On January 1st, I enjoyed a nice New Year’s dinner with my family. We played games, watched virtual reality horror films, and listened to my 12-year-old brother play the saxophone.
On January 2nd, I was sitting at our dining room table, planning out my year. 2017 is the year that I graduate MIT. People were going to start asking me what I was doing after graduation, and I had to pen some sort of answer, even though honestly I still wasn’t sure. I just knew that I thought virtual reality was cool and I wanted to put myself at the forefront of that field. I started doing research on what the VR trends would be in 2017 and found out that a lot VR tech was going to be showcased at the Consumer Electronics Expo in Las Vegas.
I had the chance earlier to go to CES but I passed on it. A group of my friends were going. They tried to convince me, but I didn’t want to spend the money. I didn’t realize how big of a deal CES was. Then I saw company after company announce that they’ll be showcasing their newest innovation at CES. The latest and greatest in virtual reality, autonomous driving, internet of things, and other consumer technologies were all being revealed there. I began feeling anxious, and FOMO started kicking in. It’s one thing to follow the news on the Internet and tweet at the companies at CES. It’s another thing entirely to be there in person, introducing yourself to them and putting yourself on their radar.
I really regretted my choice when I found out that another one of my friends, the founder of Upload, was hosting one of CES’s largest parties and it was centered on virtual reality. The top movers and shakers of the VR field would be there, all the people I wanted to meet.
Later that day, another one of my friends, one that I met at TechCrunch DisruptNY, messaged me with questions about the Boston startup scene. We caught up for a bit, and she mentioned that she was going to CES. Then, she told me she had an extra ticket if I wanted it.
I dropped everything and pulled up flight times. Somewhat expensive but manageable with a free conference ticket. My friends already booked hotels, I could join them and split the costs. But was I really about to spend the money to book a flight to Vegas to go to CES in less than two days?
On January 3rd, I bought my plane tickets. On January 4th, I got hype. On January 5th, I was in Vegas.
Vegas was like a dream. Architecture, lights, and music everywhere. After enough sightseeing (I didn’t get enough), I made my way to Tech East, one of the sections of CES. The online guides said I’d be overwhelmed by the size of CES, and I was indeed overwhelmed. The convention room just for startups was huuuuge! Larger than any conference I’ve ever been to. And that was just one room of one section.
I tried out technology that let you walk in virtual reality, a camera that can take crystal clear photos of the night skies, a collection of Indiegogo’s most successful projects, and a drying machine that folded your clothes for you. I even met two MIT grads, both working on different startups in completely different industries.
I didn’t get to see much since my plane landed late on the first day. But afterwards, my friends and I met up outside the convention center and called an Uber – an UberCHOPPER!
See, Uber was doing a special promotion during CES where they rented helicopters to bring people around Vegas. Normally they cost $99, but we got our hands on the secret coupon for free helicopter rides for the first 200 users. The Uber picked us up and took us to a helicopter landing station, where a helicopter picked us up and gave us a tour of Vegas.
That night, promoters were going around giving out free spots for concerts to the conference goers. We went to Hakkasan, where none other than Lil Jon was performing. I waved at him. He responded by nodding his head and yelling “YEAHHH!”
On January 6th, I forgot to charge my phone overnight and was sitting by an outlet next to the TechCrunch panel. My friend came up to me told me that Daymond John was speaking right at that moment. I got up and ran over. I couldn’t believe it was Daymond John! When I first got into entrepreneurship, I started watching replays of Shark Tank in my dorm room late at night. The Sharks were some of the first entrepreneurs whose story I got to know.
I even got a photo with Daymond John afterwards!
I can’t believe I got a photo with Daymond John!!
At the TechCrunch after-party, I met a guy who’s working on personalized cancer cures using machine learning. Thanks to the fact that I just finished 7.012 Intro Biology (and passed!) I was able to have a good conversation with him on the future of personalized medicine. I also met more VR enthusiasts and some TechCrunch writers.
Later that night was the Upload party, where I passed Robert Scoble, stopped, backed up, and realized that I had just passed Robert Scoble.
If you don’t recognize him, he’s the “guy who ruined Google Glass with a shower selfie”:
Scoble even let me try on his Snap Spectacles!
The Upload party was a blast. I hung out with the founders of Upload whom I met at MIT, and I tried out countless demos of new virtual reality tech. I met people in the VR industry from all over, including people that I’ll be seeing again at the AR in Action conference at the MIT Media Lab next week. The momentum just keeps on building.
That night’s entertainment was Afrojack at the Omnia. It was the most mind-blowing concert I’ve ever been to, especially considering that at one point I joined Afrojack on stage when a VIP invited me up.
On January 7th, we finally completed exploring the first floor of CES. Our jaws dropped on the second floor. It was even larger than the first floor!
These were innovations by larger companies. Smart home technologies, autonomous driving, etc. Two of my favorites were headphones that play music by vibrating your cheekbones and speakers that are only audible to people who stand directly in its path.
Oh, also, holograms. Coming soon to a future near you.
We ended the weekend at XS, watching a performance by Alesso. Coincidentally somehow, we left the club at the same time as Alesso and my friend got a photo with him.
On January 8th, our trip had come to an end.
What an experience. I had to take the second week of January to reflect on what happened the first week. I noticed that while the conference itself was great, the real magic happened at the unofficial events built around the conference. The strongest connections I made were at the after-parties where people were more relaxed and not in a rush to try out the latest gadget.
I thought that I was going to CES to see some amazing technology, but really I went to meet some amazing people.
Now that I’m back at MIT, I’m excited to push forward into VR and spend my last semester laying the final foundations for my future. Time to get to work.