EXHIBITOR magazine ranks the most remarkable exhibits from the 2018 International Consumer Electronics Show.
Held annually in Las Vegas, the International Consumer Electronics Show isn't just the largest trade show in the United States by every measure; it also sets the bar for global exhibiting trends at the beginning of each calendar year. The 2018 show featured 2.75 million square feet of show-floor space and more than 3,900 individual exhibits. And EXHIBITOR editor Travis Stanton viewed every last one of them (and has the blistered feet to prove it), including everything from big booths representing major multinational brands to diminutive spaces where startups made their trade show debuts. After four days, more than 50 miles of aisles, and nearly 4,000 booths to consider, he and his editorial team arrived at a list of the 20 most impressive exhibits from CES 2018.
1. Intel Corp.
Designed and fabricated by Taylor Manufacturing Industries Inc. (The Taylor Group), Intel Corp.'s 12,000-square-foot exhibit was a master class on immersive experiences. A variety of interactive demonstrations and presentations brought the company's technology to life via an artful mix of storytelling and experiential design. Subtle theming transformed Intel's swath of show-floor real estate into an urban expanse, complete with a 5G superhighway coursing through it – a design touch that allowed ample open space for superb traffic flow, while also placing many of the activities and interactions in a suitable environment. Projection mapping, transparent screens, and translucent automobiles enabled guests to explore autonomous driving and the 5G superhighway during audiovisual experiences that were almost indecipherable from magic. Overhead, an impressive, color-shifting light show drew attendees' attention and synched with the booth's rotating schedule of live presentations. At the heart of the space was a multipurpose theater with a retractable fabric screen where Intel demonstrated its drone technology, hosted informative presentations, and staged awe-inducing concerts, while simultaneously weaving the company's key messages throughout. Meanwhile, a 3,600-square-foot upper deck area provided a catwalk with a picturesque view of the show floor below, as well as the Intel Sky Lounge, which was open to media reps and VIPs.
PHOTOS: Erik Borzi Photography
2. LG Electronics Inc.
Guests entered LG Electronics Inc.'s exhibit through a mind-blowing tunnel of OLED monitors assembled in vertical wave-like forms reminiscent of the otherworldly sandstone passageways of Arizona's Antelope Canyon. Rotating through a mesmerizing montage of picturesque scenery, the screens transported attendees off the trade show floor to glacial crevasses and redwood-flanked forest paths. Inside the 200-by-110-foot exhibit (designed by LG's in-house agency and fabricated by Czarnowski Display Service Inc.), well-appointed vignettes housed a diverse assortment of demos and displays, radiating outward from a hypnotic cube of color-shifting orbs representing the company's Nano Cell technology. After immersing themselves in an LG-enhanced world, guests passed through a kinetic art gallery where sepia-toned photos floated overhead like a scene out of a Harry Potter film.
PHOTOS: Czarnowski Display Service Inc.
3. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.
Boasting one of the most iconic and photographed facades on the CES show floor, Samsung Electronic Co. Ltd.'s space was like a metropolis of marketing acumen. Before entering the exhibit (designed by MDLab and fabricated by MC2), guests first stood in awe of the massive cityscape that comprised the structure's primary entrance. A looping audiovisual presentation offered plenty of Instagram-worthy content along with Samsung's key message – Do What You Can't – which prepped clients and prospects for the experience inside. That experience, then, focused on how consumers can live richer, better, and more productive lives thanks to Samsung's slate of offerings. Product displays, activities, and informal live presentations rendered the exhibit's interior an intimate slice-of-life look at a world powered by Samsung gadgets and gizmos.
PHOTOS: Proto Images
4. Google LLC
The only outdoor exhibit to score a spot on our Best of CES list, Google LLC's space was like an experiential playground dedicated to the company's Google Home and Google Assistant technologies. The ground floor of the three-level structure housed an interactive display of Google-enabled products, as well as a voice-activated photo opportunity and a supersized gumball machine that dispensed branded items and big-ticket prizes to guests. A pulsed experience on the second floor treated visitors to a domed theater presentation and two immersive spaces that explored the connected experiences made possible by the ubiquitous brand. Lastly, a rooftop lounge – open only to VIPs – served up beverages and a bird's eye view of all the action. The cherry on the experiential sundae was a tornado slide visitors could use to exit the space.
