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Spare the Redbull, bring on the flying cars: CES comes to energized close

The bait seemed like an afterthought all of a sudden.

It was 9 a.m. Friday, and staffers at the One Water Health booth in the bowels of The Venetian Expo were arranging complimentary cans of sugar-free Redbull and Snickers bars at their CES exhibit.

This is how the convention works: for the lesser-known companies and start-ups trying to reel in passersby to hear their sales pitches for GPS-enhanced dog collars (It’s like a Fitbit for Fido!) and the “world’s first smart gaming tank franchise” (About time!) gratis beverages and candies are often offered to attract visitors with the promise of free energy boosts and sugar rushes.

This comes in handy when you’re wearing down the tread on your Nikes for days on end navigating acres of interactive fitness mats and self-heating lunchboxes.

Thing was, caffeine jolts didn’t seem needed on the final day of CES 2022, as energy levels felt unusually high during the convention’s closing hours. If the beginning of CES didn’t really feel like normal, you could say the same of its ending: with the convention trimmed from four days to three due to ongoing coronavirus concerns and a much smaller crowd of 40,000 attendees to navigate as opposed to the usual throng of 170,000 people, CES fatigue — the aching feet; the cement-heavy eyelids — never really had a chance to set in.

“I think that we are less tired, so it’s good,” said Dr. Kevin Lestrade of France’s BytheWave Technologies, who was on hand to pitch smart surfboards in a straw hat.

For Steve Simpson of Pasadena, California, who’s been coming to CES for 20 years, less was more, in some ways.

“The one less day is fine, because there’s not as much traffic, so you can move faster and get around faster,” said Simpson, who sported a black Bigfoot hat and matching earrings at The Venetian Expo. “When it’s been really crowded in previous years, it was hard to get through the convention center and here in four days. This time, it’s pretty simple.”

Besides, there was another potential silver lining to CES’ reduced draw this year.

“It’s definitely slower,” acknowledged Dorothy Bedor, president of The Trade Show Manager, who was at CES spotlighting technology innovations from North Carolina, “but the good news is that you have more time to talk people.”

More time meant more opportunity for Lestrade.

“I think this edition of CES 2022 is more productive, ” he said. “We have more time to explain our projects, to really get into the details about the project, the innovation and what we can do together. So, that’s really cool.”

Wayne Laub, who was on hand to promote the Soapy Clean Machine automated hand washing station, has weathered disruptions to the trade show industry before and says that it’s more about quality — not quantity — of encounters at a convention like this.

“I’ve been doing shows for 30-plus years, and I would say after 9/11, it was the same thing,” he noted. “We saw a lot of the attendance drop, but the quality of the good leads is solid. The numbers are down with people, attendees, but I find the quality of the leads is what we judge a show by.”

In another nod to the pandemic, the Consumer Technology Association, the company that owns and operates CES, will donate surplus COVID-19 self-test kits that were available to CES patrons for free to the Southern Nevada Health District.

But if CES felt a little different this year, some things remained constant.

For instance, you still routinely get asked questions by strangers that you tend to not hear anywhere else.

“Do you want your picture taken with the sloth?” a woman asked at the Motion Pillow booth, as attendees lined up to pose with a costumed version of the restful mammal there to hawk anti-snoring sleep aids.

Speaking of questions, you could pose your own to “the world’s most advanced robot with a truly human form,” the Ameca bot, which looked straight out of “Ex Machina” and amiably chatted with the crowd gathered before her.

“Do you get stage fright speaking in front of so many people each day?” someone wondered.

“No,” she responded. “Stage fright is for people who get nervous that they might fall off the stage.”

Even more Space Age was the Skydriver, a flying car — finally! — that looked kind of like a combination of a giant drone and a bobsled.

Consider all those promises made by “Bladerunner” and/or “The Jetsons” fulfilled at last.

From ear dehumidifiers to laser-abetted baseball hats that fight hair loss, it was all here — even if some tech titans like Amazon and Apple weren’t.

“I do hear from everyone that there’s a lot less people, but I think a lot of us are still here — especially when you look at the start-up world,” said Anahita Mekanik, co-founder of “algorithmic perfumery” company Scentronix, which enables clients to create custom scents for themselves. “The little guys managed to make it.”

And in the end, so did CES.

Even so if it wasn’t as big, that’s still no small thing.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates The Venetian Expo.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter and @jbracelin76 on Instagram.

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