Welcome to Las Vegas, a bizarrely different and strangely interesting city plunked in the middle of a desert, lit with a zillion flickering lights, and punted with a somewhat tired wink as “Sin City” (you know, relentless gambling, girls wearing very little, men behaving badly, etc). They can keep the sin: I’m here for the biggest, baddest, boldest and most exhausting gadget expo the world has ever seen.
With 140 000 attendees, 2 700 exhibitors, 5 000 journalists and analysts, and participants from 140 countries, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is ranked as the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world. My aching feet are testimony to this: I have probably covered 20 km over the past couple of days, negotiating my way through one cavernous hall after another at the truly vast Las Vegas Convention Centre – and my job is by no means done.
I interacted with a whole bunch of cute robots, watched a robotic ball roll uphill in defiance of logic (interestingly, the guy who explained its operation hailed from Durban), played with some truly astonishing 3D television sets, explored immersive sound systems, and watched in disbelief as an ululating crowd converged on Justin Bieber – accompanied by a task team of handlers and security personnel of presidential proportions.
I also ate the most horrible hot dog I’ve ever tasted; whereas the meaty bit was claimed to be “all beef”, it was clearly assembled from parts of the cow that are not mentioned in polite company. I had a similar experience in New York last year after my daughter insisted that I try the famous hot dog from Gray’s Papaya. It was seriously yucky. Would someone please introduce the boerewors roll to America.
Anyway, back to the show. As always, there’s something for everyone, from the very latest audio equipment to cutting-edge computer hardware, from cute robots to advanced telecommunications equipment, from lifestyle electronics to electronic games that blow the mind. Oh, and a vast array of tablets, ultrabooks, mobiles, interconnected devices and other goodies of the sort that bring smiles to the faces of techie types everywhere. Some companies – notably, Microsoft, Samsung, Qualcomm, LG, Sony and other big-name brands – had a very substantial presence, reflecting not only the size of their respective markets, but also the quality and variety of their offerings.
Qualcomm, which cheerfully admits to being “the biggest wireless company you’ve probably never heard of”, has introduced a number of breakthrough technologies – some of them in the health care arena – powered by its formidable Snapdragon chipsets. For the record, this processor powers over 300 different devices worldwide, and as Qualcomm chairman and CEO Paul Jacobs said in his keynote speech, their S4 chip will soon be “flexing its muscle”.
In the same speech, Jacobs announced the launch of the $10 million (about R80 million) Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, a global competition aimed at revolutionising healthcare. In essence, entrants are being asked to leverage technology innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence and wireless sensing – much like the Tricorder of Star Trek fame – to make medical diagnoses independent of doctors or healthcare providers. The goal, as the organisers tell it, is to drive the development of devices that will give consumers access to the state of their health in the palm of their hand.
For more information, visit www.qualcommtricorderxprize.org