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Full transcript: The Verge’s Ashley Carman on Too Embarrassed to Ask

Carman and Lauren Goode report from CES 2018.

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On this episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, co-hosts Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode talk with The Verge’s Ashley Carman about CES 2018. The three discuss Google’s voice-activated assistant, beauty gadgets and pole-dancing robots, as well as the severe shortage of women among CES’s keynote speakers (and why its apology for that fact doesn’t pass the smell test).

You can read some of the highlights from the discussion here or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Too Embarrassed to Ask on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode.

Lauren Goode: I’m Lauren Goode, senior tech editor at The Verge.

KS: You’re listening to Too Embarrassed To Ask, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. This is a show where we answer all of your embarrassing questions about consumer tech.

LG: It could be any question at all, like why Kara was able to come up with a whole list of women who could have spoken at CES, at a keynote, and yet there were none.

KS: That was interesting, but coming to you from the people who brought you pink gadgets, I’m not surprised. Send us your questions, find us on the Twitter, or tweet them to us at Recode or to myself or to Lauren, with the #tooembarrassed.

LG: We also have an email address, so you can send us emails. It’s tooembarrassed@recode.net. And a friendly reminder, there are two Rs and two Ss in embarrassed. Kara, you were here just, I don’t know, 12 hours ago, maybe?

KS: I was, I came to Vegas.

LG: You left, I didn’t get to see you.

KS: No, I was there for my eight-hour Vegas trip. I came in to do a panel that Twitter was putting on. They had a facility, a very elegant facility, at the Cosmopolitan, and it was called Here We Are, which was showing women we’re available to talk at CES even though the, what is it, the CEA couldn’t find them?

LG: CTA, I think.

KS: Whatever.

LG: CTA.

KS: Whatever, we did our own event and it had hundreds of people and we gave talks and we talked about women in tech, we talked about careers, we talked about all kinds of things, and it was a really great event. I came in and left, essentially, just for that. I didn’t go to any CES activities.

LG: I’m sorry that I didn’t get to see your panel or get to see your face while you were here.

KS: It was streamed on Twitter.

LG: I kind of wish that you were here because our Wi-Fi issues are so bad this morning.

KS: I know, everything is.

LG: I know.

KS: Just so you know, it streamed live on Twitter, it had 650,000 last night, it was enormous. It was great, we had a great time. You guys have a lot of different things going on. You had a power outage, your Wi-Fi sucks, everything else.

LG: I know.

KS: We have lots to talk about.

LG: On the upside, we’ve also been doing a livestreaming Twitter thing. The Verge partnered with Twitter and CES this year for a live show, so we’ve been doing that every day.

KS: Good.

LG: That’s been a lot of fun.

KS: Cool. Let’s get right into it. Who do you have with you? Who have you dragged into this discussion of CES?

LG: I’m very excited to have my colleague, Ashley Carman, with me here in the so-called studio.

Ashley Carman: We’re in an REM hotel suite, it’s fantastic and beautiful and all the positive adjectives you can think of.

LG: Right, our studio is actually just ... It really is just a hotel suite, and we’ve totally transformed it into both a live set and anyway, we’re in a bedroom right now. Ashley is the co-host of the outstanding Verge podcast, Why’d You Push That Button? It’s really awesome, it was voted one of the iTunes top new podcast.

Spotify put it on their Most Talked About 2017 podcast. I’m already living in the future, sorry.

KS: That’s good.

LG: 2019. It’s a fantastic podcast, but this is her first time joining us on our show, on Too Embarrassed, so Ashley, thank you so much for being here.

Of course. Thanks for having me, both of you.

KS: We have a lot to talk about. It’s impossible to cover it all, but let’s go over some of the top themes from this year’s show. Lauren, why don’t you introduce them because you were there and I literally came in and went out, essentially.

LG: This one is one that you might appreciate, because given your uber-busy lifestyle, Kara, everyone could use a little help sometimes. Assistants, virtual assistants.

KS: I don’t have one. I don’t have an assistant.

LG: Maybe you don’t, but maybe you could use a virtual assistant. I think you like Alexa, right? You always talk about how much you like Alexa.

KS: Yes. I do, I like Alexa. I like all of them in concept, for sure.

LG: Last year at CES, Alexa was really the biggest theme, I think, that stole the show, in a sense. This year, Google really put on a whole blitz and we saw a lot of different hardware come out from third-party hardware makers, OEMs, companies like Lenovo, Sony, LG were all introducing products that integrated the Google assistant in some way. My question for the both of you is whether or not you think these products are going to be genuinely better than some of the Alexa hardware that’s out there that we’ve already seen. Are these things just going to end up on eBay? What does this really mean for a company like Google, when it starts working with all of these third-party hardware makers to get Google assistants into devices?

KS: It’s like their phone strategy, right? That’s how they had the phone, and then everybody made them. I’m not an expert in that area, but that’s the way they’ve operated ... Apple and Amazon are doing everything soup to nuts, but Google is partnering because they want to get it out there. Ashley, what do you think?

I think that Google definitely has a chance at defeating Amazon here, even though they had a little bit of a late start on Alexa, just because the reality is Google’s apps are great. Google revoked permission for the Echo Show to display YouTube content, and guess what? Those new Google displays here that have the assistant built in are going to be able to play YouTube content, and everyone wants to watch YouTube videos. Purely because of the software and being able to use Google Maps, for example, or other things like that, I think Google has a really great opportunity here.

LG: I think people look at the Alexa device and there are a few things that it works really well for, primarily timers and music and ...

Shopping on Amazon.

LG: Shopping, right? There’s such a big commerce bent to all of these Alexa devices, whereas Google is really such a utility in so many people’s lives. I think the biggest problem that people are going to have with Google are just privacy concerns.

Totally.

LG: We definitely saw that from some of our audience when the Google Home first came out, which doesn’t have a display, and the Google Home Mini, and things like that. People say, “Oh no, a Google speaker in my home? No way would I ever do that.”

KS: That’s exactly how I feel.

LG: Now you’re talking about something with a display that’s going to display your calendar to the household, and also has a camera built into the front of it, too. I think that’s a real hump for Google to get over.

KS: I agree. I don’t turn it on in my home. I actually unplug it and turn it off, and I’m not like that with the Alexa. I have several Alexas, I have the small Echo Dots and things like that, and I find myself really worried about Google. I don’t know why, I just feel like their business is about advertising and data and information. So is Amazon’s, but it’s more about what I buy. It’s like going to the supermarket and them understanding what my needs are by what I do at the checkout.

I definitely think about it, and I’m someone who’s relatively up to speed on a lot of things Google’s doing. I think that’s the issue, is the camera in the house for everybody is going to be people constantly spying on you. You already have to think about that with your laptop and other things, so I think that’s definitely something they’re going to have to overcome.

