsets. Netflix was nice enough to hand me a plastic version of one of those headsets, and I personally think it makes me look like an off-brand Magneto.
While plenty of smaller companies tried to make it work with mere product showcases, the over-the-topness is very much a part of CES’ culture. The first image you’re greeted with entering most of CES this year was of a vaguely young woman with headphones conspicuously attached to her cheeks. The awkward headphone alignment and the overall plastic look seem to indicate that much of the promotional imagery for this year’s biggest consumer electronics show was quickly generated with AI.
It may have taken very little effort or forethought to conceptualize that promo image, but it definitely took much grunt work to put up those posters everywhere across Vegas. We can at least appreciate the amount of work that went into setting up and maintaining these displays, if not revel in the pure excess of it all.