5. Ford Motor Co.
Designed and built by Civic Entertainment Group and Imagination Inc., Ford Motor Co.'s exhibit brought "The Living Street" to life at CES 2018. While an LED wall provided a surprisingly realistic backdrop to the makeshift cityscape, trees, bike racks, street signs, and faux cobblestone flooring further enhanced the urban ambiance. Park-like seating offered attendees an opportunity to sit down and soak up Ford's key messages while sipping a complimentary cup of coffee from an authentic street vendor. A handful of costumed staffers served as crossing guards, while others occasionally peddled through the surreal scene, which hosted sporadic presentations by a variety of street performers.
PHOTOS: Ford Motor Co.
6. Netflix Inc.
Netflix Inc. took a page from H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" when orchestrating its exhibit for CES 2018, which promoted the upcoming sci-fi series "Altered Carbon." Rather than a boldly branded booth, Netflix erected a futuristic exhibit for the show's fictional biotech firm Psychasec. A pair of lifelike – albeit lifeless – humanoid figures stood guard over the booth's entrance like cryogenically frozen sentries. Staffers clad in clinical, white attire invited onlookers to participate in a three-part journey, where they were introduced to Psychasec's technology, which enables individuals to transfer their consciousness from mere mortal bodies into organic "human sleeves." Before departing the exhibit with a vial of moisturizer (positioned as an "aftercare gel" for the new vessels that could now house their consciousness), visitors were informed that Psychasec is being featured in a new Netflix documentary, at which point the series' trailer played on a nearby screen. Equal parts intriguing and off-putting, the ingenious exhibit, which appeared to have been vandalized by protesters claiming "immortality is immoral," left more than a handful of CES attendees uneasy and in utter disbelief.
7. Belkin International Inc.
A fusion of four complementary brands, the Belkin International Inc. exhibit greeted guests with a lavender-lit zone positioning Linksys-enabled Wi-Fi as the heart and soul of the entire 7,200-square-foot space. From there, visitors encountered other engaging areas highlighting WeMo, Phyn, and Belkin, with each zone incorporating its own theatrical lighting and product displays. Designed by Belkin's internal team along with Pinnacle Exhibits Inc. (which also fabricated the booth), all four zones were stand-alone successes that complimented one another, making the parent company much more than the sum of its parts.
PHOTOS: Pinnacle Exhibits Inc.
8. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
Towering, white exterior walls turned Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s exhibit into an imposing, yet irresistible structure. Designed and fabricated by George P. Johnson (a Project Worldwide agency), the stark exterior gave way to a dark, dramatic interior lit by an overhead element and larger-than-life LED walls. A central stage housed sporadic live presentations, while a translucent automobile educated visitors on the internal components of the company's ProPilot Assist technology. Nestled near the exhibit's glossy-black back wall, a trio of curved screens comprised an immersive activity that enabled guests to experience Nissan's brain-to-vehicle interface that might someday allow drivers to navigate the highways and byways using nothing but their thoughts.
PHOTOS: Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
Foreo, a multinational Swedish beauty brand, shocked attendees with a fully enclosed exhibit inside the Sands Expo and Convention Center that put the experience back in experiential design. The exterior resembled a cross between an industrial construction site and Area 51. Guarded by intimidating staffers wearing army fatigues, the structure was plastered with posters and warning signs denoting it as an ultra top secret restricted area for authorized personnel only. After waiting in line, attendees were admitted in small groups, but only after donning branded blindfolds. Inside, guests removed their blindfolds and entered a dystopian world populated by mad scientists and seemingly unwitting test subjects who became lifeless beauty zombies after downing a mysterious pink liquid. Following the bizarre experience, attendees were introduced to Foreo's UFO face mask device, which the company bills as "Alien Skincare Technology."
10. ZTE USA Inc.
The undeniable focal point of ZTE USA Inc.'s 5,000-square-foot exhibit was the nearly 23-foot-tall structure inspired by the company's Axon M dual-screen foldable smartphone. Comprising LED screens on the bottom and reflective Barrisol panels on top, the eye-catching, angular element was the supersized spitting image of the Axon M when it's placed in mirror mode. Running nearly the entire length of the exhibit – which was designed and fabricated by Derse Inc. – the mirrored structure not only referenced the company's featured product, but also served as a literal landmark on the show floor and provided passersby a unique light show as imagery from the LED panels below reflected off the mirrored surfaces above. Additionally, the Axon M-inspired enclosure housed the 5G Future Tunnel, where booth visitors learned about the benefits of 5G wireless technology atop immersive flooring painted with projected imagery.
PHOTOS: ZTE USA Inc.
