DAVID GREENE, host:
So there's a little less flash in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show this weekend. It's the industry's annual showcase, where companies show off their crispest flat-screen TVs, their smartest smartphones, and all those loud video games. There is still a lot of all that, but the rough economy is just as much a presence this year as the GPS navigators and all the stereo systems. NPR's Laura Sydell has been to the trade show many times in the past, and she joins us now from Las Vegas. Hi, Laura.
LAURA SYDELL: Hello, David.
GREENE: OK. So how is this year different from all these other trade shows you've been to?
SYDELL: They claim 130,000 people registered, but I've been hearing stories of people who registered and didn't come. The lines aren't as long. As Steve Ballmer said - the CEO of Microsoft said in his keynote address - that in terms of this being a downturn, it was more like a reset. So you really do feel that it's a lot quieter, more low-key. Now, the other thing that I should say is that they've been trying to push green tech this year because President-elect Obama has talked about green tech as an important part of the future. And I'm seeing a lot of that being pushed, but a lot of the gadgets to me didn't seem very advanced on that front.
So really all you saw was, for example, for a hundred dollars you could get a charger that you could put on your backpack, and it could recharge your phone, or an electric bicycle. So, even that was still pretty low-key. And unfortunately for the industry, this hasn't been a year where they had some kind of big breakthrough.
GREENE: It is not a city that is known for having a low-key side. I mean, I guess this means the electronics industry isn't doing that well. Is it in as bad shape as the rest of the economy?
SYDELL: Well, it isn't as bad as the rest of the economy, but sales were pretty flat over the holiday season. And for an industry that's used to seeing double-digit growth, flat is bad. So there's a lot of concern about that. The kinds of things that were selling were a lot of home electronics because I think a lot of people are getting ready for the digital television transition. And a lot of people are thinking, well, we're not going to go out. We'll stay home and watch TV. So you saw sales there, but nothing stellar this year.
GREENE: Any trends we can talk about in terms of price or gadgetry you're seeing?
SYDELL: One trend is they're starting to push 3D television sets. Now, I went and I looked at one of the 3D television sets, and they had some pictures of people parachuting down from a plane in 3D. And you put on the glasses, and you watch it. And it really was uncanny. Now, first off, I'm terrified of heights. And as I was watching this in 3D, I was truly getting a little bit nervous and shaky. So the technology was pretty amazing. It's not out yet, but you are seeing them talk about it. You're seeing deals being made with Disney and the people who are making the sets and the people who are making the screens. So that's one trend that I thought was really interesting.
I also saw glasses that had a phone in them. So you could be walking along and instead of just having your little Bluetooth headset, you'll be talking into your glasses.
GREENE: Cool, I'm taking notes. I'm going to send you a list of things to bring back.
SYDELL: I will do that.
GREENE: Enjoy the show. And I hope you get a little time out on the strip as well. Thanks a lot. That's NPR's Laura Sydell. She is at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Thanks, Laura.
SYDELL: You're welcome.
GREENE: And there's a lot more about the show on our Web site, npr.org, including a guide to green technology and also, five new ways to listen to music.