BEST OF THE WEB: One day inside the world’s wackiest tech conference

Everyone loves a gadget. And everyone loves the Consumer Electronics Show.

While there has been plenty of discussion about whether or not CES has lost its way in the past few years, as most of the important announcements happen throughout the rest of the year, the conference still remains one of the most important events in the technology calendar.

While the major manufacturers take up most of the headlines, there are hundreds of small companies who go to CES to try and win their five minutes of fame.

In a conference with 150,000 people, you’re bound to see some weird – and wonderful – developments. And over at The New Republic, the publication spent some time at CES this year and came away with some interesting results.

Writer Lydia DePillis plunged into the depths of CES, wading through massive booths, stands, and salespeople try to sell the next big thing in technology (which has usually already been perfected by a company like Intel).

What she found was a sense of constant one-upmanship – which no one actually believes.

It’s all dream-spinning: Our company is the one that’ll come up with the next big thing. And the thousands of salespeople on the floor are there to convince you. At least until you promise them anonymity.

One Panasonic representative said they could even lie to people to get them to buy.

“It’s kind of like magic, how they come up with their figures. Consumers, if they read a label on a TV, if it’s a huge number, it’s better to them. They just come up with a label that makes it look more impressive.”

We all love a good piece of technology, and that’s what makes CES so alluring – so much technology in one place. It’s also why tech companies tend to make CES larger than life. The bigger your television, the bigger your credibility. The wackier your idea, the more likely you’ll attract some attention.

It’s a weird world, filled with models selling gadgetry they couldn’t care less about spruiking. But as DePillis describes, it’s addictive. Especially for the small businesses that get dragged into the mix with the hope of hitting it big with one great product.

If you’re interested in CES and what actually goes on there, it’s worth reading this extensive piece. With more debate occurring as to whether a show like CES should exist at all, it’s a great insight into whether or not it can survive.

But as Verge editor Josh Topolsky describes in the piece – there may always be a place for CES.

“Just like the world, most of the stuff is bad…But I think there are cracks in the pavement, and there are flowers that bloom in the cracks, and if you’re just seeing the sidewalk, you’re missing the really important stuff.”

“Haters are always, shit sucks, everything’s over, life is boring, there’s never anything new. And I feel like, you’re bored because you don’t know where to look.”

The cycling app that’s changing the sport

Sporting apps have been around for a long time. If you’re a runner, or ride your bike a lot, you’ll know there are plenty of ways to download your workout data to a computer and keep track of it all.

But a relatively new service, Strava, is changing the way cyclists go about their sport. Competitive professionals are using the service to compete against each other, along with millions of others across the world.

The service works by creating your own types of tracks, or “rides”. Once a cyclist completes a custom ride, he or she can upload that same ride to the internet. Then others can perform the same ride and try and beat your time – it’s called a KOM (king of the mountain). Users are becoming so dedicated to the service that one rider has even died in pursuit of a KOM.

In this fascinating piece at Outside Online, the founder of the service, Michael Horvath, explains why he feels the service is taking off. But he also talks about the popularity of the service and what that means for the company. Obsessed users, he says, equal money.

“If you have engagement…you can get a lot of other things: growth, monetization, revenue.”

The death of the American arcade

You’ve more than likely stepped foot in an old arcade at some point in your life, perhaps even played one of the old machines like Frogger and Space Invaders. But as this piece over at The Verge laments, most arcades are dead and dying.

Apart from an extensive look at the history of arcades, this piece is well worth reading for a profile on Lloyd Thoburn, who runs a family business making and restoring old arcade machines. In an age when the arcade is long gone, the Thoburns are making a decent living.

“They are doing a brisk business, and tell us that they ship entire containers to Europe, where American culture is a “craze,” but they also sell to collectors.”

It’s somewhat of a sad story, as The Verge points out:

“Everyone seems to agree on one thing: the arcade is dead, and most people are okay with that. No one I’ve asked gives me a different answer. The economics aren’t there anymore, the community support never was, and, of course, gaming companies make a killing in the home – almost none are even producing cabinets anymore.”

This is an elaborate history into one of the biggest influences in modern entertainment culture – and well worth a read.


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