Google’s annual show at CES is no more, and the tech show is virtually


Google installed a real ride in its booth in 2019.

James Martin / CNET

This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the most popular articles from the all-virtual CES 2021.

One of the biggest disappointments of CES 2021 becomes virtual will be the lack of a flagship by Google. Whether you care about the sheer number of announcements associated with Google Assistant, it was hard to deny the tech giant’s acting.

In the last few years, Google has boasted some of the most striking CES huts, from: a theme park in 2019 to a escape room back in January’s show. Unlike other CES heavyweights, such as Samsung or LG, Google has chosen to place its typically massive “activation” in the parking lot in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center, suddenly making it a trendy place to place a booth.

Google’s booths have largely taken advantage of Google Assistant, emphasizing the importance of the digital assistant as it has shrunk to regain market share from Amazon’s Alexa, which has gained an edge in the area thanks to Amazon’s Echo range. speakers. Indeed, Google and its assistant was part of a battle over digital assistants by recent CES shows, with lavish huts and with partners announcing that their respective assistants will be embedded in a new television, car or other device.

But with CES being virtual, a step dictated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many of the program’s biggest names prefer to skip the program. According to a spokesperson, Google will hold partner meetings, but according to the spokesperson, it will not have a large presence. It’s not alone – the Consumer Technology Association said it expects about 1,000 exhibitors at the virtual show, less than a quarter of the total from the January confab.

As a reminder of what you’re missing, here’s a look back at some of the previous Google exhibits.

2020: Google’s Escape Room

The company’s tries to promote his digital assistant likely to peak in January at CES 2020, with an escape room where the only way to get out was to hire Google Assistant (talk about a captive audience). Google made its presence felt earlier this year in the parking lots of Vegas’ convention center with a two-story entertainment house that drew long queues throughout the week.

Google Booth CES 2020

Google has “trapped” its visitors and required them to use Google Assistant to help them along the way.

James Martin / CNET

This was the premise of the escape room: you meet with investors (how Silicon Valley) for dinner, and they want you to serve a specific dish: bacon and Brussels burrata di bufala risotto burritos. You make your day using the Google Assistant to navigate to the market, preheat the oven and turn on music for dinner.

You could not accuse Google of calling it. Part of the experience was being in a car to use Assistant.

2019: The theme park ride

It was a favorite moment of Google’s CES venture. At a show known for crazy sights – BMW had just taken riders in the same parking lot a year earlier – Google might be able to top everyone brings his own version of “It’s a Small World” by way of a tongue-in-cheek theme ride.

Google takes this too seriously. The PA system welcomed riders by noting that the gimmick was ” partial ride, partly marketing gimmick, let’s be honest with ourselves ”. But the fun ride has a serious point about the Google Assistant interpreter mode, which was announced when the program opened.


Google put everything into action with its 2019 set-up.

James Martin / CNET

It was also the year that Google really made its presence known and plastered ‘Hey Google’ – one of the trigger phrases for Assistant – all over Las Vegas, including near one of the main entrances to the conference center and on the monorail that connects the location for many of the casinos on the Strip.

At the show, Google announced a whole range of offerings, including a new smartwatch manufactured by Lenovo and a new platform that made it easier for device manufacturers to add the Assistant to their devices.

2018: A three-storey playground

Google is just getting started with its massive huts. This one included multiple rooms display different devices powered by Google Assistant, and concluded with a twist of the third story. It now looks quaint along the theme park drive, but at the time it made headlines at the show.

In a bit of meta-touch, the giant hockey itself included a bunch of smaller mini-huts: phone booths turned into mini-art projects that each displayed the ability of Google Assistant, from playing music to trivia questions.

This was the first big year for Google at the show.


Google’s 2018 booth was a part-time pleasure house, a partial pitch for Assistant.

Sarah Tew / CNET

2017: Lots of news, less important presence

You can slow down Google a bit because you’re relatively low on this show. It was the first CES since Google unveiled its Google Home speaker, the first device with Google Assistant. Instead of hosting a major exhibition, Google lets partnership announcements be the focus and proves that it’s building momentum to tackle Amazon’s Alexa. Companies including Belkin, Hyundai, Chrysler and Nvidia all offered support for Assistant.

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Drive Google’s roller coaster at CES 2019


Google Assistant was more of a curiosity and a project back then. Now that it’s spreading much wider – embedded in Android phones, as well as the increasingly popular range of smart speakers. The digital assistant is a more serious player. If CES had remained a physical event (which would have been a terrible idea in this environment), Google would probably have attracted a different attention.

We’ll have to wait until CES 2021 to see what Google has up its sleeve next.