Behold: scenes from The Saddest CES On Record

Omicron didn't officially cancel CES 2022, but technically it didn’t have to.

The Show absolutely, positively, must go on.

That was the assessment of Consumer Technology Association President, Gary Shapiro, who just a week ago announced that Las Vegas’s annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — one of the largest tech expos in the world — would trudge forward, holding an in-person, on the ground, face-to-masked-face event, despite (cough, cough), less than ideal circumstances.

It may be messy. But innovation is messy. It is risky and uncomfortable. - Gary Shapiro

So here we are, two years removed from the super-spreading CES of 2020, with an allegedly “proper” IRL CES 2022, scheduled (less than ideally) smack dab in the middle of another, miserable, surge of COVID-19. Smashing.

If you were one of the almost all people who decided not to attend the event, you might be wondering to yourself: what exactly does a mid-spike tech expo look like? Well, thanks to local Las Vegas photographer, and frequent CES attendee, Martin S. Fuentes, Input got some exclusive shots you might want to see — that is if you like seeing things that are incredibly, awfully, inordinately lonely.

*checks phone* “It says this is where CES is...”Martin S. Fuentes / Input
Step right up folks, or just folk, I guess...Martin S. Fuentes / Input
Free parking, everyone!Martin S. Fuentes / Input
After the “morning rush.”Martin S. Fuentes / Input
What time does the rave start?Martin S. Fuentes / Input
Echo! Echo... Echo....Martin S. Fuentes / Input

If these photos aren’t enough to get a feel, I asked Fuentes, who has been attending CES since 2016, to describe the vibe in two words. He gave me 23:

“It’s paradoxical. Quiet in grandeur; optimistic in pockets; as a whole it’s quiet and sad, but in small bubbles of people it’s fun.”

At the very least, “small bubbles” shouldn’t be a problem. For context, the image below is an example of what CES can, and usually does, look like — ya’ know, when there’s not a virus to be accounted for.

A snap from CES in 2008 when 140,000 people flocked to the Las Vegas Convention Center. David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images


Normally a seat at this bench would require fisticuffs. Martin S. Fuentes / Input
Not even foldable phones could coax a crowd.Martin S. Fuentes / Input
Boulevard of broken screens.Martin S. Fuentes / Input
What’s a press room with no press?Martin S. Fuentes / Input
“I cried on that rug” — Input Deputy Editor, Cheyenne MacDonaldMartin S. Fuentes / Input

As you might’ve guessed, the Input crew did not attend CES this year, which is sad — partially because we still covered the heck out of convention happenings, except with no partying or Tom Holland — but ultimately, it was the right decision for us and our wellbeing.

And in case you were wondering, Fuentes did eventually give me his two-word synopsis on the CES 2022 vibe — a surprise take given the content of the pictures he turned in. His verdict?

Delightfully personal.

I’m not one for optimism by default, but I will leave you all with the best attempt I have at proffering a brighter future for CES and humans in general: next year has to be better.