11. Samsung Galaxy
Practically a staple of the CES experience, Samsung Galaxy's exhibit (designed by Cheil Worldwide Inc., produced by McKinney, and fabricated by The Taylor Group) once again delivered with a high-energy, immersive, nightclub-like ambiance that attracted a constant swarm of attendees who eagerly awaited their opportunity to experience an altered state of reality. Located in the Las Vegas Convention Center concourse between the North and Central Halls, the 2,200-square-foot space was like a high-tech theme park for adults, serving up an all-you-can-eat buffet of virtual-reality offerings, from collective group activities to competitive challenges, as well as individual experiences where guests got to battle enemies or get flipped upside down while snowboarding down digital slopes. For those who chose to participate in one or more of the VR engagements, the booth offered a highly immersive experience. For passersby or those who preferred to watch from a safe distance, it was a highly entertaining, voyeuristic event. Either way, as staffers turned emcees occasionally reminded attendees, the Samsung Galaxy exhibit was the place to be at CES 2018.
PHOTOS: Taylor/Drone Hub & Bryan Dale
12. Omron Corp.
While the Omron Corp. exhibit, designed and built by Exhibit Concepts Inc., might look like a scene from Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: A Space Odyssey," this futuristic stand positioned robotic technology more as human helper than Hal 3000. The structure's glossy-white towers, fabric canopy, and mirrored surfaces pulled in passersby with the power of a tractor beam. Once inside the 2,500-square-foot space, guests were invited to play table tennis against a robot opponent, explore biometric tech that enables devices to detect your demographics, and learn how cars can detect drowsy drivers based on miniscule differences between their head and pupil movements. The laboratory-like setting and interactive demonstrations positioned the company on the cutting edge of technology, while showcasing how Omron's advances allow humans and machines to interact harmoniously.
PHOTOS: Padgett and Company Inc. & Omron Corp.
13. Sony Electronics Inc.
An amalgamation of subtle wood-grain textures, warm lighting, and simple architectural forms drew CES attendees to Sony Electronic Inc.'s 25,000-square-foot space in the LVCC's Central Hall. A respite from the rest of the show floor, the exhibit (designed by Stungun Productions and Sony's internal team) seemed simultaneously homey and high-energy. At the back of the booth, a stark-white, angular fabric element pulled would-be passersby deeper into the space, where they were enveloped by branded messaging and a barrage of demos and displays amid slat-wall-enclosed rooms with string-art-like rooflines. Unlike competitors' sleek, sterile spaces, Sony brought warmth to its offerings by positioning its brand as both innovative and approachable. But perhaps the most beautiful part of this stunning booth was something that went mostly unseen: Comprising mostly unfinished lumber, the exhibit was deconstructed after the show, and the materials were later donated to Habitat for Humanity.
PHOTOS: Sony Electronics Inc.
14. Alibaba China Co. Ltd.
Designed and fabricated by Pico Global Services Ltd., the 4,600-square-foot exhibit for Alibaba China Co. Ltd. was an audiovisual tour de force. Using everything from a massive LED overhead element and an array of video walls to transparent touchscreens and virtual-reality activities, the booth showcased the breadth and depth of Alibaba's offerings via individual rooms, each dedicated to a different business unit. Highlights included the Tmall Genie area, with its glossy-black walls and embedded white lighting, and the ET Brain space, which used a kinetic conveyor belt to conceptually underscore the company's focus on quality control.
PHOTOS: Alibaba China Co. Ltd.
15. Sleep Number Corp.
On a frenetic trade show floor like CES, tired attendees often crave an opportunity to sit down and rest their aching feet. Sleep Number Corp. one-upped other exhibitors' sit-and-stay lounges with a tranquil space inside the Sands Expo and Convention Center where guests could slumber if they so chose. A riff on its past exhibits, Sleep Number's new booth (designed and fabricated by CenterPoint Inc.) promoted its customizable mattresses and comprised an ephemeral fabric canopy that became a relaxing, rest-inducing light show. Glossy black walls with inset LED screens ran branded content, drawing attendees into the space where Sleep Number beds practically begged to be tested. Monitors built into cloud-like overhead elements educated guests on the company's 360 Smart Bed, but those presentations were only visible to clients and prospects who accepted staffers' invitations to take a load off, lie down, and stay a while. Most exhibitors struggle to pull attendees out of the aisles and into their booths for face-to-face interactions, so kudos to Sleep Number, which managed to actually sleep with attendees – if only for a nanosecond.
