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CES chief on this year's show plus past product triumphs and duds (Podcast)

Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which sponsors CES, talks about past CES successes and failures and what he expects at this year's show.

Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which runs CES. James Martin/CNET


The Consumer Electronics Show, which has been going on since 1967, is where the tech industry gathers to see what's in store for the coming year. Although it was first in New York and later in Chicago, it's now in Las Vegas, America's largest venue when it comes to hotel rooms and convention space.

The show is run by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), a trade group that represents about 2,000 tech companies, and CEA's CEO, Gary Shapiro, is effectively the mayor of CES.

I sat down with Shapiro on the eve of CES to talk about his expectations for this year's show and to look back at earlier Consumer Electronics Shows, as well as some of the products that "made it" and those that didn't. Shapiro is proud that CES was the launching ground for such iconic products as the VCR, CD and DVD as well as new categories, such as fitness bands.

But he's also aware that there have been duds and even frauds along the way. 3D TV is probably the most famous example of an overhyped product that may have wowed some at CES but failed to attract actual consumers. And there have been products that never came to market. "Companies sometimes play with people and journalists. They put things in a glass case," said Shapiro, but they're not always working or viable products.

This year's expectations

This year, Shapiro expects big things from 4K ultra-high definition TV which, he says is "a bargain for consumers," though I'm not so sure 4K is ready for prime time.

Shapiro is also bullish on health care tech, which he sees as an answer to the worldwide shortage of doctors. Shapiro said that some of the other big, or at least important, product categories for this year's show include:

  • 3D printing - including printing of artificial limbs
  • Agriculture
  • Car safety (and driverless cars)

3Ts of drones: Toys, tools or terrifying?

Shapiro also expects to see a lot of drones at this year's show and when I asked him if drones are toys, tools or terrifying he said, "all three." He pointed out that they can be used to deliver medicine in rural areas or cut down on urban congestion as rooftop delivery vehicles, but he admitted that there are both privacy and safety issues that need to be addressed.