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Scenes from CES: An Event Best Experienced Lying Down

Demos of mattresses and lounge chairs are among the most popular, but not because they are particularly impressive

Molly McHugh/Ringer illustration

There is no shortage of demos at CES. There’s a portable underwater scooter to test. There’s a self-driving car to take for a spin. There’s free DNA testing.

Or, you could just lie down.

Molly McHugh

In all corners of the giant convention exhibition, there are downtrodden CES attendees resting their weary bodies atop mattresses, across pillow tops, and ensconced in massage chairs. Their faces momentarily blank, if not relaxed. Amid the cacophony of the expo, the high-tech furniture offers a temporary respite from the eager exhibitioners trying to sell you on their products. The best selling point is that, even if temporarily, this chair or mattress or pillow offers an escape from the chaos. And after the nap, the hard sell goes down much easier.

Among the most popular unofficial nap stations was NuCalm’s booth. NuCalm isn’t actually marketing the loungers seen above—the company was pushing a micro-stimulator and eye mask (as well as supplements and an app) that are supposed to lead to deeper relaxation. Bodyfriend offers “premium massage chairs” that look like they mold to your body. They come in gold, and there was a line to sit in one when I walked by. Sleep Number (below) had possibly the most alluring space: a gentle cocoon displaying its new Sleep Number 360 smart bed mattresses, with lights dimmed and an overhang above. Just a few booths over, Philips had its smart headband that uses noise to help you fall and stay asleep, and you can try to during the demo, where you can also don an eye mask and rest your head.

Sleep Number
Molly McHugh
Molly McHugh
Molly McHugh

It may seem strange to lie down or rest your head on something a stranger was just using, and even stranger yet lie next to someone you don’t know. I’ve never demoed a mattress with a neighbor, but I’ve certainly used one after someone else. I was thrilled to be off my feet, so the thin, flimsy paper used as a protective cover seemed sufficiently sanitary.

For years, writers at the show have calculated how much mileage they cover over the week. It’s usually pretty impressive; I walked about three miles today and I’ve only been here since 9:30 a.m. But the mental chaos is more of a challenge than anything physical—not dissimilar from the rest of the Vegas experience. Time doesn’t exist, the air is dry, and every single booth seems to be screaming to get your attention. After passing the smart-doorbell demo and breezing by the hoverboard array, the smart mattresses await, like a mirage in the desert. I’m here to see the future—after I rest my eyes for a second.