I'm blindfolded, my nerves tingling as the sound of a chainsaw approaches, the gas fumes wafting up my nose as it gets closer.
The chainsaw passes by, and moments later I hear a woman scream.
The blindfolds come off, and I'm staring at a woman who says, "I am here of my own free will," before downing a vial of pink liquid. Laser-like sounds blare as a number of colors flash, and then it goes blue as everything is silent and she retreats into a dead stare. (You can see the video here.) A mad scientist wearing a long white lab coat barks, "Nothing will be the same after this."
Would you believe this is a booth for smart beauty care products?
- CES 2018: Complete coverage of the world's biggest technology show from CNET
CES is known for the eye-popping spectacles like modular televisions or giant racing mechs, but this booth -- which less a show exhibit and more stage performance -- takes things to a whole new level. It made for one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had at a CES. With roughly 184,000 attendees and more than 4,000 exhibitors, sometimes it's worth taking that extra step to stand out.
The culprit behind this madness: A Swedish beauty care company called Foreo, which pitches itself as a "smart" beauty care brand (and who isn't smart at this show?). The not-so-subtle message was this dystopian vision was analogous to how beauty care products are developed by its old-fashioned and established rivals, and that Foreo represented something new and different.
"This is not the traditional beauty booth with white chairs," said Trisha Mendiola, head of strategy and programming in the Americas for Foreo.
Regardless of the message, I had to applaud the stage craft.
Unless you knew the brand ahead of time -- and I didn't -- Foreo masterfully built up the suspense. The entire booth is fenced off, with numerous warning signs and employees in military fatigues and body armor patrolling the entrance. Curious, I asked one of the "guards" what this was. He said I would only find out if I went inside. So I took one of his blindfolds and joined a line of other convention-goers. Minutes later, he barked at us to put on the blindfolds, and I marched into the booth.
As we walked forward, heat blasted on one side (that was supposed to represent one of the skin care treatments --I think). When we took out blindfolds off, we were greeted by the scientist and three people, or test subjects, wearing yellow sheets. Their faces were covered in saran wrap. The scientists ranted, and each of the three test subjects took turns drinking the liquid. The second one protested, it led to the chainsaw and screaming.
At one point, one of the visitors used flashed photography (warning signs said that was a no no) and an armored guard dragged him out. He was later brought back in -- wearing the yellow sheet and saran wrap -- and repeated the same ritual of drinking the pink liquid (of his own free will, of course).
The whole proceeding had me questioning where I was and what the heck this was all about.
It wasn't until the end when I filed out near the exit that I found out Foreo was hawking beauty products, like a 20-second mask that's supposed to replace a 20-minute facial mask for skin care. It's on Kickstarter, having raised $375,000, or 19 times its goal of $20,000. And like everything else at CES, it's connected to an app.
To be honest, getting confirmation that this was ultimately a pitch about a product, and not some statement on horrors of tech, felt like a bit of a let down.
But hey, I'm writing about beauty care products, so clearly Foreo got the best of me.
CES 2018: Complete coverage of the world's biggest technology show from CNET.