Ed Zitron is severely dehydrated. It’s an allergic reaction, maybe, or some sort of spontaneous liquid evaporation that happens the moment one steps inside the doors of CES. Zitron, arguably CES’s most hilarious hater, has spent the day pacing the show floor of the world’s largest consumer electronics show, tweeting out his favorite mind-numbing insignia.
“Especially this year, it’s a word salad of, like, the same 18 words,” he tells Inverse from his hotel room at The Venetian. “‘Smart Home! Forum! Digital Security Privacy Blockchain!’ It’s like a student flat with those magnetic words they put on, but everyone has paid $4,000 to do that.”
It’s become something of a tradition for both Zitron and his tens of thousands of followers; come January, for five or so days, Zitron offers his absurdist, vitriolic takes on the CES show floor, an enormous gathering of the tech world’s supposed next, best and brightest products. It’s a convention so big, it sprawls across 2.5 million net square feet of exhibition space. And for the past four years, Zitron has waded in.
“I willingly dip my head into the septic tank,” he says.
Zitron’s first experience with CES came in 2014, when he spent the months leading up to the conference gently trolling tech companies by pretending to be a reporter interested in their product. To each and every pitch he received, Zitron responded with some version of “is it updog compliant?”
A lot has changed in the last few years, both for Zitron and the industry at large. All products have tech in them now, which raises the question of what, really, a consumer electronics show is really for. Coming at it from Zitron’s Twitter feed, CES doesn’t so much as border on ridiculousness; it embodies it. By far, the biggest story out of this year’s conference wasn’t an invention; it was a controversy about a vibrator.
It’s notable, then, that its most high-profile hater still thinks it’s worth the trip. His work running a tech PR firm called EZPR makes coming to CES relatively essential for business purposes. With 180,000 attendees, nearly 7,000 of them in the press, it’s an opportunity for face-time with journalists and potential clients. For that reason, he considers the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas worth it, often compressing what would have been a number of trips to New York and L.A. into a very intense, five-day stretch. Still, even he debated coming this year. He’s got a kid now. Five days feels a lot longer than it used to.
Zitron’s got tricks for coping, now. To avoid losing your mind, he recommends making your own fun. He equates it to the internet process of hell diving, of catching a glimpse of something truly bizarre, glinting in the depths of, well, hell, and committing to “digging through the ditches,” per the Rob Zombie song. The internet-of-shit, IRL.
“We keep coming back because it is really funny to look at all the weird things,” he says. “And there’s the meta game of the funny names. Just like ‘Goo Goo’ or ‘Boo Doo’ or ‘Ding Dong.’ Or ‘Name, name, KING BOSS, name, name.’ ‘Borpo.’”
So, for now at least, Zitron continues to lace up his walking shoes, suit up with, like, three portable chargers, and dig. He particularly loves digging through the fringes of the conference, where one might find products like internet connected pepper spray (“so insidious”) or a box you put your pet in to dry their fur (“So just, like, a microwave for your dog?”). At one point on Thursday, the smell of burnt toast began wafting across one end of Eureka Park. “I thought something was on fire,” said Zitron. “But sadly, no, it was just the inside of my brain.”
There was one product, though, that genuinely caught Zitron’s eye: “It was a bath you can set the temperature. My wife loves baths.”
He sighs, aware that the modest aspiration of a temperature-controlled bath is not exactly in line with the CES vibe. It’s so wildly simple, he explains. One might even argue that baths are already kind temperature-controlled. With the hot water tap. But still, it’s something that makes sense, that serves an actual purpose, that would improve upon an existing idea, without reaching the point of over-complication.
“That’s what I think the future should be,” he says. “But it’s also because I’m weird.”