EXHIBITOR magazine ranks the most remarkable exhibits from the 2019 International Consumer Electronics Show.
Held annually in Las Vegas, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 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 2019 show featured 2.9 million square feet of show-floor space and more than 4,400 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 small spaces where startups made their trade show debuts. After four days, more than 50 miles of aisles, and thousands of booths to consider, Stanton and the EXHIBITOR editorial team arrived at a list of the 20 most impressive exhibits from CES 2019.
1. Hyundai Motor Co.
The most memorable exhibits have a way of shutting out the ambient noise and distractions of the trade show floor and transporting visitors to another world, effectively drowning out the white noise of competitors and leaving an indelible impression on clients and prospects. With the help of designers from Atelier Brückner GmbH, visual media company Congaz GmbH, and fabricators from Taylor Manufacturing Industries Inc. (The Taylor Group) and MKT AG, Hyundai Motor Co. managed to do exactly that. An undeniable CES standout, the exhibit was a master class in immersive, experiential design, cocooning attendees in an otherworldly ambiance and providing a calm, hopeful respite among the cacophony of the consumer electronics industry. The soaring, silver exterior dotted with digital-signage portholes looked more like a mother ship that had touched down in the Las Vegas Convention Center's North Hall. Seemingly upturned at adjacent ends, the metallic walls featured illuminated archways that beckoned booth visitors inside where an immersive landscape of spherical stools and orb-like interactive pods awaited them. A massive 360-degree projection screen set the scene, while dramatic lighting helped to foster a spacey, futuristic aesthetic. Staff invited visitors to take a seat inside any of six glass pods, meant to represent the cockpit of a vehicle, and explore one of four scenarios illustrating what life will be like when autonomous driving renders daily commutes more effortless and enjoyable. For example, in the Sport Experience, participants learned how autonomous driving can enable riders to work out during their commute via a virtual rowing race that required them to row in unison using handles that appeared when that scenario was selected. In the Discovery Experience, participants watched a video about the solar system, demonstrating how drivers might use their newfound down time in an autonomous vehicle to educate themselves and their families. Without a single product or automobile on display, Hyundai effectively sold an aspirational outlook while many competitors were busy hawking cars.
2. LG Electronics Inc.
LG Electronics Inc. has a long history of face-to-face marketing excellence, finishing among the top two exhibits on our Best of CES list for three consecutive years – a remarkable feat considering the company's formula for CES success hasn't changed much since 2016. Each of its four most recent iterations incorporated a main attraction near the entrance that gave way to an elegant assemblage of curated demos and displays. Like last year's booth, LG's 2019 exhibit (designed by HS Ad and fabricated by Czarnowski Display Service Inc.) featured an impressive entrance dubbed The Massive Curve of Nature. Comprising curved OLED screens that seemed to rise up from the floor of the LVCC's Central Hall and undulate a bit before soaring overhead, the installation enveloped guests amid elegant imagery of deserts, waterfalls, and starlit skies. While not as awe-inducing as last year's crevasse-like installation, the primary entry point was an attendee magnet – and quite possibly the most Instagram-friendly find on the CES show floor. Deeper into the booth, visitors perused a barrage of museum-worthy displays. Highlights included translucent appliances that offered guests info about the internal tech that makes them superior to traditional alternatives, an interactive video screen that challenged them to do a load of virtual laundry as quickly as possible, and a kinetic element highlighting the company's new LG Signature OLED TV rollable screens, which rose and fell in hypnotic, choreographed patterns.
