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First-of-its-kind CES ready to launch on computer screens Monday

For the people who usually attend CES, the 2021 version of the show that runs Monday through Thursday should be in their comfort zone in front of a computer screen.

But for the hosts — convention facilities across Southern Nevada — it’s a missed opportunity and the loss of millions of dollars.

Thanks to the spread of COVID-19, CES won’t be like anything anyone has ever seen before, and instead will be completely digital and online.

The event that in years past has seen the introduction of videocassette recorders, satellite radio and high-definition televisions won’t be bringing the more than 180,000 people to Las Vegas resorts for the largest annual trade show of the year. Instead, attendees will be logging on from their computers to virtually visit more than 1,000 exhibitors and tune in to keynote speeches delivered by industry titans.

Not the same

As in the past, CES will be open to qualified representatives of technology industries and not the public. The price of admission has gone up from $100 to $149 to cover the cost of a Microsoft-manufactured platform to accommodate the thousands who will log on to the show.

The shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Sands Expo Center, Mandalay Bay Convention Center and various other meeting venues will be replaced by people comfortably in their homes in their pajamas or their offices.

“It’s really not the same as meeting face to face,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the sponsoring Consumer Technology Association.

“If anyone’s been hurt by this, it’s Las Vegas itself and we are sad for our friends and people who make the physical show happen,” he said. “We want to be there with them in 2022 and we certainly plan to be.”

Las Vegas was gearing up for the arrival of the 2021 event for years with plans to open a brand-new exhibition hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Consumer Technology Association and the sponsor of four other major trade shows worked with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to develop the features it wanted in the new hall as an incentive to keeping their respective shows returning to Las Vegas year after year. CES 2021 was going to be the first show to test out the $980.3 million, 1.4 million-square-foot West Hall expansion with its 600,000 square feet of exhibit space and 150,000 square feet of meeting rooms.

The show was also to be the debut of Elon Musk’s $52.5 million Boring Co. underground people-mover project.

Steve Hill, president and CEO of the LVCVA, has said that while it’s unfortunate that CES isn’t coming to town this year, the West Hall expansion was built for the future and will endure for many shows beyond CES 2021.

The association already has announced dates for the 2022 show, Jan. 5-8, but added that a virtual version of it will occur simultaneously.

The first day of CES 2021 will be devoted to the media with news conferences scheduled all day Monday

Tuesday events

Here’s what’s in store at CES 2021 when it kicks off for show attendees on Tuesday:

— More than 1,000 exhibitors are participating, offering products and services related to artificial intelligence, 5G communications technology, digital health, smart cities and vehicle tech.

— A wide range of exhibitors will be showing products and will be available for virtual appointments through Thursday. Technology giants Canon, Hisense, Intel, Lenovo, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Philips, Sony, Samsung Electronics, TCL and Voxx as well as non-traditional tech companies Bridgestone, Caterpillar, Indy Autonomous Challenge, John Deere, L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble will exhibit.

— Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg will kick off a series of keynote addresses beginning Monday with a presentation on 5G technology. The association has added Best Buy CEO Corie Barry to its keynote address lineup in an interview format with Fortune CEO Alan Murray. Other keynoters will include General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su and WarnerMedia Chairwoman Ann Sarnoff.

— The association already revealed its 2021 Innovation Award honorees across 28 product categories. Honorees recognized as Best of Innovation are given to those rated highest across the product categories by a panel of judges that include members of the media, designers and engineers that reviewed submissions based on innovation, engineering and functionality, aesthetics and design.

Among the exhibitors at this year’s CES is Reno-based CareWear, a wearable sports medicine light system that uses photobiomodulation to treat pain and improve tissue recovery. It’s a flexible mylar patch filled with red and blue LED lights to decrease pain, increase local circulation, warm tissue and relax muscles, he said.

Reno exhibitor

CareWear CEO Chris Castel said he has been looking forward to this year’s show because the company is planning to go from a specialized product used by athletes on professional sports teams to all consumers and he’s looking forward to meeting with medical distributors.

“We exhibited at CES last year and were looking forward to meeting and showing our product in our efforts to make it more widely available,” Castel said.

Castel said he thinks he’s prepared to transition to an online-only show and has the technology in place to meet with people, but he was looking forward to allowing people to see and feel his products in person.

“It’s definitely going to be different, but I think we’re ready,” he said.

Time zone hurdles

One of the challenges of hosting a virtual event to a global audience is accommodating attendees in different time zones. Barra’s General Motors keynote speech, for example, will begin at 9 a.m. EST, Tuesday. That’s 6 a.m. on the West Coast or 10 p.m. in Beijing and Shanghai.

But because the event is virtual, the association said it would make most of the presentations available on demand for registered attendees almost immediately after the event with content kept on its website through Feb. 15.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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