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MIT student blogger Abby H. '20

soul searching at CES 2019 by Abby H. '20

a non-journalist's take

Last weekend was CES 2019, an annual convention in Las Vegas that I didn’t even know about until a couple of my friends told me to register to go to it with them. It was described to me as a showroom-type thing where companies set up booths to display the latest gadgets they are marketing/will take to market soon. Neato.

The convention isn’t necessarily open to the public (I think you actually need business credentials or media affiliation), but I was able to get in on the last day for free (!) by registering as a student.

I was there for hours and didn’t see even a quarter of the displays. The Las Vegas Convention Center is huge, and every open space was packed with people. Some of the exhibitors even had their own specially designed buildings outside of the exhibition halls. Google pulled a very EC stunt in setting up a roller coaster inside their building, and they also built a gumball machine that dispensed products ranging from Google beanies to Google Homes (the device not an actual Google house) to anyone willing to wait two hours in the line (not me).google gumball machine


I also saw multiple massage chair displays…people in massage chairs at cesmore people in massage chairs at ces


…some skates reminiscent of a hoverboard…

…immersion cooling…
a computer submerged in liquid to demonstrate immersion cooling


…arcade games…ces attendees playing arcade gamesa pong table game


…tons of people…a crowd of ces attendees


…a speaker with a built-in screen (???)…an alexa speaker with a screen


…Waluigi (wah)…me with waluigi


…a TV whose audio was transmitted through the screen as demonstrated by some metal balls…a TV with pendula attached to show the movement of sound


…a TV that rolls up…

…a phone with ten-point discrimination even under water…a phone being placed in water to test its point discrimination


…a bread machine…a machine that kneads, divides, and bakes loaves of bread


…the United States Postal Service…the usps display at ces


…a ceiling of screens…curved panels on the ceiling displaying a canopy of trees


…3D-printed dentures and dental molds…dental molds of various materials


…spinning LEDs that made images look 3D…

…and a tractor that made me reconsider a career in Big Farm-a.john deere displayme sitting in the wheel of the giant tractor


It felt like an adult science fair. Plenty of people have recapped the cool stuff that’s coming out of this convention, so I really don’t feel like discussing AI and 5G and autonomous devices here.

I had a sort of spiritual reaction to being surrounded by shiny new consumer electronics. It struck me how so many of these products represented the hard labor of the people who made them, but that this human element was being suppressed in favor of talking up the product. (I know that’s the whole point of a technology showcase but let me FEEL!)

I’m a junior in college, which means I’m starting (hahahahaha) to worry about future employment. I’ve often thought that grad school is the only possible next step for a bio major who wants to be able to live comfortably. Recently, I’ve decided to take on a second major (in Comparative Media Studies) just because the classes I’ve taken in that field have been so much more intriguing to me than my bio classes. I don’t know if grad school is what I want anymore.

I look at my resume, I look at myself, I look at the displays at CES and wonder what it means to be “marketable.” Am I marketable, or at the very least are my skills marketable? Do I have “skills”? Why am I worrying about this when I’m only 21?

Most people reading this are probably highschoolers. As much as I don’t want you to relate to this, I’ve got a feeling you might. You’ve filled out application after application attempting to market yourself to these schools who have never met you. It’s hard to feel good enough. I’m at MIT, and I still don’t feel good enough. I’m working on it. Buuuuuut I’m also working on making my display booth interesting to ensure other people see me.

Good luck to all of us.