The big news at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas isn't the drones that can fly themselves and follow the pilot around the room. It's not the television set so thin and limber that it can roll itself into a box that's only a few inches high. Self-driving cars? Not even that news that can touch this.
In a word, the big news is technology's worst nightmare: water. Rain. Rain. And more rain.
I was at CES last year, but skipped this year. But I learned a lot through emails, web searches and a few old-fashioned phone calls. Best of all: I stayed dry through it all.
It had not rained in Las Vegas in 116 dates. The day the drought broke was the same day CES — the world's largest electronics show — opened. It started Tuesday and closed Friday evening. An estimated 180,000 would attend, all of them connected to the technology industry; the show is not open to the public.
And while CES workers scurried to ready electronics for their unveiling, the rains had an unveiling of their own: Leaks in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Long stretches of carpeting were soaked; large areas were closed off with orange pylons and yellow caution tape.
In a parking lot beside the convention center, Google was present — the first time in the company's 20-year history that it had been represented at CES. The company had erected a modular two-story building to display its wares and those of its partner companies.
It had an enclosed spiral slide on an outside wall that twisted from the rooftop down to the ground. It was spectacular — like Google was trying to make up for a 20-year absence with one big, massive display.
The building, alas, was closed. Although filled with electronics, what Google workers really wanted was a self-deploying rain tarp, for the modular building was more like a sieve. The opening would wait a day.
What else could go wrong?
Day 2, Wednesday. The North, Central and South Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center suddenly went dark. Electronics need electricity like electronics don't need water.
When a room goes dark, it's one thing. When a convention center goes dark that was filled with booth lighting, television screens, and flashing lights, it goes really, really dark.
At that point, the lights on smartphones and old-fashioned flashlights were the highlight of the show. One company that got a big boost from the darkness: the Tesla booth — the company that makes the battery-powered car.
Power was restored to the South Hall within several minutes, but it was two hours before the remainder of the center was back on line.
What caused it? A spokesman for NV Energy said the excessive rainfall caused a "flashover" between transformers.
By Thursday, the rains had stopped, the leaks were covered, and the sun was out. And AIBO, Sony's latest version of a cyborg dog, was on display. It was also drawing a lot of attention. It was the first time the new, updated robotic dog had been demonstrated outside of Japan. (AIBO, by the way, is Japanese for "partner" or "pal.")
He (or she) walks and fetches. The tail wags. He (or she) can scratch his (or her) ears. The eyes are round video screens that are oh-so-cute.
Your eyes may bulge at the price tag: $1,778, reports PC Mag, which added that it sold out the first day and will only ship in Japan for now. No word on when it may be available in the United States.
I figure on getting one, and taking it with me to CES next year. He (or she) can carry the umbrella. And the flashlight. What else could go wrong?
Contact Lonnie Brown at ledgerdatabase@ aol.com.