LG: We did see one example this week, Lenovo’s smart display with Google assistant, they actually built a slider tab, a physical slider, that you can push on the side of the device so that you can cover the camera. Some people say they have the Echo Show at home and they put tape over it, so this is a more elegant solution.

I think as we see more and more generations of these types of devices, people are going to learn from the last ones, and they’re going to do little tiny little thoughtful things like that that will help people feel more comfortable about them. These are always ... The companies will say, “They’re not always listening, they’re ambiently listening.” These are devices in our homes that are capable of listening to us.

KS: Right, exactly. I always assume that whatever the bad thing they can do, I’m always on that. When Facebook Live came out, for example, the first thing I thought of was suicides and murders and bullying. It was just the first thing that popped into my head. Of course, the people there didn’t anticipate those issues as well as they should have.

For me, it’s interesting because I don’t have any of these smart speakers in my house. I used to be a cyber security reporter. I’m a little bit weird about companies having cameras in my home, but I also use Google for everything. I use Gmail, I use Google Maps. There’s plenty of people who have Android phones and use Google photos, so Google has all of this information on us already, whereas if I was using Alexa, this is all a new thing for Amazon.

I’ve never told Amazon what I’m searching for, other than to shop. I’ve never asked Amazon, “Hey Amazon, what should I eat today?” I don’t know, just like a random question. They don’t know what I’m searching for, whereas Google, I use search. They already know so much about me that I almost feel like that might make me ... At this point, I’m already so deep with Google that it’s like all right, what else are they going to learn about me?

KS: Don’t you think a home, a camera in the home ... Often when they ask, “Can I ask for your location?” on my phone, which they do almost continually, I always say no. When they’re doing searches, I’m not sure why they need to know if I’m looking up something where I am. And I don’t turn on the maps, I don’t sign into the maps, so that they don’t save that stuff. Obviously, they have some idea of where I am. I won’t put a Nest in, I just don’t want too much of ... Especially the cameras and the audio, it’s just ... inside the home seems just a step too far, of all these companies, not just Google, but all of them.

Totally.

LG: To close the loop on this, I’ll just say I will be very surprised if some of these third-party devices sell super well. I think what’s going to happen is they’re going to put them out, but timing-wise, with the way things come out after CES, a lot of these devices will probably come out spring, summer, if ever. At that point, there might even be another Google hardware event, or likely would be their ... They would be their developer’s conference, but there might even be another Google hardware announcement before then, you never know, where these things get the steam taken out of them unless they seem really appealing early on. I would be shocked if ... Like last year, when Lenovo did that Alexa speaker, I don’t think that did very well.

I haven’t even heard about it since then.

LG: It was an Echo clone, essentially.

Let’s move on to cars. Ashley and I were both saying that despite having been here at the show now for nearly a week, we both really didn’t get the opportunity to see many cars, but our colleague Sean O’Kane and a bunch of others, Zac Estrada did, and cars are always a big thing here at CES, it’s gotten increasingly bigger over the past few years. In fact, one of our reporters, who’s headed to Detroit next week for the Detroit Auto Show, said he felt as though Detroit was sounding as though it wasn’t going to be as big of an event this year, because a lot of the carmakers were just coming here. This is where they’re starting to make some of their more futuristic, high-concept announcements. Kara, did you get the chance, did you get a self-driving Lyft to take you to your panel last night? Did they roll out the autonomous vehicles for you?

KS: For me?

LG: Yeah.

KS: Kara Swisher?

LG: You.

KS: No, no. No, no. I took a lovely cab there, two lovely people, and I literally got to the airport, took a cab, and then took a cab. No, I didn’t do any self-driving anything. I did it last year ... Maybe the year before, the Mercedes and some other, down out at the race tracks. That’s all we did, I didn’t ...

LG: I’m shocked.

KS: No one rolls things out for me. You act like I show up and they throw gadgets at my head, but they really don’t.

LG: I read that Lyft partnered with a self-driving tech company called Aptiv, to offer rides and so-called robot taxis, so I figured ...

KS: Maybe so. No, not at all. Actually, I don’t, I try not to look down, although I did get pummeled in the Southwest line, when I was coming and going and all these people were like, “Why are you taking Southwest?” I’m like, “Well, I don’t have wings or a private plane.” They kept talking to me about everything, like they love the podcast and they had all kinds of questions and stuff, so I do get recognized at these tech events, but largely, it’s irritating because I just want to eat my sandwich and look at Twitter.

LG: One of the car startups that made a big splash at the show this year is called Byton, and when I first heard it, I honestly thought people were talking about Joe Biden, people are like, “Byton’s here!” I was like, “Biden’s here!”

KS: What a weird name. Where’s that name from?

LG: B-Y-T-O-N. It’s a Chinese company that was founded by the former head of BMW’s i8 program — i8 are those awesome supercars. I love this. Ashley, I want to get your take on this. One of the features that people have been talking about with this new, totally connected SUV is that it has the ability to monitor your vital signs while you’re driving.

KS: Good God. Why?

LG: I guess people probably have biophysical responses to things while they’re driving.

KS: What else do they got?

LG: Let’s see, it’s got ... There are two different battery options. There’s an entry pack that gives you about 200 miles of range, which is pretty good, and then there’s an extended pack that offers about 310 miles per charge. It’s not that expensive. It starts at $45,000. I say not that expensive because when you think about Tesla, you can drop 120k on a Tesla.

KS: What?

LG: Personally, I’m not, but that’s how much it’s going to cost you. I think this is just one of these things that it looks cool and people have been talking about it, and it just monitors your vital signs.

KS: I’m just trying to get rid of my car.

LG: Do you want that in a car?

KS: No.

No, I absolutely do not.

KS: No. What vital signs do you have? Your heart rate, right?

You’re still alive, congrats. You’re driving the car, you’re good.

KS: This is a group of people from Faraday Future, which was the hot one whenever. The last hot one. These people move around a lot, it seems like there’s a sorting out in the industry, of the talent.

LG: I don’t think it’s founded by people from Faraday, but I think they’ve been hiring people from Faraday because — as our transportation reporter Sean O’Kane reported not long ago — Faraday Future is imploding ... Which will surprise a few people who have been following stories around Faraday Future.

KS: All of these companies will do that. It’s just like the car companies when they got started, there were dozens and dozens, and then there weren’t. That’s what you’re going to see in this area is all these people will move from thing to thing and try their own hand at it. What’s interesting, we had Padma Warrior who’s running another startup in the car area, and she’s never done cars at all. She was at Cisco and at Motorola and places like that. She said, “I’m not a mechanical” — she was at this women’s event — and she’s like, “I’ve never been a mechanical engineer, but thank God cars are now computers,” which was an interesting thing to say, and I agree with her on that. It will be an interesting time as the industry shakes out and these products come and go, essentially.

