Gary Shapiro is the showman of the greatest technology show on Earth. As the president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), he presides over CES, commonly known as the Consumer Electronics Show. CES 2018 is just around the corner, running from early press events starting on January 7 through January 12.

The big tech trade show drew 184,498 people earlier this year, and Shapiro is planning for another record-breaking event in January. The show will likely have more than 4,000 exhibitors across 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, though final numbers will be out later. I talked to Shapiro in our annual ritual, getting a preview of the event that sets the tone for the tech industry for the coming year.

More startups will be coming this year to the Eureka Park section of the event, which will have 800 companies compared to 600 a year ago. At least 118 government leaders will be there, and many of them will be engaging on the topic of net neutrality, which the FCC is in the midst of dismantling. I’ll be among the 7,000-plus media at the event.

Some facts about the show: The drone section of the show floor will have 47 exhibitors, up 15 percent from last year, across 38,550 square feet, down 1 percent. The robotics section will have 35 exhibitors, up 30 percent, across 21,500 square feet, up 68 percent.

Augmented reality will have 24 exhibitors, up 20 percent, across 10,900 square feet, up 30.5 percent. Gaming and virtual reality will have 46 exhibitors, down 36 percent from 72 last year, across 37,500 square feet, up 26 percent.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview….

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