3. Google LLC
The only outdoor exhibit to make this year's Best of CES list, Google LLC's space was a coup d'etat of corporate branding. Designed and fabricated by Sparks Marketing Corp., Deeplocal, Nexus Studios, Wisdom Rides Inc., and Radiance Lightworks Inc., the 100-by-180-foot double-deck structure seemed imbued with the trademark "Googliness" that is inseparable the company's nearly omnipresent logo. Guests queued for up to an hour to experience the Google Ride, which was exactly what it sounds like. This full-scale amusement-park attraction, meant to convey that life is a ride full of twists, turns, stops, and starts, took visitors through a pre-show area (the bedroom of the ride's protagonist) before depositing them in two-person ride cars with embedded screens and speakers. While the cars navigated through the exhibit's second story – at one point popping through the exterior wall and giving riders a birds-eye view of the LVCC – a custom song and Claymation-like characters told the story of how Google Assist saved the day by streamlining a hectic to-do list of errands and scoring a cake for Grandma's 91st birthday. After exiting the cars, guests could have a photo taken during the ride emailed to them before sampling a macaron from the faux bakery featured in the storyline. And in true Disney-inspired form, the ride deposited attendees into a gift-store-like space full of demos and displays underscoring how Google-assisted products can make life better for consumers.
4. Audi AG
Flat is forgettable, which is one reason Audi AG created a multilevel funhouse that took booth visitors up, over, and through the company's brand story. Wrapped in color-shifting LEDs casting a unique visual atmosphere, the exhibit (designed by Bathke Geisel Architekten BGA and Mutabor Design GmbH) was a far cry from Audi's past CES stands, which have historically given off a more polished yet impersonal vibe. This space, on the other hand, was comparably warm and welcoming, begging visitors to enter the booth and explore for themselves. Designed around the motto "from driving experience to experience the drive," the exhibit required attendees to traverse ramps, stairs, and pathways that transformed what might have otherwise been just another auto exhibit into a memorable, experiential journey. After viewing staffer-led demos of the company's pre-order-only Audi E-tron electric SUV and sitting inside an Audi vehicle tricked out with in-car entertainment options, guests could hang out in the structure's central, stadium-like lounge space, which was also used as a theater for occasional Audi TechTalks. And in a "but wait, there's more" move, staffers shuffled departing guests into the Audi Light Lab, a darkened, lair-like tunnel near the exit that housed a sculpture made from Audi's interactive OLED tail lights and a touchscreen interactive that allowed visitors to design their own headlights.
5. Intel Corp.
Per usual, Intel Corp. didn't disappoint, erecting a mesmerizing exhibit designed and fabricated by The Taylor Group. The glowing blue structure functioned as something of a booth-traffic bug zapper, pulling attendees in and providing them a spark of inspiration regarding how the company's technology can be applied to disparate industries in myriad ways. Four massive pillars linked by overhead elements represented the invisible flow of data that enables our digital devices. Symbolizing automated driving, artificial intelligence, 5G, and the future of computing, the pillars each depicted a different facet of our intricately connected lives. An impressive 21 different demos and experiences took place within the 12,000-square-foot space, ranging from a virtual-reality experience that took participants on a test drive in an autonomous auto as it sped through the streets of Jerusalem (a city notorious for its challenging streets), to an in-booth demo of the world's first AI-enabled, expression-controlled wheelchair. In another vignette, attendees passed through a tree-covered path before emerging on the other end and learning how Intel's AI tech is helping to save wildlife in Africa via the Resolve Trailguard anti-poaching camera. Meanwhile, VIPs and members of the media were treated to an aerial augmented-reality tour of the booth courtesy of a 7,000-square-foot second-story space and AR headsets that explained the exhibit's significance via imagery overlaying each of the four pillars. A main stage offered up inspirational standing-room-only presentations on topics that positioned Intel's technology as both indispensable and cutting edge.
