The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a strange mixture of heaven and hell. It’s heaven for gadget geeks who can wander through 2 million square feet of cavernous conference halls seeing thousands of new gizmos. But to get at the goods you must endure a crowded, noisy, dirty, uncomfortable spectacle that at times feels like something out of Dante’s Inferno—idiots in headsets hawking stuff, women dressed like escorts from outer space handing out fliers, acres of flat-panel TVs, mindless cocktail receptions where you are trapped by executives who drone on endlessly in garbled marketing speak.
This is consumerism gone mad, greed gone off the rails, a bleak massive statement about the emptiness of a culture driven by fear and desperation and a belief that technology can put meaning back into our hollowed-out souls. Best of all, it takes place in Las Vegas, which is sad enough already. Honestly, if you can go to CES without experiencing an overwhelming desire to throw away your TVs and cellphones and computers and go live in a cabin in the woods, then you are a stronger person than I am.
Still, roughly 140,000 people descended on Las Vegas this week. With any luck you were not one of them, and you opted instead to let other people do the dirty work and report back on what was worth seeing. If so, here, in a nutshell, is the best stuff from this year’s show.