LG: Absolutely. I still think in a lot of ways, Detroit is probably a really big event for the big automakers who, and especially when it comes to sales of things next week, going to sell this year, but for the futuristic, high-concept stuff, or any type of integration, automakers obviously have to partner with people now for lots of services within the cars. There’s a huge aftermarket industry for high-tech gadgety stuff. This is a good place for all of those companies to be.

KS: It’s going to sort itself out. It will take a while. This is not going to happen tomorrow, I think. That’s my feeling. It makes CES more interesting than just refrigerators and screens, so at least there’s that. Speaking of that, non-CES stories taking over CES, why don’t you guys go through that?

LG: By the way, every year it feels like there is a story that people are talking about that is outside of CES. Apple’s done that a couple of years where they suck the wind out of everything going on here in Vegas.

KS: Not on purpose, at all, no.

LG: No, no, no. No, they didn’t launch the first iPhone during CES on purpose, at all. The big story ... I’d say the big two stories that everyone’s talking about this week, there’s the Spectre and Meltdown issue, which has to do with CES since Intel is here and Microsoft is here and AMD is here, they’re all here. There’s the Huawei story, which once again, CEO Richard Yu did do a keynote ... I think he did a keynote. No, it wasn’t a keynote, it was maybe their event presentation, but spoke onstage here as well. These are things that are much bigger than CES. Ashley, it’s so hard to keep up with the Spectre and Meltdown drama, but very briefly tell people what it is and what your take on it is.

Essentially, all Intel processors, possibly AMD as well, have serious vulnerabilities in them that could compromise a lot of data. Keep in mind, Intel processors are in truly everything. That means servers, phones, laptops, smart devices, everywhere.

The big story coming out of CES has been Intel had this keynote and one of the reporters at The Verge, Tom Warren, has been really vigilant about this, as Intel has responded multiple times to these vulnerabilities, because everyone needs to know the impact, start patching, and they’re really just not coming clean about how badly this is going to ... Once they pick the bugs, how badly it’s going to slow down everyone’s computers. We really don’t know yet. Intel hasn’t been totally transparent, and that’s not great.

LG: There’s a lot of “he said, she said” going on. What’s interesting, too, is it seems like it’s less of a bug, which to me makes me think software issues and more of a design flaw, in a sense that when these companies, specifically Intel but others as well, were designing chips 20 years ago, you could not have foreseen that this kind of flaw would eventually emerge in the connected world that we live in today. That’s like saying to an automaker that designed a car 10 years ago, like, “Well, this isn’t really suitable for an autonomous world.” It’s like, that’s hard to foresee. There is this design flaw that exists. There’s only so much you can do, I think, in terms of software upgrades or operating system updates, in order to help patch these issues.

By the way, they’re called Spectre and Meltdown, so if we keep saying Spectre and Meltdown, that’s what it’s called. That’s what the researchers have named them, but it probably sounds like gibberish to some people out there. Intel is initially saying, “Oh, it’s not going to impact PCs.” Microsoft defensively came out with a blog post and said, “No, your PCs are going to slow down, especially if you’re talking about ones running on Haswell chips that are running Windows 7 from years ago.” There are going to be issues. They keep going back and forth now. This even impacts Apple. Apple has been mum about this whole thing, but they’re impacted, as well.

Apple’s impacted, and Microsoft also did release patches and then had to pause their patch release because it was affecting computers. They were in unstable states. The whole situation has truly been a mess. Even when this design flaw was exposed, it happened before the industry was really ready to come public about it. That also screwed things up.

LG: It’s really interesting, it really makes you think. By the way, just to be fair, I think Apple did come out with something last week saying they acknowledge that devices could be impacted, but they’ve been a little bit quiet this week.

KS: I think more problematic is this spying part, with China.

LG: With Huawei?

KS: Huawei. It’s the same thing, it’s the same idea of who’s spying on what and the devices we have, and their vulnerabilities. I’m not one of these saber-rattlers, but this is a really big issue of espionage, Chinese espionage, and alleged spying and all kinds of stuff. That’s, to me, a more important story is where are our phones getting made, and how?

LG: Huawei was supposed to release a new smartphone to the world this week, and one of the biggest things that was going to happen was that it was ... Supposed to be available on a U.S. carrier, AT&T. Just before that deal was supposed to be announced, they rolled it back. The deal failed to materialize. Honestly, as soon as I heard that, I was like, “Oh.” My mind just went straight to, “Someone’s blocking this deal because of concerns.” There’s concerns about Huawei and some of the other Chinese networking companies, telecom companies, they’ve been expressed before.

Sure enough, Reuters, The Information, a couple other outlets started to report that AT&T had been pressured to drop the deal because members of the U.S. government were concerned about spying. Richard Yu ended up going off-script onstage and giving an impassioned speech about how this is bad for consumers, because the more products that are out there, the more competitive a market is.

KS: No, absolutely. They’re concerned about China, but not Russia, but that’s a different story. I’m concerned about all of them and I feel like these phones being made in some of these countries, I think it’s concerning. I think it’s not ... You have to think about where they’re made, what’s going on in these factories, and also be thinking about ... These things are with us at all times. They’re going to only become more integrated to our lives, our homes, and things like that. The ability ... There’s already been ample proof that one foreign country has tried to mess with our election, no matter what anybody says, it’s clear something was happening with it, and so we have to be thinking about these things. Even though they try to make this global argument, it’s not something we shouldn’t be thinking about because of the reliance we have on these devices.

I do want to point out that immediately, you notice outside the convention center that Huawei has huge, huge banners advertising their devices and when this news came out, it just feels very sad for them. It’s like, “You spent a lot of money, and now the news is totally tainted.” I will say, in the past, there’s been companies like Blue that were found collecting user data from chat for China, things like that. What your concerns are, Kara, aren’t unwarranted. There’s a history.

KS: There’s an old Reagan — I can’t believe I’m quoting Reagan — but the “trust but verify” thing. I think you verify and then trust, that’s my feeling in this world, on lots of things. I take them at face value. I know they say things and I think it’s better to be a little conspiratorial on these issues than not. Anyway.

LG: If I’m going to get spied on, I’m not going to rely on a Huawei phone to do it. I’m just going to say something out loud and then wait for Facebook to serve me up a totally random ad about it.

KS: Lauren, I had you chipped long ago, I don’t know if you know that.

Anyway, let’s move onto other things, speaking of chipping Lauren. Health and beauty gadgets, why don’t you tell me about some of those?

LG: I want to throw this to Ashley, because we’re taping this on Thursday. You’re going to hear this podcast a little bit later, but on today’s Twitter live show for Circuit Breaker Live, Ashley and I are going to be going over a lot of different beauty gadgets that we’ve seen at the show this year. What is your take on beauty and the marriage of beauty and tech this year at CES?

KS: What’s a skin scanner, Ashley? What the hell is a hair analyzer? Tell us about them.