6. Robert Bosch GmbH
Amid a sea of dark and dramatic exhibitry, Robert Bosch GmbH stood out with a bright-white structure offering an optimistic view of the future. The 70-by-130-foot booth, designed by Bosch and fabricated by Ce+Co, Display International Schwendinger GmbH & Co. KG, Freeman, and Nth Degree Inc., was bookended by soaring white walls with digital signage running the length of one side. Seemingly impromptu – and refreshingly informal – live presentations took place sporadically throughout the show at the booth's main entry in front of a driverless electric concept shuttle. Transparent screens displayed animated graphics without obstructing sightlines, and friendly staffers engaged visitors in any number of demonstrations and displays, ranging from low-tech interactions, such as writing a note on a Post-It before leaving the booth, to AR and VR activations. Meanwhile, one of the company's Indego robot lawn mowers constantly traversed a patch of faux grass, and a mirrored enclosure immersed guests in a multimedia-based presentation on Bosch's Smart Home Systems. Offering up a wide range of products appropriate for individual consumers as well as AI-enabled solutions for entire city infrastructures, Bosch managed to present something for every attendee on the CES spectrum while still maintaining a cohesive theme and consistent key message.
Mercedes-Benz, a Daimler AG brand, has managed to maintain exquisite brand consistency for the past few years. Mainstay elements such as its iconic overhead structure – a sort of elegant and oversized macramé installation – and a raised wood flooring system let you know you were entering Mercedes' territory even before the company's logo came into view. An interactive "real-time LED" wall ran dynamic footage while a host manipulated the content using an iPad app, choosing films and interacting with spontaneous questions from visitors. Mixing the vibe of a chic art gallery and a high-end nightclub, the exhibit (designed and fabricated by Jangled Nerves and Metron Vilshofen GmbH) exuded a sense of refined luxury befitting the brand. Positioned beneath the couldn't-miss ceiling structure sat the exhibit's crown jewels: the impossibly space-aged Urbanetic concept car and front-and-center EQ Silver Arrow show car. Finally, a Mercedes-Benz EQC was tucked away in the back corner behind a pair of kinetic monitors that slid along floor-mounted tracks offering an X-ray view of the auto's interior components and displaying messages about the battery-powered electric vehicle.
8. Sony Corp.
Four gigantic letters marked the entrance to Sony Corp.'s exhibit, which was designed by Sony Design Center, Stungun Productions Inc., and Blumlein Associates Inc. and fabricated by Art Guild Inc. Perched atop a speedbump-like mound that forced guests to climb up and into the space rather than simply stepping inside, the letters made up the company's logo and signaled to arriving visitors that they were now on Sony's turf. Once inside, guests were drawn to the exhibit's focal point: the Center Stage, crowned with a kinetic installation of large screens that rose and fell while running a wide variety of branded content. Every hour on the hour, the stage also played host to live presentations led by anyone from six-time Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer Mark Wilder (who delivered a speech titled "Future Music of 360 Reality Audio") to actor Shameik Moore from "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse." Surrounding the central stage were six thematic areas including a PlayStation zone where attendees could geek out on gaming experiences and a music entertainment zone where they could test out Sony headphones by listening to tunes at a record-store-inspired station that playfully bridged the era of vinyl albums with today's digitally dominated music scene.
9. Polaroid Corp.
Polaroid Corp. provided a much-needed pop of color in the LVCC's Central Hall, but vibrant hues weren't the only things drawing attendees to the space. This striking structure, brought to life by Skyline Exhibits and Andreas Bergmann Design, radiated the brand's jewel tones and served as an interactive tribute to the nostalgic charm of analog instant photography, as well as the versatility of today's digital-imaging technology. An overhead sign drew attendees' eyes to the skies, where a rotating fabric element dangled larger-than-life Polaroid pictures. Beneath that, a photo activation allowed guests to pose behind a cutout inspired by the iconic white borders of classic Polaroid pictures. Nearby, a supersized OneStep+ Camera anchored one corner of the exhibit, serving as a second photo op for booth visitors who posed on and in front of it. A product-display space beneath what looked like a deconstructed, square-edged rainbow housed the company's newest products alongside a timeline-like display of the brand's debuts from 1972 through 1999, underscoring just how far the instant-camera maker has come since releasing its first iteration (dubbed the Land Camera) in 1947.
10. Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.
Designed and fabricated by Global Experience Specialists Inc. (GES), Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.'s exhibit successfully took advantage of two things far too many exhibitors overlook: focus and white space. The exhibit housed little more than a reception desk and a nonfunctioning prototype of the company's Bell Nexus, which is billed as the intersection of transport and technology, as well as comfort and convenience. The sleek, sexy, drone-like helicopter drew in visitors with the power of a trade show tractor beam. Guests queued patiently, just for a chance to sit in the cockpit of the futuristic flying machine and check out the state-of-the-art flight controls system that will meet the needs of future piloted and fully autonomous, on-demand mobility vehicles. Meanwhile, an equally sizeable video wall ran looping content of the Bell Nexus in virtual action, and the back corner of the space showcased the Bell APT, which stands for autonomous pod transport and is designed to redefine autonomous delivery with vertical takeoff, multicopter payload capability, and fixed wing speed.
11. Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s exhibit seemed to defy gravity in the LVCC's North Hall, as an epic cylinder floated inside the 80-by-120-foot space. The interior walls of the circular structure provided a canvas that the space's designer and fabricator, George P. Johnson, a Project Worldwide agency, used to create a fully immersive world where Nissan unveiled its Invisible-to-Visible technology. At the heart of that idea is the company's vision of a vehicle that helps drivers "see the invisible" by merging both real and virtual worlds, creating the ultimate connected-car experience. While a curvaceous concept model rotated atop a turntable, the surrounding screens provided a surreal and seductive backdrop of digital imagery representing the metaverse of sensor data, cloud data, and AI that make Invisible-to-Visible possible. Inside the space, guests could learn more about the company and its exhibit at AR stations, where they controlled 360-degree cameras perched high atop black pylons before being treated to a conceptual cup of Nissan Energy (a division of Nissan Intelligent Integration) in the form of a freshly brewed macchiato topped with their self-portrait in foam and whipped up at a barista station running entirely off a battery-powered Nissan Leaf.
12. Panasonic Corp.
The Panasonic Corp. exhibit (designed and fabricated by SD Associates Inc. and Czarnowski, respectively) was a structural embodiment of the company's "A Better Life, A Better World" tagline, which appeared atop an overhead element inside a Coliseum of louver-like exterior walls. Offering passersby just a tantalizing hint of what awaited them inside, the enclosures delineated the space without walling guests inside a claustrophobia-inducing environ. Equal parts high-tech nightclub, science fair of the future, and experiential playground, the immersive space invited CES attendees to partake in any number of activities. For example, staffers facilitating a digital stress test station encouraged visitors to walk through a miniature obstacle course that tracked their physical stress levels before calculating and visually illustrating the results. Other interactive highlights included a virtual eBike ride and light-painting activity that demonstrated the company's real-time tracking and projection technology. Lastly, clients and prospects could rock out in the "immersive brand theater" that combined a live DJ with Panasonic's 30,000-lumen 4K projectors to create a 220-degree screening room that rivaled even the hottest clubs on the Las Vegas Strip.
13. United States Postal Service
What was the United States Postal Service doing at a trade show known for high-tech gadgets and gizmos? Well, for one, it was holding its own with a sleek, high-tech, and educational exhibit designed and fabricated by Czarnowski. An overhead installation of glowing, box-like shapes simultaneously represented the cloud and the postal service's iconic flat-rate boxes. Additional details (such as a subtle pattern of stamp-like shapes seemingly sand-blasted onto glass elements throughout the space) gave a sophisticated yet whimsical nod to the organization's brand identity. Inside the booth, visitors were immersed in digital LED monitors and interactive displays that told the USPS brand story and detailed product features and benefits such as Informed Delivery (which allows users to digitally preview their incoming mail and manage their packages from their computers, tablets, and mobile devices). In addition to in-booth charging stations and a pair of engagements that provided information on USPS boxes, the exhibit boasted a 10-foot-tall video wall that displayed photos of guests taken inside the booth that were turned into mailable postcards they could share with friends and family, thereby extending the exhibit's reach far beyond the confines of the LVCC and helping USPS continue to make its mark – or shall we say put its stamp – on the cultural phenomenon that is CES.
