The annual consumer technology show, CES, brings the world’s technology media and consumer electronics ecosystem together in Las Vegas to see the latest tech innovations, and what we might expect to use or buy in coming years. Of course some are just ideas or concepts at a very early stage – like the Faraday Future car, but many might already have production plans.
You’ll read many reports in the next few days from all the mainstream media on the wonder gadgets or crazy ideas, but we present here a few predictions of what to expect from industry analysts CCS Insight. Here is a view on their take on announcements in wearables, augmented and virtual reality, the connected home and the internet of things, cars, drones, robots, smartphones, tablets and TVs.
There will be a further avalanche of new wearable devices, with specific focus on sleeker designs. Expect the ‘jewellifcation’ of the category to continue in an effort to overcome the strong male bias seen with wearables to date. Noted introductions in 2015 with first efforts in this area were Bellabeat Leaf, Guess Connect smartwatch and Swarovski Misfit Shine; anticipate many more products in a similar vein.
More fashion brands will also partner with wearables companies. One contender is Fitbit, which is already working with American designer Tory Burch. It’s a prime candidate to announce new, more-fashionable products with a strong likelihood of partnerships with trendy brands.
The collision of wearables and healthcare is another area to watch. CCS Insight already expects healthcare companies to offer medical-grade devices with predictive health solutions beyond current recreational metrics.
Hearables headset makers will also embed more sensors into devices in an effort to deliver renewed interest in the category. Other trends will include improved surround sound to enhance virtual reality (VR) experiences, and numerous products with support for Apple’s proprietary lightning connector.
Augmented and virtual reality (VR)
VR will be one of the hot technology areas at International CES 2016. This is poised to be the year that consumer awareness of VR reaches meaningful levels, and the event is set to act as the launch pad for further developments in this field.
The big investments being made by the likes of Facebook, Google, HTC, Microsoft, Samsung and Sony underline the huge momentum for virtual and augmented reality (AR).
Expect Sony to offer more details about its PlayStation VR headset at the event, together with a series of content announcements. More than 30 million PlayStation 4 consoles in use give Sony a tremendous opportunity to quickly establish a significant foothold in the VR market if it can offer its headset at a punchy price in early 2016. A smartphone VR headset similar to Samsung’s Gear VR could utilize the Sony Z5 Premium’s 4K screen.
HTC is promising a significant upgrade to its Vive VR headset. Expect this to deliver an even more immersive experience, building on work by HTC and Valve that allows users to walk around the virtual landscape and interact with objects via hand-held controllers while using the Vive. There’s also speculation about the introduction of eye tracking, or a completely wireless solution.
Explosive growth is also likely in curated and self-created 360-degree content during 2016. In mid-December 2015, there were already over 30,000 360-degree videos on YouTube.
CCS Insight anticipates numerous 360-degree cameras at International CES. These are poised to be a must-have gadget for the affluent geek community in 2016, and could rank high on Christmas gift lists if prices start to drop. Facebook spent $2 billion on Oculus to further its vision of users getting ‘inside’ their timelines to share what CCS Insight has termed ‘see what I saw’ moments via 360-degree photos or videos. Easy-to-use 360-degree cameras will be essential for this to be effective.
AR has been making steady progress in enterprise and vertical markets. Most VR content will be free, but AR technology has the potential to offer far greater revenue. Companies such as Vuzix will showcase updated solutions that build on momentum started in 2015, most notably by Microsoft’s HoloLens but also by companies such as Atheer Labs and Magic Leap.
The connected home and the Internet of things (IoT)
International CES 2016 risks underlining the desperate levels of fragmentation and confusion in connected home solutions. It’s an area that appears to be a minefield for consumers, characterized by a large number of different companies with independent solutions based on numerous standards. Today’s early adopters risk ending up with technology that has poor interoperability and guaranteed obsolescence.
However, expect a strong showcase from Samsung under its SmartThings brand. Its goal will be to position the solution as an open and market-ready option that already interacts with other systems including Amazon’s Echo. It will try to establish SmartThings as a credible alternative ecosystem to Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Works with Nest, fighting the risk that consumers will sleepwalk into a connected home experience curated by the two technology giants thanks to their entrenched brands.
The field of industrial Internet of things is more mature. CCS Insight believes this segment offers far more potential in the near term.
Cars, drones, robots, smartphones, tablets, TVs and more
Drones will once again be big news at the event. Prices have dropped as performance has improved, but this remains a controversial technology category that’s suffered from growing concerns about safety and privacy. Expect companies like Intel and Qualcomm to unveil new semiconductor and software solutions, enabling spatially aware drones that offer improved safety and usability.
Focus will be on potential further insights into GoPro’s Karma drone. Rumours continue to suggest that the company may combine the device with a 360-degree camera, making it a perfect companion to the VR headsets poised for significant growth in 2016.
The number of major car companies exhibiting at International CES means that the show once again risks eclipsing the North American International Auto Show (often referred to as the Detroit Motor Show). In 2015, a main focus was on support for Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. These solutions are now emerging as standard features in premium cars, and so expect that attention will turn to autonomous and electric vehicles. Partnerships with Google may move beyond Android Auto to a more complete agreement for self-driving vehicles — something already predicted by CCS Insight.
Robotics has also been a common theme at CES over the years, but it’s unlikely to see any game-changing announcements at the 2016 event.
Don’t expect any major announcements about smartphones and tablets: most manufacturers will choose to wait for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to showcase new flagship devices. However, iterative products from companies such as Alcatel OneTouch and Huawei targeted specifically at the US market are likely to be on show.
TV will continue to play an important role at International CES. All major manufacturers will showcase their latest smart TV solutions, and offer images of even higher quality thanks to high dynamic range screens. Smartness will extend to TVs as they are positioned as the hub for connected home solutions — something predicted by CCS Insight and subsequently announced by Samsung. Expect other TV, set-top box and media streamer manufacturers to follow this in 2016.
Numerous weird and wonderful gadgets can also be expected at the event. Previous years have seen 3D chocolate printers, talking teddy bears, wearables for pets, smart cutlery, projector jewellery, electric roller skates and more. In 2016, many quirky ideas might get a lot of attention – for example, CCS Insight predict lots of excitement for the $1,000 Ripple Maker, a machine that can print pictures from your smartphone onto the milk froth of a coffee.