Lauren and I disagree, which is why we’re going to debate this a little bit later, but essentially, what we’re seeing here at CES are a lot of big-name companies like Neutrogena. L’oreal isn’t making these, but L’oreal is here. There’s also Schwarzkopf, which is a big hair brand in Europe. They’re all here debuting different tech products that are really designed to personalize their products to you.

Neutrogena introduced this skin analyzer that uses your iPhone or device, and you stick it to your face and it has a moisture sensor on it and a magnifying camera, and it will tell you how large your pores are, how dry your skin is, the quality of your skin, and then naturally, say, “Here are some products from Neutrogena that might improve ...”

LG: “Fix your life.”

The same goes for this hair analyzer. This is more for a salon solution, but Schwarzkopf introduced this hair analyzer, where it scans your hair, looks into it, says moisture level, can figure out what your natural color is and then create a shampoo for you, actually, using active ingredients that it thinks is really helpful for your hair. It’s really easy to hate on these products, which as Lauren says, I’m not going to speak for you, Lauren. I don’t hate them. I don’t hate them.

KS: I do, but keep going. Go ahead, I already do, you don’t even have to go past that.

I totally understand that they’re here to hock products, yes, they are there. At the same time, I like the idea of finding the best product. There are so many makeup products out there. Let’s say I am really loyal to Neutrogena. Going up to the Neutrogena area in CVS, I don’t know, I’m like, “Okay, that mascara looks the same as that mascara.” I don’t really know, that skin wash ...

KS: Individualized products, there is going to be a push toward that in the future of everything. Individualized medicine, individualized, I think it’s called ... There’s a word for it, but the idea that products should be made on demand, essentially for the person. Everybody’s different.

I think that’s great. Again, I totally see the negative part of, “I don’t want this company selling directly to me,” but if you’re already a loyal customer and you like their stuff, I’m into it.

KS: Some of it feels like a marketing ... On some level, it’s like you’re getting your skin scanned or your hair analyzed, I’d like to have power going in Puerto Rico. I know I don’t want to link them, but it makes me think this is just ... We’re moving down into “Hunger Games,” the capital territory, kind of thing.

LG: You could always go to this trade show and walk away with this dystopian view of the world and just be like, “Go fix big problems, please.” I completely agree with you. I think my biggest thing with this, let’s talk about the upside very quickly, just to be fair. The upside is that they’re trying to arm consumers with more data. That’s great. The tools are available now. You can scan your skin and your hair, and you can do personalized analyses of things and get more data, and I appreciate that. I also do appreciate the fact that these very long-standing, traditional, consumer packaged goods company, look at Johnson & Johnson, they’re trying to keep up with the times and they’re trying to appeal to a younger customer base by keeping up with tech savvy people. I dig that. I dig that about you.

However, I do resent this idea. I look in the mirror, I know where my pores are. They’re very evident, the wrinkles, everything’s evident to me. I don’t necessarily need a magnifying lens to tell me that or make me feel worse about it, and then I don’t think the solution for certain things should necessarily be, “Buy more stuff.” I think it would be great if someone were to analyze some aspect of myself I was concerned about and then say, “All right, how much do you sleep? How much water do you drink? Did you have alcohol in Las Vegas last night?”

KS: Yes, you did. Yes, you did.

LG: Did everybody? I won’t speak for everybody.

KS: I don’t drink, and I was drunk when I landed, by the time I got out of the airport.

LG: You also absorb the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes just standing around the casino. But this idea of how are you taking care of yourself in different ways, and what is your lifestyle really like, and not just, “Here’s a lotion with hyaluronic acid that’s going to make your skin plumper.” I can’t get into that.

KS: I agree. I’m with you on that. I feel like it’s marketing. I just read a terrible story about microbeads, I don’t want to get into them, that are in some skin products that are killing the ocean. That’s what I mean. I don’t think these companies ... I’m a cynical person, Ashley, obviously.

I won’t harp on this, but I will say that they have heard your critiques, Lauren, and they have actually started asking questions like, “Did you drink last night? How much sleep did you get? What are your average patterns for things?” Also, they heard your more criticism about holistic-type advice and they’re starting to introduce that, too.

LG: That’s good.

I think they’re trying to ...

LG: I like to make a difference in the world.

KS: Lauren, did you have your hair analyzed?

LG: No I didn’t, but I did try this cool ... I’m sorry to interrupt you Ashley. I did try this cool mirror where it turned my hair blue temporarily, and I actually liked it, a lot.

KS: That’s cool. That’s where I want my tech to go.

She’s going to do it tonight here in Vegas, we’re going to get Lauren’s hair dyed blue.

LG: One thing that I do want to mention on the gadget side that’s cool, the skin scanner is a gadget, but Ashley also tried a hair dryer that’s a cordless hair dryer.

KS: I like that.

LG: The reason why I thought this was really interesting, and I’m going to nerd out for a second, is because the reason why most hair dryers are corded is because the marriage of lithium ion batteries, rechargeable batteries and extreme heat, generally not a good thing. This is a company that says they’ve figured this out. How are they doing this?

They do have the battery in there, it only lasts for 13 minutes, so that’s that. They really aren’t using a lot of heat, they actually have a bulb, a near-infrared light bulb, that’s, I guess, not affecting the battery at all. It seems like that is what’s actually heating your hair. There is air coming out, it’s not as powerful, though, even as a hotel hair dryer. When I used the hotel hair dryer versus this cordless one, I was like, “Okay, the hotel one has more power, it’s better, it’s corded.” The light bulb warms your hair and dries it.

KS: That’s interesting. That’s a good, stupid product to fix, I agree, with the cords and everything else. Speaking of which, we’re talking about essentially, they’re trying to sell to women most of this stuff, although men are certainly so vain, but I think the bigger story there was there’s not enough representation of women and that’s why I was there, to protest that. No female keynote speakers, and CTA’s initial response to this was typically bad.

“To keynote a CES, the speaker must head president CEO level, a large entity, who has name recognition in the industry. As upsetting as it is, there’s a limited pool when it comes to women in these positions. We feel your pain,” they don’t feel our pain. “It bothers us too, the tech industry and every industry must do better.” Behind the scenes, they were really, I would say, not pleased about the Twitter thing because it called attention to it.

LG: Kara, what do you think about the limited pool? There’s part of me that says, “The limited pool is such an overused excuse.”

KS: I program Code and I know this, yes, there’s a limited pool. I don’t have pain about it. I don’t feel people’s pain about it. It’s so dismissive to women, it’s astonishing. They don’t feel our pain. I don’t know why that sentence really bugs me, but it really does. I think that I do it all the time.

Last year, we managed to get, I think, exactly half the speakers at Code were women. This year, I’m having a lot more trouble, absolutely, because you do run out of names. That said, maybe it’s time to change the rules. Maybe it’s time not to have ... That’s what I was thinking, instead of saying, “Well, I’ve gotten them all,” and when Meg Whitman stepped out, I’m like, “Dang.” Meg Whitman was probably someone on our list to come and now she’s not, but maybe we should just have her. Why not? She’s been a CEO.

