In a race to find the future of tech, even the fastest man in the world might have trouble navigating a crowded convention hall.
Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt visited the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, where he was able to explore a few areas of interest to him unrelated to running: music and tech. Bolt was in town to promote the Philips Bass+ over-the-ear headphones and wireless earbuds at Gibson’s massive tent outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where he spent part of Wednesday as a celebrity DJ.
Bolt, who’s no stranger to getting behind the DJ booth, has built up a reputation for his love of music both while on the track and while spinning tracks. And for the past three years, the eight-time gold medalist has been a sponsor of Philips’ line of headphones. He even wears the voice-assistant-enabled earbuds when he’s running (he says they don’t fall out).
Before his set, Bolt spent a few minutes backstage with Adweek.
Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Adweek: What are you hoping to see here at CES?
Usain Bolt: I remember my friends said to me, “Listen you need to see what’s going on.” A few of my friends have been here before, and it’s amazing to see the technology. My manager went on the floor yesterday and saw some cars, the new Range Rover and stuff like that … Hopefully nobody is going to recognize me too much. We’ll see what happens.
Yesterday we saw that talking robot and it creeped me out.
Sophia? I actually just interviewed her the other day.
Sophia. It creeped me out. You know what I mean? I was like “What is happening?” But it’s something new. It’s the future.
Speaking of talking robots, the headphones you’re representing come with voice assistants, right? How do you use voice assistants in your own life?
It makes life easy. Simple. It’s just about walking back and forth and saying what you want and it happens. And I’m lazy so it’s something that’s great.
Do you have a Google Home or an Amazon Echo at home?
No. My girlfriend keeps trying to get me to use one. She’s like “We need to get one!” and I say “No just leave me alone!” and she’s like “No we need it.” [Laughs] I’m going to give in soon.
A lot of athletes seem to be investing in tech companies these days. Do you have any plans to do that too?
That’s the thing. Just this morning actually we were talking about how we need to walk around and see what’s happening and talk to [everyone]. You never know.
So you’d consider it?
I hear you’ve been DJing a lot lately. There are a lot of connections between music and tech. Where does your interest come from?
My life is all about music. I just want to point that out first, and the [Philips] headphones are about music. Now there are the new earbuds that are focused on bass which is like my life. You know most people are focused on the bass.
In music, if you listen to anything—hip hop, reggae, house music—the bass is always the key thing. This is why it’s called the Bass Plus, because you know you can feel that bass in the earbuds and get that vibe. And that’s something I’m sure everybody is enjoying. I was at a party last night and it was bass line, bass line.
How do you decide what to listen to?
For me, it’s all about the hype. It’s all about that good sound. The music is always what’s a hit. It might be pop, but it’s mostly Jamaican music when I’m in training. It’s mostly like Popcaan, Vybz Kartel, anything that’s hot at the time is what I listen to to get myself hyped.
Do you have a favorite right now?
Right now, in Jamaica it’s a bunch of Aidonia. He’s the one that’s really getting Jamaicans off with high tempo.
You’re on social media a lot, but what’s an app you can’t do without?
One of my favorite apps is the EPL (English Premier League) app. I follow Manchester United, and so it’s something I check daily and make sure to update and check my news on transfers. That’s something I couldn’t do without. But just like everyone else, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
Do you have a favorite?
I’m a Snapchat person. It’s simpler and everybody enjoys it.
That’s right; you did a campaign for Gatorade on Snapchat.
It’s something that I really enjoyed. Working with them, they always explain to me how people watch it so it’s always good.
More athletes have been getting into virtual reality. Do you ever see yourself creating a VR running game?
You never know what the future holds. I always say just continue what you’re doing, stay positive and work towards it. I’m a sports person, and hopefully I can in the future be a part of some running game. I’m trying to get into soccer too, so hopefully if I get in then I can be a part of soccer. But you never know where your future is going to go.
Yeah for me I was really into soccer my whole life and then switched to running for the cross country team in high school.
I started out with cricket when I was younger. I never knew I would be a runner, but my dad said “You know what, stick to running. You’re good at it, why not do it?” And I was like, alright cool. Cricket was my love when I was younger, but my dad kind of changed my views on cricket and I [starting focusing] on running and then you know [laughs] he never knew what was going to happen. That’s why I always say be positive in every way.