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CES 2021 Opening Day: Less Sizzle, More Substance.

For years, the annual CES Show brought space-age technology to life on a grand stage, a jaw-dropping spectacle of new gadgetry that offered a glimpse into life in the future. Reimagined as an all-digital event for the COVID era, opening day of the 2021 show sacrificed the sizzle of the in-person show for more content and wider accessibility. “There’s less fireworks this year but there is a lot of substance,” says Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs, who is reporting on the event exclusively for Inside Radio. “You learn more from attending the keynotes online without all the cacophony, crowds and noise of the physical show.”

Moreover, the transition to a virtual affair has democratized CES, putting it within reach for a much larger group for whom the cost of a multi-day Las Vegas excursion simply wasn’t in the budget.

It is, of course, safety concerns due to the pandemic that forced the Consumer Technology Association to shift the massive show from in-person to all-digital. And that pandemic pivot is one of the other major storylines to emerge from CES so far. “All the major brands are saying, ‘We need to rethink our product line, our brand, our priorities and lean into this,’” Jacobs says. “They’re thinking that life is different and we’re going to acknowledge that. For example LG Electronics led its presentation with smart products that help consumers disinfect their home or make them safer. “That is a big part of the overall theme: shelter, safety, health, cleanliness,” Jacobs observes. “All the COVID themes are very much part of the vibe and awareness here.”

Another major takeaway from CES is how COVID put the pedal to the metal on tech adoption trends already in progress.

During the Tech Trends To Watch, keynote, Steve Koenig, VP of Research and Lesley Rohrbaugh, Director of Research at the CTA, illustrated just how much global tech adoption has pressed fast forward. Topping the list is e-commerce, where increases in deliveries that normally would have taken 10 years occurred in eight weeks. The acceleration of telemedicine saw virtual appointments increase tenfold in a matter of 15 days. Streaming video consumption that normally would have taken seven years took place in five months. And the explosion in remote leaning saw 250 million students pivot to online learning in two weeks.

Of all the new tech being rolled out, one that should give radio broadcasters pause is the ongoing advancements in video screen display. At its keynote, Mercedes-Benz showcased its hyper screen feature that’s made up of several individual displays mounted in a single glass-covered housing. “This unified assembly stretches clear across the dashboard, nearly from one A pillar to the other, making it the interior's most prominent element,” according to CNET.Spanning 56 inches, the collection of displays gives passengers roughly 377 square inches of real estate to play with. “For the radio industry, we’re looking at album art and RDS displays and meantime here are dashboard displays right out of Disney and Pixar,” Jacobs says. “How radio looks is key – whether it’s in the dashboard or how our personalities are displayed and what they look like on camera and their video streaming presence.Now with the emphasis on video and display, that stuff becomes so much more critical.”

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