Why not change? We have similar rules in place at Code, or rules that we follow. They’re not strict, but you certainly just, why not change the rules is something I was thinking about. Why do you have to follow those rules? Why does it have to be that way? Why can’t it be interesting people? We had a range of really interesting women there and they could just ... Their rules are antiquated and of another era, and that’s a complaint about CES in general, which I think are very valid. That’s my take on it.

LG: I think expanding it, we should note, too, that I think the CTA ended up adding two more women to the line up. Nancy Dubuque, Dubuque? Is that how you say that?

KS: Dubuque.

LG: Dubuque, excuse me, who we’ve had at Code before, the president and CEO of A&E, and a woman named Kristin Dolan, who is the CEO of 605, which is an analytics measurement firm.

KS: There’s lots.

LG: I think there are lots, but also it’s a good idea to, like you’re saying, expand your idea, then, of what a powerful or interesting person means. It doesn’t have to be a consumer tech company, it could be ...

KS: Or industries, right.

LG: That’s what I was going to say.

KS: You could go to Fortune’s “50 most powerful women” and do that, that’s years of possibilities there. There’s more. Even that list is heavily towards white women and stuff like that. Kimberly Bryant, from Girls Who Code, what a fascinating speech she gave. Really important issues. We had all kinds of ... Padma Warrior, she’s a CEO of a car company, she’s not interesting? She’s very interesting. They’re not Mark Zuckerberg, no, they’re not blank blank blank, but they’re certainly, there are scattered women in leadership positions all over. Why not Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube? Maybe she was asked and they didn’t come, but ...

LG: She might have been asked.

KS: I’d like to know.

LG: I was going to say, it’s a pretty flat time for YouTube right now, but yeah, totally.

KS: Of course. But still, listen, she’s coming to six of our events that we’re doing. She’ll do it, you just have to get her to do it. She’s coming to Code Media, she’s doing something else we’re working on, I’m going down there. She’s not not available. She’s a CEO and she understands one of the parts of her role is to be a public figure and she doesn’t shy away from those. By the way, she’s very willing to talk about it. Anyway, I just think it’s just a lack of leadership on their part.

LG: Ashley, who’s an example of someone that you ... A woman who you would want to hear speak or you would be like, “Yes, I would go hear that person speak,” even if they’re not in the traditional consumer electronics industry?

Wow.

LG: Who would bring you to a conference that you were like ...

KS: Oprah.

LG: Oprah. Just get Oprah, CTA.

I’m sure she’s available.

LG: I’ll mention someone who I think is interesting but isn’t in consumer tech, but Jason Del Rey had her at his Code Commerce conference, who’s Emily Weiss, the founder of Glossier.

That’s great.

LG: I think what they’re doing around building their brand is really interesting.

KS: The CEO of Williams Sonoma.

LG: The CEO of Williams Sonoma.

KS: I’m blanking on her name. Laura Alber.

LG: Great example.

KS: She was at our Code Commerce, she was there. Williams Sonoma has to be involved in gadgets and all kinds of things in the retail space. You could go on, you could literally go on and on.

LG: There’s so many.

KS: I could make them a list. I have a binder full of women.

LG: The founder of Outdoor Voices, the Outdoor apparel brand. Yes, I could go on and on around people who are like ... they don’t make gadgets but I’m still fascinated by what they’re doing.

KS: Let me just say it, for shame, Gary. For shame. Just for shame. Please stop. Just stop talking and do something. I think there’s people inside that organization that I’m going to get an email from Gary, too bad. I’m not going to ever answer it, Gary.

LG: We’re giving you some ideas. You know who is another example, let’s say a top lawyer for one of the tech company’s right now who’s fielding requests from government.

KS: Tons, tons.

LG: Problems about manipulation of platforms.

KS: Ruth Porat, the CFO of Google.

LG: Exactly.

KS: You can go on. We could have a lot less Gary talking on the stage and a lot more women, that’s all I’m going to say. That’s the end of my relationship with Gary, and that’s fine. Anyway, let’s move on to disasters. It’s just appalling. Let’s just leave it at that, and we’ll move along.

Disastrous events, there was rain. When I was arriving in, my cab driver told me they don’t have gutters in Vegas and they had flooding, and then you had the power outage, a transformer blew. Ironic. Tell us very briefly, and then we’re going to get to reader’s questions, so just super briefly. It’s been the end of the world kind of thing going on there.

LG: Las Vegas basically turned into hell and that’s fine, that’s great. There was rain and literally, just the streets flooded, and I said to our driver, I was like, “Is this normal?” He’s like, “Oh yeah, we don’t get much rain, but every time it rains, it floods.” It’s like, “All right, cool.”

KS: They don’t have gutters. I asked why and they don’t have gutters, and apparently, it hadn’t rained in 116 days. The people of Vegas know all these facts.

We need smart gutters.

KS: Smart gutters.

LG: We just need gutters.

KS: How long was the outage? The pictures were fantastic.

I believe it was like an hour.

KS: Only Tesla worked, because they have batteries there, right?

LG: I’ll be honest, we’ve been taping our Twitter live show every afternoon, over in the Aria, away from the Las Vegas Convention Center, so we were nowhere near this when it was happening, but we saw it all online. I’m glad everyone was okay, let me just put that out there, especially given what happened in Vegas late ... I guess it was 2017, I was going to say earlier this year. I’m glad that everyone in Las Vegas Convention seems to be safe and sound. That said, looking at the pictures of all the lights out was kind of hilarious.

All of the vendors saying, “Oh no, our booth takes two hours to boot up.” Oh my gosh.

LG: I know, and then there was a woman who was playing, she just appeared, and she started playing the violin in front of a pitch-black Intel booth. One of our colleagues tweeted, “That’s some Titanic-level shit,” which I think was my favorite tweet of CES.

KS: They probably had her in the back, right? “Bring out the violinist, quick!”

LG: Rearrange the deck chairs.

KS: Exactly. That’s kind of nice.

LG: It’s been a week. Google spent a lot of money to wallpaper Las Vegas, and they had a couple of pretty big, and cool looking, installations. One was right outside the LVC in the parking lot and they had a slide.

Everyone wants to ride the slide.

LG: The slide looks really cool, there’s a human gumball-style machine.

Pinball. Gumballs.

LG: What are those?

We don’t know, we can’t keep our machines straight anymore.

LG: It’s like these gadgets come flying out of the bottom of it. They had to shut down their installation on the first day of the show opening because of the rain.

It was really sad, too, because we saw them setting up all these days ahead of CES and then the day comes and it’s like, “Oh.”

LG: I know.

KS: There you have it.

LG: All the world’s data at your fingertips ...

KS: There’s always a technical snafu. There’s always a technical snafu with technologists.