14. China FAW Group
China FAW Group made a dynamic CES debut with a rather diminutive exhibit compared to other auto-industry titans. Hamstrung with a less-than-ideal booth size and location due to its first-timer status (and subsequent lack of CES priority points), the company's Hongqi luxury brand made the most of every square inch. With the help of Luxoft Automotive, Vision Evolution, and E-Space Shanghai, the company turned its plot of concrete in the LVCC's North Hall into a remarkable, modern marvel of experiential marketing. A back wall and rigged ceiling element comprising angular mirrored panels lent the space a decidedly futuristic vibe while simultaneously reflecting and refracting content from a variety of transparent screens below. An assemblage of 21 of those screens formed a dome-like canopy crowning a VR experience that underscored how the automaker's models enable seamless interaction between man and machine. During the engagement, participants were able to communicate with the deconstructed car's cabin while the content from within the virtual world they inhabited was displayed on all the aforementioned screens, as well as five additional, floor-mounted monitors that encircled the activation. The fusion of VR and multimedia effectively turned what could have been a private, one-attendee-at-a-time experience into something that could be enjoyed by participants, passersby, and waiting guests alike.
15. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.
Designed by MDLab Cheil Germany GmbH and fabricated by Creative Management Services LLC (MC2), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.'s space was an evolution of its booth from 2018, but with a significantly scaled-back entrance. Last year's soaring cityscape was replaced by what seemed like a one-third scale model of its predecessor, but it gave way to an equally impressive interior. Dubbed Samsung City, the exhibit was divided into two districts (Connected Solutions and Innovative Products) and bisected by a makeshift highway meant to facilitate optimal traffic flow. Inside the space, designers continued the cityscape theme via a gridded lighting design referencing the way light shines through buildings' windows and illuminates the night sky. Guests visiting either of the districts were treated to a noteworthy barrage of demos, displays, and live presentations, including one that introduced viewers to Samsung's newest robotic companions. For example, visitors to the Innovative Products District could push a button to see how the processors inside Samsung's QLED displays can upscale any content – regardless of its native resolution – to 8K quality. And in the Connected Solution District, guests learned how Bixby, Samsung's personification of AI, can streamline practically any household chore, from laundry to meal planning. Lastly, the Digital Cockpit exhibit inside the automotive zone allowed CES attendees to see how Samsung's connected driving and Cellular-V2X (Vehicle to Everything) technologies will someday allow drivers to safely navigate the smart cities of the future.
16. Belkin International Inc.
Fusing four different brands into a single space isn't easy, but Belkin International Inc. once again managed to do it with ease – and a dramatic dose of effective illumination. So it's no surprise the company has earned yet another spot on EXHIBITOR magazine's Best of CES list. Designed and fabricated by Pinnacle Exhibits Inc., the space effectively utilized theatrical lighting to create color-coded zones, with the area dedicated to Linksys bathed in purple light beneath a glowing, branded landmark and the areas dedicated to the Phyn and WeMo brands lit up in blue and green hues, respectively. Contrasting white light, wood tones, and a lenticular-like approach to digital signage reigned in the area devoted to Belkin's eponymous brand, where product displays allowed guests to get hands-on with the company's goods. Fusing height and light, content and color, the exhibit enabled each brand to shine without stealing the spotlight from the collective corporate umbrella – and proved that with good design, a segmented space can be greater than the sum of its parts.
