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Image credit: Mat Smith, Engadget

Netflix hid a fake biotech booth in the middle of CES

Oblivious attendees might have been the best part.
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Mat Smith, Engadget

Venture beyond tech whales like Samsung and Sony, beyond the rows of smart speakers and giant TVs, and you'll discover that there are weirder things to be found at CES. That might be why Netflix's trojan horse public relations move, establishing a fictional vendor booth deep within the Las Vegas Convention Center, worked a little too well.

Gallery: Netflix's fake booth at CES 2017 | 11 Photos

Well, I cheated. I was already briefed (through a press release) that "Psychasec" wasn't a genuine CES exhibitor, despite this full-fledged stall you see here. Nope, this is a fictional company from Altered Carbon, the next big-budget sci-fi series from Netflix, which seems to borrow heavily from Blade Runner, at least in visual delivery.

Most of the other attendees, a mixture of businesspeople, media and other exhibitors, were immediately curious about the glossy white stand with two sexy, realistic mannequins on display at the front.

When they ventured inside, an army of slightly too pretty attendants, dressed in white, offered vague sci-fi responses to questions ("It's about transferring your conscious to a new, better body") while screens all around scrolled through the benefits of replacing your body with a new (sexy, stronger, smarter) model. The aforementioned staff clutched tablets to take email addresses, with promises of more information come February 2nd. Plenty took the bait, genuinely curious to know where this company was based and whether this was all even possible.

The twist, if you can call it that, happens once you turn a corner and you're confronted with a vacuum-sealed human. This is another mannequin, although with some carefully placed condensation inside the bag, which made it rather unsettling. Naturally, I had to poke the "person" in a bag. Morbid fascination.

So what about the only real thing here? The show itself, Altered Carbon, is set 300 years in the future, at a time when human bodies are interchangeable: Death just isn't a thing. From the glimpses I saw here, it looks like Netflix is putting plenty of cash into the show -- and I don't just mean renting a plot in Las Vegas. Expect some action, navel-gazing thoughts on what it means to die, and a firearm or two. The show launches globally on February 2nd.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

Mat once failed an audition to be the Milkybar Kid, an advert creation that pushed white chocolate on gluttonous British children. Two decades later, having repressed that early rejection, he moved to Japan, learned the language, earned his black belt in Judo and returned to UK, and soon joined Engadget's European team. After a few years leading Engadget's coverage from Japan, reporting on high-tech toilets and robot restaurants as Senior Editor, he now heads up our UK bureau in London.

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