Newspaper article International New York Times

Animatronic Tails and Potemkin Villages

Newspaper article International New York Times

Animatronic Tails and Potemkin Villages

Article excerpt

Las Vegas has a fake Statue of Liberty and a fake Eiffel Tower. So why not add a fake Twitter town for business meetings?

As usual, lot of strange stuff graced the floor of the International CES, the consumer electronics trade show that took place in Las Vegas last week. There was a Roomba-like robot that cleans your grill -- perfect for that post-labor future in which we're all too lazy to spend 30 seconds running a brush across the barbecue. In another booth was a robot that roams around a tennis court picking up balls. Ballboys, you've been disrupted.

Despite all the robots, CES was not all bad for humans. In the hall devoted to fitness gadgets were several men and women who'd been employed to walk, run, jump, pedal, lift weights or otherwise work out for extended periods of time, and to smile while doing it. It looked exhausting, but hey, at least it's a job that no machine can do.

Strangest of all was something spotted by my friend (and podcast co-host) Jay Yarow, the executive editor of Business Insider. At one booth Jay met an entrepreneur who had created an animatronic tail for people to wear. Yes, a tail -- long and furry, the appendage straps around your waist and gently sways up and down as you walk.

You may wonder, "Why would anyone want a tail?" To which I'll counter, "Why would anyone not want a tail?" I'll note that lots of people asked Bill Gates why anyone would want a P.C., too, and look who's laughing now.

The oddities at CES show why journalists often complain that the show is a pointless ritual that produces few interesting stories about tech. But it's also worth noting that to people with real jobs, the show takes on a greater importance. A lot of business gets done at CES, often away from the show floor, in the labyrinthine warrens of meeting rooms across the Las Vegas Strip. …

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