The 8 CES Booths That Made Me Look Twice (and What I Saw When I Did)

Capitalism is fine and progress is great, but only insane ideas can be beautiful.

Neel V. Patel

There was a lot to see at the Consumer Electronics Show this past week. And some of it was worthwhile! Walking across the floor, I found myself drawn towards trivialities — the dead ends of the technological, taxonomical chart — than the true innovations or marketable ideas. Capitalism is fine and progress is great, but beautifully executed silly ideas are glorious.

Here are things that happened in Vegas that will likely stay in Vegas, but that you should know about to better appreciate the joys of the human/transhuman experience.


You want to sing Led Zeppelin songs like a robot? They have a function for that. Want to be a church choir? A chipmunk? A death metal singer? Fine. No Problem. Singtrix, a new kind of karaoke technology, can let you do all of that and more. I can honestly say I did not expect to be greeting people with the voice of Barry White at some point in my life, but hey — that’s Vegas, baby.

How does Singtrix work? Fuck if I know! A recurring problem at CES is that a lot of the people heading up these booths are salespeople — not tech developers. Ask them how something is able to do what it does, and you’ll get a shrug. Say the word “monetize,” however, and they’ll dance. It’s adorable.

BeamPro’s Telepresence Army

BeamPro's telepresence bots come in regular and in 'Paul Bunyan'

Neel V. Patel

Oh, how about that one time I walked through BeamPro’s booth and was immediately preyed upon by an army of a dozen or so telepresence bots — including one that was 50 feet tall? I mean, sure, everyone was friendly and easy to talk to, but if I don’t like people in real life, what could possibly make me like them better if they’re an LCD screen on wheels??

Intel’s Sandbox Tanks

Intel, for good reasons, had built a village to show off all of the company’s different emerging products and technologies. Over in a tiny nook by the side, was a box full of sand flanked by a couple of buttons and joysticks on both ends. I asked the Intel dude standing by what this was, and things escalated quickly.

Turns out, the contraption was a game designed by sensory gaming technology Torch. Using Intel’s RealSense camera, the game creates a topographical map based on the shape of the sand — including peaks, valleys, and other physical characteristics. And players get to push the sand around themselves and decide what they want to see for themselves.

The map is made instantly, and the game begins with a projection overplayed on top of the sand. With the joysticks and buttons, you move around a miniature tank and shoot at your opponent. Each player can use the terrain to put themselves in a better position to strike — or avoid their opponents firepower.

A second game requires you to search for mines and destroy them. How? Dig into the sand with your hands, find the blinking lights of destruction, and fire away.

The Intel guy kicked my ass two games straight. Still fun, though.

Postal Service Tetris

The U.S. Post Office was at CES, presumably because you’ve got to do something. And for some reason, they had some strange puzzle game where players had to stack boxes on top of one-another as they fell down from top to bottom. Pretty neat to watch, but I do question how much taxpayer money went into this…

*Correction: The USPS informs me that it actually receives zero tax dollars for its operations. #TheMoreYouKnow.*

The U.S. Postal Service, at CES.

Neel V. Patel

Is this U.S. Postal Service suddenly becoming cool? Are they trying too hard? Will mail ever becoming trendy again? These are questions that need answering.

Intel’s VR Drawing App

Although Oculus Rift is looking towards gaming as its biggest selling point, that hasn’t stopped a lot of companies from thinking about the potential of VR in more creative ways. Intel is one of them. At the entrance of their booth, attendees were greeted with a drawing app that lets you create some wicked cool artworks in a 3D space.

(Ignore how horrible the dude in the video is at drawing things.)

Corning’s Smart Glass

Better known for its glass and ceramics manufacturing, Corning was at CES to show off its admittedly cool new touch-sensitive glass. As you can see in the picture, a transparent foil fitted with electronic hardware can be applied to any glass surface and create an interactive display that looks like it belongs in the future.

Corning's smart glass.

Neel V. Patel

Corning itself demonstrated how such technology could be used in retail stores to help consumers search for different styles and sizes of a particular product, like shoes or clothes. I was thinking more like Minority Report where we can use pre-cognition to stop future crimes, but maybe that’s a little far off.

808 Audio

808 Audio isn’t on this list because their new product or technology was super cool or strange. They’re here because they win the award for the most awkward booth. And this is tech conference — that’s a pretty difficult feat.

Here’s the scene: a DJ in the center spinning away obnoxious club music while taking hard chugs of beer; attractive women hired to dance in the middle of the booth, but looking extremely shy and weirded while doing so; a side-stand where people can make their own colored vinyl records because why not; and a crowd of CES attendees standing around — mostly guys, mind you — standing around for long periods of time and taking pictures and videos of the whole thing.

Number of people I saw actually buying 808 Audio products? Zero. Even CES isn’t immune to bad ideas.

This Private Internet Access Booth

The outright most balls-to-the-walls booth award goes to Private Internet Access, which stocked several dozen people in green skin suits to hang around and scare everyone off. Great business plan, I must say. Makes me definitely want to hire them to manage my internet security.

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