The annual CES kicks off today (Jan. 11) online instead of in Las Vegas due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Gone are the 170,000 attendees who interacted in person with more than 4,500 exhibitors at the consumer electronics showcase in 2020.
This year, the virtual CES will feature about 2,000 vendors, including those targeting home entertainment with the newest high-definition televisions (QLED, MicroLED, 4K and 8K) to consumers largely homebound for their video entertainment.
To accommodate online attendees, CES is affording registered viewers the ability to remotely access vendors via “digital activations” that enable them to interact with company reps and related show materials. CES will again showcase keynote speakers and roundtable discussions — all online.
“CES 2021 will be making history, with our first all-digital show,” Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association said in a statement. “This new experience will feature exhibitors from around the world, showcasing the latest trends and innovation in artificial intelligence, 5G, digital health, smart cities, vehicle tech and beyond. Technology will move us forward and CES 2021 will illustrate how innovation paves the way for a brighter tomorrow.”
Shapiro said COVID-19 has underscored the need for consumer electronics and innovation without increased government regulation.
“We’re able to work and learn remotely thanks to high-speed internet, video conferencing tools and affordable laptops,” Shapiro wrote. “The pandemic has sped our embrace of technology — for work, school, health, entertainment, connecting with loved ones — and spurred innovation around the globe.”
CTA estimates that 40% of U.S. workers are doing so from home, while 90% of school children are being educated outside the classroom during the pandemic.
Shapiro said consumer technology enhancing work and entertainment in the home will “help us be human again with other humans as they ensure crowd-friendly spaces and entertainment zones.” He lauded major content players such as WarnerMedia for taking the landmark step streaming movies into homes at the same time they arrive in theaters.
At the same time Shapiro is calling on the new 117th U.S. Congress to take a “fresh look” at immigration reform, with an emphasis on high-skilled immigration policy. He said 80% of immigrants are likely to start a business in the U.S.
“The incoming Biden administration can also help our competitiveness by stabilizing trade relationships and promoting our crown jewel companies and world-leading startup ecosystem,” Shapiro wrote. “This includes a fact-based look at Section 230, the cornerstone of free speech online, and ensuring it continues to provide protections to companies both large and small.”
Section 230 is legislation passed into law as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. In the current political climate, Section 230 provides immunity to social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter against being sued regarding content on their site. The companies say they can better self-moderate content and government regulators.
Some lawmakers, including President Trump, say Section 230 enables tech companies and social media platforms to censor political content.
Shapiro said the Biden Administration should help to promote clarity and provide “rational and clear guardrails” within which companies can operate, while at the same time enabling U.S. companies to be more competitive globally.
“American tech companies are the envy of the world,” Shapiro wrote. “China is spending billions to catch and surpass our nation’s most innovative companies. Europe targets our tech companies with protectionist rules. If we implement rules restricting flexibility or creating new barriers to entrepreneurship and innovation, we will bolster the efforts of competitor nations.”