25 Jan Vegas, CES, and the Oculus Rift
We sent David G., our Director of Strategic Business Development, to the 2016 CES in Las Vegas to serve our clients. This is his report.
I was at CES for my first time—for work, yes—but the one big thing on my agenda was trying out the Oculus Rift. I love video games, and the Oculus Rift is setting the bar for virtual reality headsets. It doesn’t ship until the end of March—if you’re lucky and already ordered it weeks ago. Buy it today, and you’re looking at July. If you’ve somehow missed all the Oculus Rift chatter and don’t know what I’m talking about, read their incredible backstory.
CES is the International Consumer Electronics Show, and it’s the number one place for companies to launch and show off shiny new products. Every company in any industry even slightly connected to electronics is there: video games, cell phones, the big car companies, startup car companies, toaster makers, etc. There are thousands of companies—3,631 in 2015—and each one is trying to stand out.
When the doors opened on the first day at 10am, I was in the crowd that had started gathering hours before. We rushed in with a Black-Friday-like frenzy. I had a map. I knew exactly where I was headed and made a beeline for the Oculus booth. There was some serious distance to cover. You can’t really imagine how big CES is (on my first day, my iPhone tracked me covering 6.5 miles, and I still didn’t see the whole thing). I was walking at an impressive clip, even ran some of it, but by the time I arrived, I could see super clearly I was not the only one with this idea.
— David Gisonno (@davesphotobooth) January 6, 2016
The line was already long, and I was watching it continue to grow, so I took my place and prepared for the wait. Luckily, the experience was Disney World-like. Oculus clearly had planned for the crowds, and there were video screens showing off the games all along the line. I was so close and yet so far. 45 minutes later, I was ushered into a small private room, told I would get seven minutes—in heaven, I thought—handed a headset and given a menu of a dozen or so games to pick.
The first thing I will say is that Oculus was intuitive. You use an Xbox controller, which you could say I’m familiar with, so I figured it out quickly. I chose a third-person game that I can’t remember the name of, but I was running through ice and over cliffs while being followed by giant mutant bugs and shadow people. In a word, it was awesome. The Rift takes the gaming experience, and brings it to a whole other level of immersion and adrenaline. When you start thinking about the technology and the potential applications for gaming and beyond, it’s clear there are insane future ramifications.
Afterward still high on virtual reality, I wandered the crowded insanity of CES with no particular expectations. I saw drones with 360-degree cameras and ones that people could ride—there were a ridiculous number of drones. I also saw incredible automotive displays. Audi really stood out with their sleekly designed booth, diving simulators and interior prototype mockups you could actually try. Also, GoPro was giving away cameras by raffle—it was so mobbed, I couldn’t get close—and they literally almost caused a riot. At the end of a long day, when finally made it through the one-hour taxi line and got back to Circus Circus—let’s just say I discovered all the hotels sell out weeks before—my mind was abuzz with all kinds of possibilities.
— David Gisonno (@davesphotobooth) January 7, 2016
Now that I’m back in NY, I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the point of CES: the sensory overload, the madness, that kind of theater. Companies try to set themselves apart and make sure they are the ones that get talked about. There is much to gain. Bloggers write about them, major news outlets cover what everyone is talking about, and that trickles down into a form of traditional advertising.
Oculus was in a unique spot: they were demoing a product that the Internet had been on fire about for months. That’s the kind of hype that makes you get up early and run not walk. But most companies are there to create buzz. Think of it this way: however much companies spend at CES—and it’s not an insignificant amount—pales in comparison to what they would spend on a national TV campaign. Buzz is priceless. You can’t necessarily buy it, but if you’re going to try, CES is the place.
Since it’s my job, I’m obliged to say that if you need help creating buzz—in any context—that’s what we do, and we’re here to help.