I'm blindfolded, my nerves tingling.
I hear the sound of an approaching chainsaw, gas fumes wafting up my nose as it nears. The chainsaw passes by. Moments later, I hear a woman scream.
The blindfolds come off and I'm staring at a woman. She says, "I am here of my own free will." She then downs a vial of pink liquid. Laser-like sounds blare as colors flash and then go blue. She falls into a dead stare. (You can see the video here.)
"Nothing will be the same after this," barks a mad scientist wearing a white lab coat.
Would you believe this is a booth for smart beauty care products?
CES is known for the eye-popping spectacles like or , but this booth -- less an exhibit and more a performance -- takes things to a whole new level. It made for one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had at a CES. With roughly 184,000 attendees and more than 4,000 exhibitors, sometimes it's worth taking that extra step to stand out.
The culprit behind this madness: A Swedish beauty care company called Foreo, which pitches itself as a "smart" beauty care brand (and who isn't smart at this show?). The not-so-subtle message of this dystopian vision is that Foreo represents something new and different, a break with the way beauty care products are developed by its old-fashioned and established rivals.
"This is not the traditional beauty booth with white chairs," said Trisha Mendiola, head of strategy and programming in the Americas for Foreo.
Regardless of the message, I have to applaud the stage craft.
Unless you knew the brand ahead of time -- and I didn't -- Foreo masterfully built up the suspense. The entire booth is fenced off, with numerous warning signs and employees in military fatigues and body armor patrolling the entrance. Curious, I asked one of the "guards" what was going on. I would only find out if I went inside, he said. So I took one of the blindfolds he was handing out and joined a line of other convention-goers. Minutes later, he barked at us to cover our eyes, and I marched into the booth.
As we walked forward, heat blasted on one side (that was supposed to represent one of the skin care treatments -- I think). When we took our blindfolds off, we were greeted by the scientist and three people, or test subjects, wearing yellow sheets. Their faces were covered in plastic wrap. The scientists ranted, and each of the three test subjects took turns drinking the liquid. The second one protested -- that's what led to the chainsaw and screaming.
At one point, one of the visitors used flashed photography (warning signs said that was a no-no) and an armored guard dragged him out. He was later brought back in -- wearing the yellow sheet and Saran Wrap -- and repeated the same ritual of drinking the pink liquid (of his own free will, of course).
The whole proceeding had me questioning where I was and what the heck this was all about.
It wasn't until the end when I filed out near the exit that I discovered Foreo was hawking beauty products, like a 20-second mask that's supposed to replace a 20-minute facial mask for skin care. It's on Kickstarter, having raised $375,000, or 19 times its goal of $20,000. And like everything else at CES, it's connected to an app.
To be honest, getting confirmation that this was ultimately a pitch about a product, and not some arty statement on horrors of tech, felt like a bit of a letdown.
But hey, I'm writing about beauty care products, so clearly Foreo got the best of me.
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