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CES 2021 Goes Virtual

Now that 2020 is behind us and we are at the start of the new year, we are all excited to embrace the rising waves of innovation that are sure to come from this year's CES event. With the first convention taking place all the way back in 1967, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), is an annual technology fair hosted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) to showcase companies and products that feature groundbreaking innovation. There is a diverse selection of transformative products that made their debut at CES in the past, including the VCR, HDTV, satellite radio, the Microsoft Xbox, and 3D printers. This year, organizers announced their first completely digital CES event, held from Jan. 11 - Jan. 14, 2021. The convention is typically held in Las Vegas but made adjustments adapt to the new reality spurred by the Coronavirus pandemic.

This is what the CTA had to say in a press release announcing their switch to a virtual event: 

"The new format will allow participants to hear from technology innovators, see cutting-edge technologies and the latest product launches, and engage with global brands and startups from around the world. [...] CES 2021 will be a new immersive experience, where attendees will have a front row seat to discover and see the latest technology. This highly personalized experience will bring a global event to the comfort and safety of your home or office. [...] We plan to return to Las Vegas for CES 2022, combining the best elements of a physical and digital show."

Rather than physical meetings and in-person displays, CES 2021 has totally reconstructed their platform to offer the best of the tech industry in a way that remains safe and convenient for all of those involved. As the active workforce has predictably shrunk in response to COVID-19, new technologies are bound to focus on the limitations that have subsequently made themselves known. The influence of the pandemic can be seen clearly in some of the technologies that were showcased this year. 

From gaming company Razer comes Project Hazel, an auto-sterilizing N95 face mask that impressively features wireless charging and voice-amp technology. Alongside were new and improved robotic models of existing products that could take on risky tasks.  Cleaning, for instance, could expose a person to the virus. Specifically, LG introduced their UV-C robot, an autonomous technology that disinfects surfaces and has been confirmed to be rolled out in schools, healthcare facilities, and workplaces later this year. Both of these products highlight a focus on reducing the risk of droplet transmission. 

Another trend that is more unique to this year's event is the merging of the home and work life. Social-distancing measures have created an influx of technologies that enhance a stay-at-home work environment. X-Chair's X-HMT is described by the company as "an Ergonomic Massage Chair for Home and Work." Meanwhile, Dell unveiled their Latitude laptops with an automated physical shutter for the webcam, an innovation likely stemming from occurrences where people forget to check that their camera function is off when it is not being used..

News website ZDNet identifies health, wellness, and workplace safety as the number one trend for players in the tech industry to pay close attention to. They predict the workforce will return to "a new normal marked by more hybrid working environments, increased reliance on e-commerce and delivery-based services, growth in the use of physical and mental health monitoring devices, and lots of new tech to help people safely come together in person."

Although this year's convention has come to a close, it has ushered in technologies that would have been strange to consider as essential a year prior. Touchless tech, ultraviolet disinfectors, and air purifiers may have jumped to the forefront, but gaming tables, sunglasses that stream your favorite shows, and many more fun, new innovations have come out this year that keep us inspired.