LAS VEGAS — This year at the international CES gadget show, nearly 200,000 attendees perused the latest gadgets brought in by some 4,500 companies from Orange County and around the world.
There was a variety of wares, from self-cleaning toilets to cuddly robots. But many panel discussions and receptions focused on one new trend: the rapid rise of esports.
“It’s been a good year for gaming,” said Mark Leathem, vice president at Fountain Valley-based HyperX, the gaming division of Kingston Technology. “It’s certainly become en vogue to talk about esports.”
He attributed much of the recent attention on esports to Epic Games’ “Fortnite” — a record-smashing, breakout hit game in which players work solo or in teams to survive the zombie apocalypse. He also likened the phenomenon to the rise of popular music, which came about when the radio became a commodity and most households owned one.
“All of a sudden you have something that musicians, sports players, you know, everybody is into,” Leathem said.
Here are a few of the O.C. companies at the show, selling gadgets aimed at this generation of tech-savvy gamers:
For HyperX, which specializes in gaming accessories, the rising popularity of esports has meant a rapid increase in the number of gamers who want colorful RGB keyboards, quality headsets and more.
“That ability to communicate with your friends, tease them, roast them, play with them, became very important,” HyperX’s Leathem said. “So for us in the headset industry, that was a huge positive accelerator.”
HyperX partnered with Santa Ana-based audiophile darling Audeze to launch the Cloud Orbit — a premium pair of gaming headphones with head tracking, 360-degree audio environment technology — at CES. The sound adjusts 1,000 times a second to reflect your position when you move or turn your head.
HyperX launched more than 20 products last year, including its entry into the gaming console market.
They also just kicked off a new advertising campaign this week, designed by Irvine-based agency Envoy, in which professional athletes, musicians and other celebrities will bring the idea home that “we’re all gamers.”
Founded in 2002 by CEO Dave Cartwright, one of the three original founders of Targus, Mobile Edge is an Anaheim-based case and accessory manufacturer that works with companies like Alienware and Dell as an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for cases, backpacks and other gear.
But it has begun focusing on its own brand recently with its core gaming products.
“We’re a small and nimble company,” said Paul June, vice president of marketing at Mobile Edge. “People think we’re bigger than we are. So [with] our strategic partners that are cultivated here at CES, we’re all going to work together to own the gaming space and provide people with quality options in gaming.”
Another critical accessory for Generation Z and millennial buyers, whether they have their own YouTube channel or just want to capture memories, is the camera.
Costa Mesa-based OPKIX endeavors to make collecting footage easy and seamless.
The tiny, hands-free OPKIX wearable camera, which it showed at CES, comes in a set of two that charge in an egg-like device. Available in several colors, it works with multiple mounts like a necklace, a ring on your hand, or on the side of your glasses, capturing footage that can be edited and shared from within its own app.
Shahin Amirpour, OPKIX president and cofounder, said the lightweight, long-lasting device could be used in a wide variety of ways, like coaching, medical applications, on drones and in esports — not to mention quickly capturing moments like a child’s first steps.
The idea came about three years ago when Amirpour was snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain and his camera quickly died. He and his friend’s phones proved inadequate.
“There’s gotta be another way to have a wearable camera,” he told his friend that day. They began developing a tiny camera that could be used in a variety of ways.
“We were told time and time again, ‘What you’re trying to do just can’t be done,’” CEO and cofounder C. Lawrence Greaves said.
But they did it anyway. The five co-founders — industry leaders in investment, design and marketing who had lots of connections in the action sports industry — quickly received funding, partnerships, buzz and brand ambassadors.
They also worked with Kingston Technology to develop the camera’s memory storage.
“They fell in love with what we were doing,” Amirpour said. “I don’t think they could have been any more helpful.”