In a minute, we’re going to take some questions about CES from our readers and listeners, but first, we’re going to take a quick break for a word from our sponsor. Lauren?

LG: I can’t say ka-ching anymore.

KS: You can.

LG: Can we push the deadline one more week?

KS: Yes, you better work on that. Get on it, please.

LG: I’ll come up with another tagline for next week.

[ad]

We’re here with Ashley Carman from The Verge, and Why’d You Push That Button? I love that. The word button, was that problematic when Trump grabbed the word button and made bad affiliations with it?

We try to not think about it.

KS: He’s ruined the word button for me. Anyway, we’re talking about CES 2018 and now we’re going to take some questions from our readers and listeners. Lauren, would you like to read the first question? Ashley, you will have the immediate answer.

Oh boy, yes.

LG: These two questions are in a similar vein. One is from Tom Maxwell, the other is from Eric Palonsky. “Does anything of significance come out of CES anymore, or is it all just vaporware that incorporates whatever is trendy right now with regards to AI?” The second question: “Are there any products that actually come to the consumer market from the show? It seems like everyone is just flexing their R&D departments and consumers never see any of these innovations.”

Obviously, you have these bigger companies flexing, for sure. Showing off the crazy stuff that gets all the headlines and the pictures and the videos, but there are, of course, the smaller gadget companies, too, which are near and dear to my heart. They come out with things that do ship or they might show up on crowdfunding.

The big thing we saw, and this is just more of an R&D thing but we’ll probably see in the future, is the fingerprint sensor beneath the screen of phones. Everyone thinks that’s going to be the future, so again, it’s here. We’ll probably see it eventually. It’s not necessarily a product at ...

KS: It’s not the same relevance. It’s not the only spot in town. There’s auto shows there, there’s Comicon, there’s Apple’s events, there’s Google’s events, there’s so many events now.

LG: Big companies do things on their own cadence.

Right, exactly. The big companies, I don’t think you’re going to see. Honestly, I think CES is good for smaller companies. I like that about it.

KS: Interesting.

LG: I would say smaller companies and some of the bigger companies overseas, like Samsung and Sony, that don’t often get to have big, splashy events for a U.S. market in the same way that Apple would.

KS: Why would Twitter be there? Why would Twitter? They have no gadgets. They wanted to meet with all the big advertisers.

LG: It’s for advertising. I’m going to just say something quick in the spirit of innovation, too. I’ve been coming to CES for eight years now, and I feel like there’s a bell curve. When I started, I was really green and then I hit this peak, jaded moment, where I was like, “Nothing here ever ships.”

Now, I’ve eased back down into this place where I’m like, “It’s kind of cool that all these people come here and they’re so excited to show off all of this stuff.” Some of it’s weird and it’s gadgety and yes, some of it’s never going to ship, but some of it does and some of the products you see, they’re eventually integrated in some other way, in some other product that we end up finding really useful. I think it’s cool.

KS: I like the tech journey of Lauren Goode.

LG: The bell curve.

KS: You’re right, there are moments. As I talked about before, when Walt and I stood in ... When we stood in the line to see the Motorola StarTAC, we literally stood in the longest line and then we just walked by it, admired it and kept walking. It was crazy, and it was still exciting to see that. It was definitely like, “Whoa, that was cool.” It’s ridiculous in hindsight, but it was cool at the time. Anyway, next question-

LG: StarTAC was not ridiculous.

KS: I know, but the way we stood in that line, like we were looking at the crown jewels, was insane. It was in a box, a glass box. Anyway, I had an enjoyable discussion with Walt. He ended up telling me all about his favorite Star Trek episodes, which was disturbing, for an hour. There you have it. One memorable moment with Walt and I.

Next one is from Andre Catapan. “Who needs a fridge with a touchscreen?” It seems like this is asked every year. Ashley? Does anybody? Does anybody still don’t need it?

No. I think we’re good.

KS: It was a good plot point on “Silicon Valley” this season. Remember the screen saved them? They had programmed the refrigerator.

LG: That’s right. You know what I would really like? I would love a fridge that keeps my food cold and safe to eat. I think that’s a very good invention.

That’s a good bar.

KS: Let’s call it a refrigerator.

LG: I know, that’s what I need. That’s what I need. I think there are some things where ...

KS: Don’t you have one? What do you have, an ice chest at your house?

LG: I have an ice chest. I have a refrigerator, of course.

KS: A guy come in with tongs and the giant ice things.

LG: No, Kara, I just kill all of my own food before I eat it so I don’t even need to refrigerate it. I’m kidding, that’s a very Silicon Valley joke.

I remember the first time I went and saw Twitter on a fridge. It was at a store. It wasn’t even a store, because they didn’t sell things from there, but it was the Samsung Experience store up at Time WArner Center in New York City. The thing is no longer there. I went up for a briefing and they were like, “Here’s our new fridge,” this was years ago, “Here’s our new fridge with a screen, and look, here’s Twitter.” I just remember looking at them, being like, “Why am I going to look at Twitter on this fridge?” From the very beginning, I haven’t seen a lot of use for touchscreens on fridges.

KS: I don’t have any use.

LG: The one we saw this year, you knock twice on and when you knock twice, it turns from a display into a transparent window.

KS: I’d like a window. A window I’m with.

Anyway, let’s go to the next one. “What product made you guys cringe?” It’s from AA Show @WhataaShow.

LG: What made us cringe?

The stripper robots.

LG: The stripper robots. Yes.

KS: You know what made me cringe? The reporters covering the stripper robot, that’s what made me cringe.

LG: One of your reporters covered it.

KS: We did, but we were not writing about the actual event, we wrote about the guy who made them. We were very particular about how we wanted to do it. We were writing about the hype around it, obviously, but we wrote about ... it’s a different story. We did a different take on that, which we did on purpose, because I was like, “Oh God, please.” I don’t know. It was cringe ...

What was the take?

KS: The take was this guy was making other things. Not just that, but that he was making other things that had nothing to do with this and got dragged into it. It was interesting. The creator was really interesting, more than the robots themselves. It was a good way to deal with an issue that was definitely problematic, I think, from a reporting point of view. Anything else made you cringe?

I just never like the AI baby cameras. I feel weird about that stuff, baby monitors and things. That’s just a normal day in my life at this point, seeing those kind of gadgets.

KS: What else?

LG: I would say it’s not one particular thing, but I did go down one of the ... I went down to one of the preview shows that exists before the show floor opens.

KS: Those are great.

LG: It’s a really good way to see a distilled selection of some of the gadgets that are out there. I went down and I was like, “Here are all the things in my mind that are connected right now and have an app that don’t need an app.” There’s a mirror, I don’t need an app for my mirror. There’s my water management thing, I don’t need an app for that. There’s the thermometer for my grill, I don’t really need an app for that. Are some of those things useful? Sure, but the theme to me this year was that everything was connected in some way, and I don’t think there’s any way we’re going to ever really walk back from that.

