As we've already mentioned, Cracked.com recently decided to send a small group of writers to the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. You'd think that, as a bunch of doofy suckers with no knowledge of how technology works and a profound fascination with pretty lights and bright colors, we'd be utterly captivated by the expensive display of the latest and greatest consumer tech. Instead, we sold all Cracked's camera equipment for gambling money, and I'm writing this on my phone from the inside of a Las Vegas prison cell. I'm kidding, but no, we weren't very impressed.
The problem is that the purveyors of the credit-score-ruining gadgets of tomorrow seem less like Tony Stark-esque mad-geniuses and more like Professor Marvel from The Wizard of Oz, if Professor Marvel from The Wizard of Oz stank of corrosive aftershave and smugness. Basically, I was really upset to discover that ...
#5. The Hottest Innovations Don't Mean Anything
"Hey, remember when the word 'innovation' used to mean something?" is the kind of thing a really, really old person would say, because the word "innovation" hasn't meant anything since 1983. Did you know curved cellphones exist?
For once, a word means exactly what you expect.
Wanna know why? Me too! And so do the people who make them. "The curved screen gives a more immersive experience," is what LG's exhibitor told me, which as far as I can tell is code for, "This does nothing." The obvious design flaw for a curved phone is that if you sit on it it's going to crack, because that's how physics works. The LG guy told me that the phone is flexible and will flatten rather than break, but he also told me he wasn't able to demonstrate that ability because the phone might break, which didn't exactly inflate my "confidence balloon" to bursting.
No, my confidence balloon was quite flaccid.
I also tested an LG smartwatch that had such a counterintuitive design that it needed two presenters: one to tell us how we should use the watch, and another to reach over our shoulder and use the watch for us. But, whatever, I got a free pair of headphones.
The smartwatch needed to be connected to a smartphone to work, but instead of connecting it to an LG G Flex 2, it was connected to the LG G3 -- last year's flagship phone. You'd think if they were confident the Flex was going to take off they'd be putting it at the forefront, but no, they basically just stuck it on a table, told us it was the future, warned us that we couldn't test it or it would break, then tried to distract us with smartwatches and -- oh, for fuck's sake -- curved TVs.
I mean, I'm still probably gonna buy a curved phone because man does it look weird and man am I a sucker for stuff that looks weird and man-oh-man am I irresponsible with money. But the point is, the overwhelming majority of innovations at CES were stupid, mainly because ...
#4. They Make Insane Promises
For reasons already explained, I'm not really the target demographic for consumer tech. But more importantly, I couldn't figure out who the hell the target demo is. The companies make such weird assumptions about people and their habits and desires to own products that do the things these products do.
For example, this is iHealth:
It's a kit of various products that monitor your health and well-being and report them to your smartphone, which gives you an update on how your body is functioning. Do ... do other people live in a world where that would work? My smartphone promised to keep track of how many calories I burned every day, and then promptly congratulated me for hitting my daily mark after I jogged down the highway at 65 mph for 45 minutes. Then it decided I had teleported to Kentucky when the WiFi went down. Sorry, no, I don't feel comfortable entrusting my cardiovascular health to a product that can't even tell me why it's curved.
But creepier than the iHealth is the iBaby.
"A lidless eye whose gaze pierces cloud, shadow, earth, and flesh."
It's a baby monitor that works on your WiFi but wasn't working when I visited the booth, because the WiFi at CES wasn't terribly reliable. But don't worry, I'm sure your baby's bedroom will have better Internet reliability than an international convention built around using and celebrating Internet-dependent products. The fact that the iBaby looks just like GLaDOS is coincidental!
And, honestly, I couldn't even bring myself to investigate what iLuv was.
Wireless contraception? Let's pretend yes. Let's pretend yes.
#3. They Just Bombard You With Shit
How do you feel about seeing the same goddamn thing over and over again for five days? No matter how you answered, you'll hate CES, because the human body is not designed to handle this much crushing redundancy. The endless Bluetooth speakers fell upon me like the darkest winter storms.
The HD TVs pummeled my senses like a war party of Northmen ...
... and, shamefully, I was felled by the onslaught.
I'm not saying that I'm surprised there were a lot of products. Clearly there were a lot of products. I'm saying, why are they all the same product? Bluetooth speakers aren't like cars, where pretty much everybody has to own one and there are a thousand and a half different specialty niches to pick from; they're just fucking speakers. The guy who listens to Bluetooth music while skydiving with trained bears can use the same one that you balance on the dashboard of your Prius. If you're a business that makes tech accessories, then everyone's going to assume you make one, so why put it front and center?
It's painfully obvious that pomp and circumstance and flash are the main purpose for the show -- practical usability of the products isn't just secondary, it's not even fucking considered. Robert Evans spent the show asking if he could test the durability of the "tough" products that were designed to be dropped, and each person reacted by saying that he was the only tech journalist there that had even bothered. I spent five days parsing my way through roughly a bajillion dollars in advertising for every hot piece of tech to be released in the next year; 90 percent of the objects on the floor were useless without Internet, and the WiFi didn't fucking work.
My point is, I didn't exactly get a "we respect your intelligence" vibe from the whole thing. Especially because ...