PHOTOS: Padgett and Company Inc.
16. Panasonic Corp.
Coming in at 27,000 square feet, the exhibit for Panasonic Corp. was among the largest at CES 2018. Divided into three primary zones, the space (designed by Czarnowski Display Service Inc. and SD Associates Inc.) addressed the company's history and philosophy, current offerings, and vision for the future. An elegant museum-like display of past products helped celebrate the company's 100th anniversary and underscored the fact that in an industry overrun by startups, Panasonic has a rich and proven past full of innovation. In another zone, the company reinforced its commitment to renewable energy and hinted at a future replete with autonomous vehicles featuring touchscreen-like windows. Finally, the largest zone, dedicated to Panasonic's vast array of products, delighted visitors with displays, demos, live presentations, and even a 3-D theater experience. Full of both high-tech and high-touch activities, the gargantuan exhibit left an equally sizeable impression on attendees.
PHOTOS: Czarnowski Display Service Inc.
17. Vivint Smart Home
Some exhibitors subscribe to the motto "go big or go home." Vivint Smart Home did both in a 4,000-square-foot home-inspired space. Designed by the Vivint Smart Home Design Team and fabricated by MacKenzie Exhibit, the company's 2018 presence was more than double the size of its previous 30-by-60-foot booth. The expanded space was an extension of the company's 2017 design, using wooden beams and residential architectural elements to create a supersized doll house of sorts. The exhibit's perimeter was lined with faux-grass flooring, potted plants, and green trees, creating a realistic-looking lawn and setting the scene for an eye-catching roofline that stretched 23 feet into the air. Inside, each vignette featured Vivint's smart-home products and represented a different room in the house, including an archetypal kitchen, living room, and garage. Delightful details lent an air of authenticity to the booth, from cutting boards and welcome mats in the living spaces to tools and an actual automobile in the garage. Needless to say, attendees felt right at home as they explored the company's products in their natural habitat.
PHOTOS: Weston Colton
18. Ujet S.A.
Luxembourg-based Ujet S.A. faced the challenge of standing out amid the cacophony of CES 2018, building brand awareness as a first-time exhibitor, and positioning its electric scooter as just as innovative as any 5G-enabled device. As if that laundry list of objectives wasn't daunting enough, the company's booth space was tucked away in the bowels of Westgate Las Vegas, flanked by mostly forgettable stands representing equally unknown brands without the cache often necessary to tempt attendees out of the show's main halls at the LVCC and across the street into the Westgate Pavilion and Ballroom. So in order to capitalize on its investment and make the most of its less-than-ideal location, Ujet employed the power of design in an attempt to attract every attendee within eyeshot. The resulting 30-by-30-foot exhibit, designed and fabricated by Vok Dams Events GmbH, featured a glowing fabric header and faceted structural details that elevated Ujet's electric scooters to museum-worthy works of art. Like a high-tech gallery of haute couture treasures, the design pulled in guests using a trifecta of light, angles, and virtual reality.
PHOTOS: Vok Dams Events GmbH
19. Doria International Inc.
Representing the duality of California-based Doria International Inc.'s offerings, this design managed to fuse two completely different brands into one unified booth. This successful, split-personality structure was designed by Doria's internal team and fabricated by K2 Design and Fabrication. While the area featuring the fashion- and style-centric X-Doria line of smartphone cases and accessories was inspired by LA's boutique retail scene, the company's more protective Defense-brand offerings took center stage in a space inspired by the city's downtown, industrial lofts. Comprising unique materials, graphics, and light fixtures, both segments of the 20-by-30-foot booth housed meticulous and eclectic product displays befitting their respective brands.
PHOTOS: Doria International Inc.
20. Xeros Technology Group plc
Too many exhibitors focus solely on their rented floor space and forget about overhead opportunities. That's one reason Xeros Technology Group plc's stand (designed and fabricated by Sacks Exhibits) stood out at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. A conceptual cloud of floating, color-shifting orbs referenced both the company's corporate colors and its eco-friendly alternatives to traditional laundry practices. Paired with a duo of internally lit corporate logos, the more than 30 surreal spheres seemed to defy gravity, attracting attendees to the kinetic and multimedia elements below. Hawking polymers and dryer-filtration systems amid competing booths' high-tech gadgets can't be easy. But this first-time CES exhibitor made a clean sweep when it came to captivating both clients and prospects.
PHOTOS: Exposures Ltd. Photography