CES 2022: The Digital Experience

Friends, I came down pretty hard on the CES virtual experience last year. The show was fairly late in making its decision to cancel and that left exhibitors scrambling. I famously said the virtual show floor was akin to Myspace in 2008. And I stand by that.

This was supposed to be the year that it all went back in person. And yet…

This is CES 2022

Take a look at this picture of the show floor. Wherever you see concrete, that was supposed to be a booth. A lot of companies decided it was safer to stay home, and that includes some heavy hitters like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.

The ’22 show was advertised as a “hybrid” experience from the beginning, though. That means smart exhibitors had time to build out a proper virtual experience. Did they? Let’s take a look.

The virtual experience

Here’s AT&T’s page in the virtual booth tour. It’s a lot cleaner than what we saw last year, that’s for sure. Other exhibitors have a bit more content on their pages, but they all look more or less like this.

It’s an improvement. At least this looks like a business created it, and that’s a step in the right direction. Now, for most exhibitors, this is about all you see. There’s a way to connect with the show staff, there’s a link to their socials. That’s about it. However, CES now lets exhibitors link to outside web pages and that means smart exhibitors can beef up their virtual experiences.

If you click on the Connect button on their CES page, you are taken to a virtual-like experience where you can explore a lot of live video, media, and traverse in a VR-like way. I say “VR-like” since it does not seem like you can actually use a VR headset, but you do get a decent experience on a PC. You can check it out yourself if you want. Honestly this is much more like what I wanted to see last year.

AT&T isn’t the only one

GM has a less interactive, but still very attractive hub that you can visit here. It’s a good way to see what they would have shown at the show and it’s accessible to a lot more people. Sure, I would have liked to walk around and see the electric Silverado but this is the next best thing.

Poking around the exhibitor list I found several more large companies that put in efforts in creating microsites and virtual experiences. I’ll give A for effort this time around for the companies that took the time, and a lot of companies have done it this year.

Do we even need trade shows?

I think that we do. We may not need mega shows like CES as much as we did in past years. But even as good as some of these online experiences are, they’re no substitute for looking at a real product. I do believe that trade shows like CES will come back eventually. This year’s a good step though. As bitter as I was last year, I’m a lot more hopeful this time.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.