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CES loses the touch and feel

January 11, 2021, 2:07 PM UTC

It’s pretty dead along the strip in Las Vegas right now, though to be fair it’s also about 3 a.m. Pop in anytime via the great WorldCams site and take a peek. Internet video is about as close as any of us are going to get to Vegas this week, even though it’s CES®, the conference formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show.

Last year, you may recall, Fortune hosted a conversation with Waymo CEO John Krafcik, who told Adam that the company’s fleet of self-driving Pacificas and other vehicles had reached 20 million miles. Since then, the company raised a massive $3 billion round of outside funding and opened its robotaxi service to the general public in Phoenix, though it has not expanded the taxi fleet to new cities yet.

This year, we’re staying home for a virtual Brainstorm talk about green technology with Schneider Electric chief innovation officer Emmanuel Lagarrigue, DBL Partners founder Nancy Pfund, and national security expert Amos Hochstein. You can still register to attend.

As for me, there will be no walking the aisles of the jam-packed Las Vegas Convention Center and other venues to see the latest and greatest tech. The effort to take miles and miles of real-world exhibitions and product displays and somehow squeeze them into a virtual conference will, most likely, lead to a lot less coverage overall, a focus on the biggest brand names, and an even stronger desire for returning to in-person conferences. Longtime tech columnist Ed Baig, who has attended many more times than I have, put it best in his essay about CES 2021:

Eyeballing a picture of a wall-sized 8K television I won’t be able to afford anyway, isn’t the same as marveling at the thing from a few feet away, perhaps (wink-wink) with a cocktail in hand. I’ll miss gazing at, touching, and feeling other products I might normally write about from the show floor, shoot video of, or decide to review later. Often this is the fun or wacky stuff that will never see the light of the day. Or something that by its very nature attracts a crowd, like the resurgence of sex toys at last year’s CES.

Still, we soldier on. Over the weekend, Lenovo released its new entry in the smart-glasses sweepstakes, dubbed the ThinkReality A3 glasses. The lack of the “hands on” areas where reporters get to take an initial “test drive” of new gadgets is probably the biggest loss of in-person CES to me. Lenovo says the A3 glasses let you see a couple of full Windows desktops projected in the air in front of you. Keeping virtual, projected desktops sharp and detailed but not shaky or janky seems like quite a feat. We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out whether they’ve nailed it this time.

So stay tuned for more coverage of CES as seen from my laptop screen.

Aaron Pressman
@ampressman
aaron.pressman@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Slight air and purging fire are both with thee. It was not a restful weekend for social media executives. After Twitter decided to ban President Trump permanently, along with a lot of extremists accounts, many sought to move to rival app Parler. But Parler's failure to moderate extremists planning more violence led Apple and Google to drop the app from their app stores. Then Amazon delivered a near death blow, cutting Parler off from AWS hosting. “We will likely be down longer than expected," CEO John Matze wrote in a weekend post that's no longer accessible. Trump also got the boot from many other services including Stripe and TikTok. And at least one tech exec, Cogensia CEO Brad Rukstales, was arrested for participating in last week's deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. Rukstales called it “the single worst personal decision of my life.”

Here comes mister 5G. Elsewhere in CES news, HP unveiled a bunch of new laptops that will be 5G capable, including the EliteBook 840 Aero G8, a 2.5-pound Windows notebook with a 14-inch screen, and the Elite Folio, a thin machine running on a Qualcomm ARM chip. Samsung has some new, better TVs and smart fridges. LG gave a tantalizing glimpse of its phone with a rollable screen.

Keep on truckin. More good news in the land of electric vehicles. Lordstown Motors, which went public by merging with a SPAC in October, says it collected over 100,000 orders for its upcoming pickup truck. Production is expected to start in September for the $50,000 vehicle. Lordstown's stock price, which hasn't gained much since the merger, jumped 5% in pre-market trading on Monday. Electric carmaker Faraday said it will follow the same path and merge with a SPAC called Property Solutions Acquisition Corp.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Later this week, Wikipedia, that great online receptacle of all human knowledge, or at least a lot of it, turns 20. The Economist takes a look at how the site has overcome doubters and become a valuable resource, despite occasional problems.

Yet despite a string of notable embarrassments—and its own disclaimer that “Wikipedia is not a reliable source”—it is, on the whole, fairly accurate. An investigation by Nature in 2005 compared the site with “Britannica”, and found little difference in the number of errors that experts could find in a typical article. Other studies, conducted since, have mostly endorsed that conclusion. Explaining exactly why Wikipedia’s articles are so good is trickier. A common joke holds that it is just as well that Wikipedia works in practice, because it does not work in theory.

Deliberate decisions are one explanation. Wikipedia compares well with other reference works when it comes to honest mistakes, but it is uniquely vulnerable to vandalism and pranks. In an effort to combat them, says Mr Negrin, the site has developed algorithms that monitor articles for mischief.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The period-care startup nixing the stigmas and taboos around menstruation By Rachel King

How a data scientist beat the polls by nailing the Georgia senate race By Shawn Tully

Tesla debuts cheapest Model Y SUV yet. Here’s how much it costs By Robert Hackett

The biggest tech fears for business leaders during the pandemic By Chris Morris

U.K. antitrust probe targets Google Chrome privacy changes By David Meyer

There’s no better time than now to build a better pipeline for women in tech By Teresa Carlson

(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)

BEFORE YOU GO

If you already picked up tidiness guru Marie Kondo's new book last year, more Kondo is coming your way. "Your home has become your office, your school, your daycare, your gym, your everything," Kondo tells Fortune as she kicks off publicizing a new line of organizing gear she's designed for The Container Store. The "Calm & Clarity" desktop organization set and other items will be available online and in stores later this month.