KS: Good.

LG: The toothpaste is out of the tube.

KS: There’s electronic toothpaste. What’s the coolest thing? Two people, Gilbert Jaramillo and David Glen Walker. “What is the coolest, realistic tech you’ve seen?” And, “Of all the bonkers tech you’ve seen at CES this week, which one do you think will go the distance and actually make an impact?” Each of you answer that, please.

LG: I don’t know the name of this thing, but a lot of people on our staff were excited about a fingerprint scanner. It’s obviously something that would be more of a B2B solution, they would sell into other OEMs, but there was a fingerprint scanner that was being shown off that looked pretty cool. It was really fast. I see things like that, I’m like, “Okay, that’s something that will probably make its way into something at some point, and could really make a difference in how we interact with tech.” I think biometrics in general are very cool right now.

KS: Ashley?

This was Razer’s Project Linda, which we’ve seen phones be used to power a laptop, like become basically the brains of a laptop, but Razer’s proof of concept was the phone literally becomes the track pad in the laptop, so you just slot it right in and it becomes ...

KS: That’s a big idea.

I just think it looks really cool. Again, not a totally new idea, but it’s really cool-looking, and I’m always a sucker for something that looks cool.

KS: Do I need more wires? Are there more wires I need to purchase?

No, there’s a port right there and it pops out USBC.

LG: Wow.

KS: Interesting. I like that.

LG: This is your iPhone, or it can be ...

No, it’s their Razer phone, which of course everyone has.

LG: If that concept works, then ...

It is really cool.

LG: Ashley’s on her Razer phone right now.

KS: Cool.

LG: Kara, did you get to see anything in the short time you were here?

KS: I did not, once again. I could care less. No, I did not. I did not, I did not. I did not. Anything did I see, and I didn’t. I was so glad not to see one screen, like a big, giant screen, barking at me. Anyway.

LG: You saw human beings. You saw other people, which is nice.

KS: I did, I spoke to people. I put my phone down. I wasn’t incessantly tweeting and stuff like that. I did for a while.

LG: You could make the argument that the human body is the most perfectly engineered thing out there.

KS: I did go to one dude party. It’s supposed to be off the record, but it was all dudes, and when I left, the percentage of women went down by 50 percent.

LG: I bet I know which one it was.

KS: It was me and another lady. There were a couple ladies there, but I’ll tell you, it was a sea of dudes. I scared them all and left, essentially. That was my job. I really did, I was really frightening to them this year particularly. I went for two seconds and then went on my way, back to the airport. Of course, they’re all like, “If you want to stay, I’ll take you back on my plane.” I was like, “No, thank you. Southwest will work.”

LG: Gosh.

KS: I know, you’re like, “Do you think that’s appealing in any way to Kara Swisher? I don’t think so.” Anyway, I took no private planes, but Southwest was very nice, it was very nice.

LG: Next question.

KS: Next question. Go ahead.

LG: You can keep talking about the plane though, if you’d like.

KS: No.

LG: This is from Kevin @kevito920. “It seems the theme this year is voice assistants in every appliance you can think of. Is there anything nontechnical consumers can look forward to? I’m asking for my parents, by the way.” First of all, Kevin, thank you to your parents for listening to Too Embarrassed to Ask. Is there anything nontechnical consumers can look forward to?

KS: How could you have nontechnical?

I don’t know fully what that means.

KS: It’s all technical, Kevin.

I will say voice assistants are great for parents, and for elderly people.

KS: Kids.

Kids. It’s a really nice interface for most people, and it’s cool to see that.

LG: Maybe by nontechnical he just means not complicated. Nilay [Patel] wrote this great essay at the beginning of the week about how everything is just too complicated now, and he listed all the questions that he’s gotten over the holidays from his family and his wife’s family. People just want to understand the basics and here we are saying, “This is six degrees of freedom that also integrates with NFC and an atom chip.” People are like, “What the hell does that even mean?”

Translates to nothing.

KS: Ease of use is really important. It’s always been the most important thing. The only thing is, when you do the voice assistants there’s like 90 videos of a kid asking for something and then porn popping up. If you notice, every week, there’s one of those horrible incidents. I think voice assistants certainly are down that road of being easier. Pretty much everyone understands a voice assistant, most of the time.

LG: Short answer, Kevin, is that I think Alexa, Alexa products, Hey Google products, they’re as simple as it’s going to get right now in terms of voice command and voice assistants. I think it depends on the build of the product you’re looking at in terms of how complicated it is to use, and which company you trust or your parents trust with having that assistant in the house.

KS: There weren’t any bitcoin gadgets were there, ladies? Anything?

LG: I got some bitcoin exchange press pushes and press releases and stuff like that.

I definitely did not.

LG: But I didn’t see anything tangible or physical out there, on the floor.

KS: Liz Weeks: “What’s your read on how many new products work seamlessly with widespread tech? For example, Bluetooth, versus trying to get us into their specific ecosystem.” Ashley just talked about Razer. What about seamlessly across widespread tech? Google and Alexa are fighting, obviously.

LG: How many new products work seamlessly? Most products we see ...

Bluetooth is pretty universal. Most companies at this point that are creating a smart gadget are using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, to connect at least, as far as that goes.

LG: One thing I noticed when I went through the booths and was talking to some of these companies at the press preview events is that — this surprises me — but a lot of them do still seem to have an iOS strategy first. If they’re using Bluetooth to sync with an iPhone app and they’re like, “Look, we work with an app,” you always have to ask about Android, of course, given Android’s massive footprint and a lot of times they’re like, “We’re iOS right now.” That’s something that’s been pretty consistent over the past several years, which is interesting.

KS: I agree.

It hasn’t changed.

LG: In terms of multi-platform, Liz, one of the things that I hear companies say a lot when they come out with new products, like new assistants or I guess assistants is probably the best example right now. You start to say, “When is it going to work with this? When is it going to work with Spotify, or when is it going to work with anything other than your own service?” They all say, “Oh, we’re so open. We really want to work with partners. It’s to come.”

The truth is, a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations are really incredibly complicated, and I think it’s very rare to find a gadget right now, especially when it’s being made by one of, let’s say, the big five hardware, four tech companies, that truly has an open approach and doesn’t prioritize its own services in some way.

KS: 100 percent, absolutely. Last question?

LG: I have to ask this question because, Liz, this is close to my heart. Liz also asked, “Will Garmin finally create a charger that isn’t maddening and fickle?” Garmin and a lot of the wearable companies are notorious for their proprietary chargers, for every single one you get it’s like, “Here’s a different charger, here’s a different charger.” The past few Garmin watches, Liz, I’ve actually started to use the same charger, which makes me very happy. I guess they’re getting there. I don’t know.

KS: They’re trying. Next question is a very good one by Lisa E., Lisa Erry: “How do you make sense of the fact that the whole show is about getting more tech into literally every aspect of life, while simultaneously, there’s an outcry for companies and regulators to address tech addiction?” Very briefly?

