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Best of CES 2021

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CES 2021 had a big week even virtually, Yahoo Finance spoke with Engadget's Editor in Chief Dana Wollman on all the highlights including a self docking boat from Volvo.

Video Transcript

- The editor in chief from "Engadget," one of our sister platforms at Verizon Media Group, Dana Wollman is joining us now to do that. And there were three specific things that we asked you to talk about. I never got excited about vacuuming, but then I saw the video for what is it? It's the Samsung Jetbot, and I think I'm sold.

DANA WOLLMAN: Absolutely. Yeah, so this is one of the things we were excited about. This actually won the official Best of CES Award in the Connected Home category. Engadget, for eight years now, has been the official judges of the official Best of CES Awards.

So it was a winner in the Connected Home category with a fairly simple premise, which is that it's not just any smart home robot vacuum. But it knows specifically what to avoid, using artificial intelligence. Just at the risk of sounding crude, the example it kept coming up with is if your pet had made an accident on the carpet. The vacuum would know-- just, it would recognize that substance and know to stay clear of that. So it's a really simple premise, but one that was just really memorable to us after a week of just wall-to-wall gadget coverage.

- Hey, Dana, what was the feeling like this year? Because I think there was a lot of questions going into this about it being virtual this year, whether or not it was going to live up to the hype of previous years when you have thousands and thousands of people descending upon Las Vegas. Did it still carry that oomph I think that a lot of people were looking for?

DANA WOLLMAN: You know, we were really surprised. I think we came in not really knowing what to expect at all. We thought there was a possibility not many companies would show up. And we were actually worried we would feel a little silly putting as much effort into covering CES as we did.

We needn't have worried. We were kept quite busy. We're told by the organizers of the show that over 1,900 companies showed up this year. And we were really kept busy. And we felt like we had plenty of fodder for the official Best of CES Awards.

If anything, the main thing we feel we missed out on was the experience of getting to know and learn about smaller startups. Normally, we would send a team of reporters to the section of the show floor that has all these smaller companies. And our reporters would just have conversations with founders. And we would discover some really cool up-and-coming companies that way. And I think that particularly, has been hard to recreate in an online only setting.

- Do you expect that it will be a full return to the convention format? Or will there be a hybrid going forward?

DANA WOLLMAN: I am expecting a return to form, especially for smaller and medium sized companies, I think really do depend on the momentum of a show like this. And you may have seen, there were companies announcing news this week that were not technically exhibitors at CES, but were still piggybacking on the momentum. And I think that's always going to be true.

At the same time, what we've seen more of over the past few years are big companies following the way of Apple and Google, just holding their own press conferences on their own terms, knowing that they're big enough and important enough that consumers and the press alike will pay attention. For instance, right after CES wrapped this week, Samsung had its big flagship phone launch.

And that wasn't really officially affiliated with CES. It was the same week, and you can say they were piggybacking on the momentum of CES as well. But in reality, they did not need CES to make a big splash. People were going to pay attention anyway just because Samsung is such a huge player.

- Hey, Dana, we also want to quickly highlight two products that stuck out to us, and I think stuck out to you as well-- the drone and also a Volvo self docking boat. What did you make of these products and whether or not they're actually going to be a hit with consumers?

DANA WOLLMAN: So I'll start with the self-docking boat tech just because this whole week when someone has asked me what stuck out at CES, this is one of the first things that came to mind. I'll confess, I'm not an automotive or transportation expert. I didn't know, actually, before this week that Volvo had a whole maritime subdivision called Volvo Penta.

But they do have one. And they've been working on the equivalent of self-driving car tech, except for boats, you know, for the friendly local boat owner, or yacht owner, in your life. But it was interesting to learn about this, just all jokes aside. I don't think we as pedestrians, or even car drivers, think about the fact that when you are docking a boat it's unlike parking a car in the sense that the sea and the waves are pushing back at you, even on a fairly gentle day on the water. So the physics of it are very different from parking a normal car. And so it was really interesting this week to learn about that, and how just operating a boat could become safer, even for people who consider themselves to be pretty seasoned at that.

- I got to interrupt you because the video, they're doing in a controlled docking situation. Try doing that on an open lake and then I'd truly be impressed. We have about 30 seconds. What about the Airpeak drone? That just looks darn cool.

DANA WOLLMAN: Absolutely. So this is Sony getting into the drone game, perhaps a little belatedly. But because the drone game is also a camera space, it was really easy, we think, for Sony to take everything its learned from its connections to both the physical camera category and its connections to the film industry, to possibly stand out in this crowded drone space going forward, possibly beating out companies like DJI, GoPro, and others. So we're interested to see more of what they do there.

- All right, Dana Wollman, the editor in chief at "Engadget." Thank you very much. And remember, lights are on.