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CES: 35 Football Fields of Gizmos Galore


It's show time in Las Vegas. The Consumer Electronics Show opens today - 35 football fields full of gadgets and gizmos. All kinds of companies show off their newest and coolest technologies at the show. If you were to walk across all the booths, you'd travel more than 15 miles.

And NPR's Steve Henn has been making that trek.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Getting a show this big up and running isn't easy. All day yesterday and late into the night, thousands of contractors put the finishing touches on more than 3,100 exhibits booths. For big exhibitors at the Consumer Electronics Show, building the biggest, flashiest booth is one way to get attention.

Over the years, Adente Brown has become a connoisseur of convention booths.

ADENTE BROWN: I just walked by LG's. It looks pretty cool.

HENN: Adente Brown has been a security guard at the show for years, and gets an early a peek inside.

BROWN: The big wow factor, you know. The bigger wow, they're going to get more people in that booth, they're going to, you know, make more money.

HENN: But building these booths is expensive. Companies like LG, Panasonic and Microsoft will spend more than a half a million dollars renting floor space at the show. They'll spend hundreds of thousands more building their booths. So I snuck inside and took a look.


HENN: LG's booth features a 20-foot-high wall of high-def TVs - stretching something like 50 feet across.

BROWN: It's an eye-popper. It brings you over there.

HENN: But if displays like that are not enough, they're also the celebrities.

So you're not going to go check out Justin Bieber on that?

BROWN: No, I'm not a big Bieber fan. If my kids were here, maybe, you know. That's about it, though.

HENN: Bieber will be making an appearance tomorrow at a booth for a small robotics company. But despite all this hoopla, most of the thousands of attendees here are actually here for the technology.

BRAD FELD: My partners and I go to CES for a couple of reasons. One is we're all nerds and we just love to be, you know, sort of hang out in nerd land a couple of times a year.

HENN: Brad Feld is a venture capitalists at the Foundry Group. He comes to see start-ups and also keep an eye on the products big companies will be bringing out.

FELD: It's also a very powerful way to understand where the consumer electronic industry is going.

HENN: The product buyers and investors and the press are all on the look-out for the next great gadget, whether it is a tablet, a television, or an Internet-connected washing machine. The big themes this year are connected TVs and Microsoft's late and somewhat desperate-seeming push into mobile.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer joined Nokia's top executives yesterday pitching, even fondling, Nokia's latest Windows phone - the Lumia 900.

STEVE BALLMER: When you pick up and kind of touch and – mmmmm - love and feel your Lumia, you will find just, you know, brilliant screen - I mean it really is – it really is quite a fantastic, fantastic system.

HENN: To be fair, Steve Ballmer's not the only one at CES who has trouble controlling his enthusiasm for the latest gadget. This year, show officials hope that close to 150,000 other gadget geeks will visit the show floor.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.