LG: Ashley, what do you think?

This is tough. The idea would be a lot of these, at least if we’re going with the voice assistants trend, on the bright side, at least you’re getting away from a screen, if that’s any consolation. I think our biggest gripe isn’t necessarily that we are addicted to tech, it’s more we’re addicted to our phones and checking our phones. If there’s any way to get us away from that, even if it means just asking Google or Alexa a question and not having to search for it, which takes you out of a moment, it does, when you have to consult a search engine. That’s looking at the bright side, I guess, for me.

KS: This is the issue of, I think, 2018, is the tech addiction issue. I think Tristan Harris had it 100 percent right about that issue. I think literally ... I was just talking to Arianna Huffington, that’s her focus. From sleep, she’s going to tech addiction. Common Sense Media is pushing it, and obviously, there was a whole hue and cry around Apple and Google and all of them. I think it’s a big issue.

I’d like to see if someone created a cattle prod or a tech prod, for people who walk across the street and use their phones and stare at them. That happened to me four times today. It just was so ... I yelled at one person because they almost got hit and they were just staring down at their phones walking across the street and I went, “Hey, look up!” There’s got to be something to pull people away from phones, in public spaces, which is an interesting issue.

LG: It’s funny that you do that because someone yelled at me the other day walking into one of the convention centers for being on my phone while also opening the door. I was just trying to figure out where I needed to be. He just started yelling at me and I turned around I said to him, “Sir, you only have the right to yell at me in public if you’ve never looked down at your phone in your life.” Kara, you know you’ve walked around looking at your phone. You know you’ve done it.

KS: No, I have done it. Many years ago. I stopped doing it after there were several accidents, actually. You have children and you don’t want them to do it, so no, I actually, that’s one thing ... I do a lot of phone usage, but walking in public, just watch me. You don’t realize it, but I actually, I make a thing of it because I think it’s really dangerous. I think people not looking up, especially in their cars, I do not use my phone in my car. Those kind of things, I think, are super problematic.

LG: You are a less maddening person than I am. I guess I’m probably maddening to the people around me.

KS: I think everyone’s done it, but I think that’s not the issue, it’s that it’s really not safe. It’s just not. It’s not safe, and it’s also weird. People can be weird if they want, but this guy almost got killed today. For what? Finding out the last thing Donald Trump said? They couldn’t wait until they crossed the street? Anyway, anyway. I’m particular on this issue.

LG: One thing I’ll say quickly is I did a video recently about smartphone obsession. I don’t want to say addiction since that’s a strong term, but one of the researchers I spoke to, Larry Rosen, was talking about the fact that a lot of these app designers are building apps that they become somewhat addictive in some ways.

KS: Sure.

LG: They keep drawing you back in. And he said a great line, which was, “I think it’s great for their business models, but I don’t think it’s great for our humanware.”

KS: I agree, I agree. On Metro now these days, because everyone’s looking at their phone, and I don’t mind that necessarily, but I stare at people. I look at them and smile. They find it very disconcerting. I’m like, “Hi, hi.” Anyway. I run up behind people and yell. I’m the person who yelled at you when you were opening the door. I’m the same person.

LG: I thought that guy looked familiar.

KS: Here’s three things from Phillip Molly Malone, it’s a trifecta. “A) love the show, B) never change the way you say “button.”

LG: Button.

KS: Lauren, I think that’s you.

LG: Ashley, how do you say button since it’s your podcast name?

Button.

LG: Button. Is that different than the way I say it? Button.

KS: Why don’t you push that button, that’s how I say it. “C) on CES, would love to hear your thoughts about the blitzkrieg at the event by Google, with its actions on Google.” You guys addressed that.

LG: Am I shocked that Google spent possibly millions of ... Possibly, this is not ...

KS: Definitely.

LG: Possibly millions of dollars, let’s just go with, on advertising around the show? No, I’m not shocked. Companies do this every year at CES. I don’t know. Not much to say about that, really.

It got everyone’s attention, that’s for sure.

KS: There you have it. They spent a lot of money. Google wants to get noticed. We’re going to do the last question, I’m going to skip over Jeff’s because we’ve already answered it. Jack Rustler @Greg_Coogan: “Is it possible to merge CES with Burning Man and have just one event to avoid rather two? Asking for a friend.”

CES on acid.

LG: I don’t want Burning Man to be ...

KS: Nudity among these people. What do you think? Nudity and drugs, and gadgets. What do we think?

Sounds like a bad combo.

LG: I was going to say, sounds like CES from years past, an outdated CES perhaps.

KS: No, I don’t ...

LG: I don’t know. Why do they need to combine the two?

KS: Lauren, I think he’s kidding. I believe he is actually ...

LG: You know what? I’m too tired to take a joke.

KS: You’re too tired, you’ve been walking too much. I liked it when CES had the porn fest there at the same time. That was always my favorite. That’s gone, right? They’re not there anymore.

They’re here next week now.

LG: They’re here next week?

KS: That was a nice combination, I enjoyed that.

LG: All right.

KS: The different crowds were always amusing to watch, and of course, I preferred the other crowd much more.

LG: The juxtaposition of the two was really the best part. In a lot of ways, people have said this for a long time now, I’m not the first person to say this, but the adult industry certainly has helped introduce and propel forward a lot of technologies over the years.

KS: We’re using the word adult, right? Sorry.

LG: It’s not just porn. There are other things too that are involved in that industry, so that’s why. There’s gadgetry.

KS: I say porn, I think it covers the whole spectrum.

LG: It probably does.

KS: Ashley, have you discussed that on the show? The porn stuff? She’s right, they’re very innovative.

We have not talked about porn. We’ve talked about nudes, like sending nudes, but that’s more within to friends or to partners or people. That’s a good topic, I’m going to write that one down.

KS: I got to tell you, as a parent, I think about it a lot. I think about it a lot. Speaking of tech addiction, it’s the same thing. I think about it with my sons. I do. I do, I do. It should be addressed, and not in a haha manner.

Definitely not.

KS: It’s a really interesting and disturbing trend on many levels.

LG: It’s a very real thing. It’s a real thing that exists in our world.

KS: Right, exactly. We’re back to stripper robots again. Anyway, this has been another great episode of Too Embarrassed To Ask, Ashley, thank you so much for joining us. Your show is terrific, and it’s called Why Did You Push That Button?

LG: She’s making fun of me, by the way. That’s the way I say button, and I hear about it from everybody.

KS: Thank you to Andrew Marino from The Verge for recording Lauren and Ashley in Las Vegas today.

LG: Andrew says you’re welcome. Thank you, Andrew, and thank you so much, Ashley.

Thanks for having me.

LG: I’ll see you later on the Twitter live show.

Yes.

LG: We’ll be talking about gadgets some more.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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