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CES opens to public, despite surge in COVID-19 cases

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CES 2022 was set to mark the show’s triumphant return after a fully virtual event in 2021.

As the number of COVID-19 infections linked to the Omicron variant surges around the world, a slew of companies, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Intel, BMW and General Motors, have canceled or sharply reduced their presence on site .

The mobile operator T-Mobile justified, on December 21, the absence on the scene of a big party of his staff and the cancellation of the speech that his boss was to give by the priority given to safety of its teams.

It was an extremely difficult decision to make, for his part underlined the CEO of the Californian company of electric bikes Super73 in a press release announcing, less than a week before the opening of CES, his withdrawal from the show for similar reasons.

The CES organization says all health protocols are in place to accommodate the tens of thousands of people expected.

The number of companies present, some 2,200, has already been reduced by half compared to the last face-to-face event, two years ago. Masks and proof of vaccination are mandatory.

The CES also decided on Friday to reduce the duration of the show by one day, which will therefore be held from Wednesday to Friday.

We are confident that the event, even while respecting the appropriate distances, can be useful and productive for the people who participate, including the exhibiting companies., said the organization in an email to AFP, not specifying the number of cancellations.

However, specialists call for caution, and suggest using daily tests.

An indoor event with thousands of people still carries risks at this stage, even with the vaccination and mask requirements., says Vincent Rajkumar, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic.

Innovation at the rendezvous

Even with some empty booths, the show hosts the latest in autonomous vehicles, space travel, non-fungible tokens (JNF), telecommuting tools as well as the usual gadgets.

Many companies, especially start-ups, have invested a lot of money to gain some visibility at this event and to present their latest innovations.

Sierra Space, which is developing a space plane that can be reused to transport people and goods into space, is one of them.

We really think it’s important to be there in person, told AFP Neeraj Gupta, one of his officials.

Alongside them will be smart home devices, new televisions, tools to make the car interior safer and even a spoon that is supposed to enhance the flavor of food.

The innovations also concern more traditional sectors. Tractor maker John Deere will unveil components for autonomous machines there, while a young Dutch company will present its idea of ​​using water to store energy produced by wind farms at sea.

A self-driving, unmanned car race is also due to take place on a racing circuit on Friday.

In 2020, the show welcomed around 170,000 people and more than 4,500 exhibiting companies.

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