World’s biggest tech show CES set to open Wednesday, despite Omicron spread


With thousands descending on Las Vegas this week for a glimpse of the latest gadgets and innovations at CES, organizers offered the media a glimpse of what’s in store when the world’s biggest tech and gadget showcase officially opens on Wednesday.

With concerns running high over the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant that has seen companies such as Inc. and General Motors Co. drop out of attending the Las Vegas event in person, organizers said there was still a lot on offer at the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show — or CES for short.

“We are thrilled to be back in Las Vegas where we belong after a two year absence for the platform for innovation globally,” said Gary Shapiro, the President of the Consumer Technology Association.

“There’s a whole plethora of different things, from robotics to Artificial Intelligence to 5G to Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), to many other technologies, including food technology, space technology. So many things that we focused on that we haven’t before that have changed in just a couple of years,” he added.

As worries over the new variant loom, many companies have withdrawn from presenting in-person at the event, planned both virtually and in-person, that begins on Jan. 5 with over 2,200 exhibitors. The spread of Omicron has also made many reconsider their travel plans after thousands of flight cancellations.

Last month, organizers were anticipating between 50,000 and 75,000 attendees for this week’s conference, down from more than 170,000 who came for the last in-person gathering two years ago. But those guesses were from before the full force of Omicron hit the U.S. The country recorded more than a million new cases on Monday, a new record.

“As much as I’m a cheerleader for the technology industry, I recognize you have to be face-to-face with people. There isn’t a CEO I’ve spoken to around the world who doesn’t agree with that statement,” said Shapiro, about why he was determined to have an in-person event this year.

Over the last week, a host of firms including Advanced Micro Devices, Proctor & Gamble, Alphabet Inc’s Google, Facebook parent Meta Platforms have also dropped their in-person plans.

Sony Group’s Sony Electronics has said it will have limited staffing and attendees at the event.

All attendees in Las Vegas will be required to be fully vaccinated and masked. COVID-19 test kits will also be provided at the venue, according to CTA’s statement.

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