What to expect at CES 2020

The floor is yours.
The floor is yours.
Image: REUTERS/Steve Marcus
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With the new decade underway, most of the working world is easing back from the holidays. But the same can’t be said of tech entrepreneurs, the multiverse of executives, developers, and hobbyists poised to define the 2020s. Barely a week into January, they’re ready to make their mark—and their millions.

From Tuesday, Jan. 7, through Friday, Jan. 10, close to 200,000 of these innovators will gather in Las Vegas for CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show), an annual showcase of the world’s most cutting-edge gadgets, new age applications, and futuristic products. The conference, one of the largest in the world, will cover everything from smart cities and digital health to sex tech and the long-awaited 5G.

This will be Quartz’s fifth rodeo, and breaking with tradition, we’ve sent a collection of CES neophytes to report on the scene. With fresh eyes, we’ll share what you need to know—and what’s plain loopy. Our cohort includes John Keefe, our investigations editor; Emily Withrow, our director of research and development; and reporter Matthew de Silva. (That’s me!)

Get our daily dispatches from the show floor and and the Las Vegas Strip in our special-edition email, the Quartz CES Daily Brief.

For instant updates, follow us on Twitter and be sure to watch Quartz’s Instagram, where we’ll be sharing stories and live-streaming with demos from the conference.

With that in mind, here’s what we’re psyched for at CES:

Apple bites

After a 28-year hiatus, Apple is making an official appearance at CES with Jane Horvath, senior director of global privacy speaking on a panel Tuesday at 1pm.

She will be discussing consumer privacy alongside counterparts from Facebook (Erin Egan) and Procter & Gamble (Susan Shook) as well as a commissioner from the Federal Trade Commission, Rebecca Slaughter. Notably, this conversation features all women, except for moderator Rajeev Chang, a partner at Wing Venture Capital. And as Apple steps into the smart home market, its emphasis on privacy could set it apart from Amazon and Google. At CES, Apple partners will reportedly demo Siri-enabled products for the home.

Short video

While CES is bound to have some wacky TVs, the most immediate change in viewership could occur on something much smaller: smartphones. With streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and apps like Snap and TikTok going viral over the last decade, we could see a happy medium (excuse the pun) emerge.

Quibi, short for “Quick Bites,” is a mobile video service run by CEO Meg Whitman (ex-CEO of Hewlett-Packard) and Jeffrey Katzenberg (ex-chair of Walt Disney Studios). On Wednesday at 9:30am, they will deliver a keynote address at the Park MGM, offering a sneak peek of their platform, which is expected to roll out in April. Already, Quibi says it has sold $150 million of ads, putting it in strong position ahead of launch. Expectations are high, so let’s hope they deliver.

Get a move on

From ride-sharing in the sky (sky-sharing?) to the next generation of electric vehicles, CES will offer a healthy dose of transportation tech. Fisker’s $40,000 Ocean SUV will be unveiled, apparently with optional solar panels for added mileage/range.

Meanwhile, Daimler will show off a concept car, and there should be plenty of drones as well  as self-driving on display. Buckle up.

Bringing sexy back

For sex tech, Sin City is the perfect place for an exhibition. At least you’d think so. And after a very public debacle last year (wherein it awarded, revoked, and then reinstated an “honoree designation” for a sex tech company), it seems CES has begrudgingly embraced the pleasure industry.

We’ll keep an ear to the ground for any complaints about the Consumer Technology Association’s guidelines for sex tech booths. They seem pretty stringent, and already there have already been a few disgruntled creators.

Oh gee, 5G

Forgive me for putting 5G last, but after a multitude of false starts, it seems appropriate to temper expectations. Of course, ultra-fast internet sounds great, and with it, we could see AR and VR experiences actually take off. Maybe.

Regardless, we’ll see a number of companies launch 5G-enabled devices, like Dell’s new laptops. The bigger question, though, is what we’ll be able to do with them. Over the next week, we hope to show you.

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