17. Procter & Gamble Co.
Procter & Gamble Co. is the only exhibitor from outside the LVCC (which serves as the primary hub of CES exhibits and activities) to make this year's Best of CES list. Stationed two miles away inside the Sands Expo & Convention Center, the 50-by-80-foot exhibit (designed by 2x4 Inc. and fabricated by Atomic) took the form of the P&G LifeLab, showcasing technologies from five different product categories: beauty, grooming, home care, oral care, and P&G ventures. The space educated visitors on how the company is using breakthrough science, powerful technologies, and deep consumer insights as the foundation of products and services capable of transforming everyday life. Each branded space within the exhibit offered multisensory experiences for visitors, ranging from immersive zones dedicated to the company's SK-II beauty brand and Airia home fragrance system to interactive demonstrations of the AI-enabled Oral-B Genius X toothbrush and Heated Razor from Gillette that provides the luxury of a hot-towel shave with every stroke. Meanwhile, the company hosted a robust program of guest speakers on a 120-square-foot stage with panelists ranging from Dr. Oz and John Battelle to P&G executives.
18. Omron Corp.
After making its CES debut last year (and earning the 12th position on our 2018 Best of CES list), Omron was back at it again with a new booth packed to the gills with interactive demos of its robotic technologies. Designed and fabricated by Exhibit Concepts Inc., the 3,000-square-foot space showcased how Omron's use of AI, robotics, and automation can harmonize interactions between humans and machines. The company's AI-equipped table-tennis tutor, Forpheus, once again served as a powerful attendee magnet, as visitors flocked to the booth to see (and shoot plenty of pics and videos of) the robot competing with and coaching human players. Nearby, a series of displays depicted factories of the near-future, in which humans and machines will work collaboratively. There, robots and other machinery performed a variety of tasks, including picking and placing small magnets featuring words such as "Innovate" and "Safety," depositing them into personalized metal tins engraved with attendees' names, and eventually distributing them as gifts by way of a camera-enabled robot that sensed the presence and placement of recipients' hands.
19. IBM Corp.
Designed and fabricated by George P. Johnson, IBM Corp.'s 60-by-130-foot exhibit answered the question "What's Next?" by exploring three key areas: data, computing, and society. A series of in-booth experiences brought to life how the company is changing the way the world works through technology innovations across weather data, Blockchain, quantum computing, and AI. A display at the exhibit's entrance showcased a replica of IBM's steampunk-like Q System One, the world's first commercial quantum computer. At the Watson in Action station, participants engaged directly with IBM's AI interface via its visual recognition, sound analysis, and natural language understanding. Nearby, visitors weighed in on topics such as whether we should ban gambling or violent video games in a demonstration of IBM's Project Debater, which aggregates data on people's opinions and points of view with the aim of aiding decision-makers to make fully informed and more actionable resolutions. A demonstration of the company's AI-powered robotic arm taught attendees how industrial robots can predict and diagnose potential failures and quality issues, while an area dedicated to the IBM Food Trust invited clients and prospects to take a seat, don headphones, and engage with an interactive conveyor belt of dimensional icons that explained how Blockchain offers an unprecedented level of transparency to food growers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.
20. Doria International Inc.
Snagging the 20th spot on our Best of CES list is the 20-by-40-foot exhibit for Doria International Inc., created by K2 Design and Fabrication. A branded, internally lit overhead element shrouded in semitransparent tensioned fabric set the scene for this ruggedly industrial space. A pair of repurposed shipping containers in an L-shaped configuration comprised the primary architectural components and served as a foundation for the aforementioned ceiling element. Steel beams extended outward from the structure to create display kiosks, supporting faux-concrete tables and integrated lighting that illuminated the company's smartphone cases. While one of the shipping containers housed a private conference room for in-booth meetings with clients and prospects, the other revealed a wood-floored space that looked more like a high-end man cave than a typical trade show exhibit. The expertly curated displays, built-to-last aesthetics, sturdy materials, and durable finishes combined to create a brawny little booth that was just as tough as the company's military-grade, drop-tested cellphone accessories.