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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2006, 10:37 GMT
How I was trapped by porn at CES
By Gareth Mitchell
BBC World Service Go Digital presenter, in Las Vegas

Delegates watch a display at the Adult Entertainment Expo
The Adult Entertainment Expo runs alongside CES
Gareth Mitchell reports on the joys and hazards of presenting a special edition of BBC World Service technology programme Go Digital from Las Vegas.

After an exhausting day recording items for Go Digital around the huge CES exhibition halls, producer Julian Siddle and I opted to take refuge in a Las Vegas bar.

But CES wasn't the only big show in town. Las Vegas was also hosting the annual Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE).

This particular evening, the shindig culminated in a glitzy award ceremony and dinner.

Excessive silicon

The great and the good of the adult entertainment industry were parading along the red carpet. Our bar was on the route and the staff ordered us to stay put until the procession of the porn aristocracy finally petered out.

Photographers and fans lined the 200 metre route, flashes fired and whoops went up each time one of the stars stopped to pose for the crowd. There was as much silicone on display here as the silicon in the electronic devices in the halls of CES.

Crowds at CES
4,500 journalists attended this year's CES

Behind the cordon, Julian and I remained holed up in the bar for nearly two hours, with burly doormen repeating their instructions for us not to leave. We weren't expecting this - we were trapped by porn.

It's no coincidence that the consumer electronics and porn industries converged on Las Vegas at the same time. Innovations like VHS, camcorders, webcasting and video MP3 players have all been driven by the adult entertainment business.

Among the more mainstream stories at this year's CES has been internet telephony - voice over IP (Voip). Two years ago on Go Digital, we featured the then little heard of free Voip service Skype. Last year, auction site EBay acquired the firm in a deal worth over $2.5bn.

We were keen to include the latest from Skype in the programme, so we tracked the firm down to the EBay stand. I was surprised to find a massive brand like EBay represented by a few understated stalls, tucked away in a dingy thoroughfare, at odds with the audacious palatial stands of other big hitters like Microsoft, Panasonic and Yamaha.

As well as interviewing one of Skype's people, we wanted to hook up with our regular studio expert, Bill Thompson back home in Cambridge.

With the help of some people on the stand, we managed to speak to Bill via Skype. We patched the audio feed from their computer into our laptop and picked up my questions separately on our recording machine.

Disruptive technology

Gareth Mitchell at the Skype stand at CES
Hooking up with Bill Thompson via Skype shows tech in action

Later, Julian mixed it all together using our editing software. The result was a nice little three-way chat between me, Skype's Stephanie Bouchet and Bill in super sound quality from Cambridge.

Across the internet, we crossed time zones and platforms (we had PCs and Bill was sitting on his living room floor with his Mac PowerBook). It was cheap and rather neat - using the technology itself to talk about the technology.

I could go on and on about the sheer size of CES. One illustrative figure is the 4,500 journalists and broadcasters present. So you can read, watch and listen to several thousand different angles on the event.

On Go Digital, we've taken the "What's it all about?" line. Does the world really need an exercise monitoring device that turns the volume down on your television if you're not jogging on the spot hard enough? Or a wireless controlled skateboard?

And we sought out one of the few, if only, academics at the show. He had some interesting views on 'disruptive innovation' and how the major chip manufacturers face big trouble if they continue building ever faster processors without bothering to check whether we, the consumer, actually need them.

The trend is towards combining multiple functions such as wireless, cameras, GPS and so on into smaller, lower power devices.

Incidentally, we finally did escape from that bar. To the dismay of the rather hapless doormen, we strutted out, cutting across the red carpet to freedom. Two bleary-eyed BBC types momentarily caught up in the still steady stream of the porn industry's finest.

You can download this week's special edition of Go Digital from CES as a podcast. Follow the link on the right hand side of this page.


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