I made my predictions last week about what will happen in games in 2016. But next week, I’m going to expand my horizons beyond games to the entire tech industry. I’ll be attending the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next week in Las Vegas for perhaps the 20th time. I’ve lost count, but like many techies, I keep going back to see what’s coming next.
The tech trade show is the biggest in the U.S., and it will draw more than 150,000 people to view more than 3,000 exhibitors across more than 2.4 million square feet of space. Among the exhibitors will be 900 companies with Internet of Things products, or everyday objects that are smart and connected, according to Gary Shapiro, the chief executive of the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on the show. I’ll be checking them out, as will four other VentureBeat writers. Our stories will start dropping as early as Sunday.
From Shapiro, we know that a lot of the floor space will go to drones, augmented reality, virtual reality, robots, smart cars, health and wellness, wearables, and 3D printing. Those kinds of products will take up a number of the 25 marketplace sectors that are spread throughout the show floor. Experts like the CTA’s chief economist Shawn DuBravac and Accenture’s John Curran say that we’ll see a shift from what is technologically possible to what is technologically meaningful. That means products that are more practical.
We’ll find out how close VR, which has spawned hundreds of companies in a very short time, lives up to that shift. Samsung Gear VR has already debuted mobile VR in the form of a $99 headset. But we hope to hear the pricing and launch date for the Oculus Rift, the VR headset coming for PC from Facebook’s Oculus VR division. Oculus could very well drive the market forward. The hype around VR will be even stronger at CES than a year ago. But it’s good to remember the market will be limited as it will take a powerful PC to run immersive VR, according to Nvidia.
This is the classic way that a new platform begins. Even though the VR market is small, the number of companies involved is rising exponentially. VCs are funding those companies, and many of them are showing up at CES for the first time. HTC’s Vive, based on Valve’s Steam VR technology, will compete with Oculus. And many others will join the fray.
Augmented reality will also become more pervasive at CES. Last year, San Francisco’s Osterhout Design Group’s unveiled a consumer version of its augmented reality smartglasses. But the company eventually acknowledged that you can’t rush Moore’s Law (the number of transistors on a chip doubles every couple of years), and it wasn’t quite ready to launch its AR glasses for under $1,000. Companies like ODG are going to take another crack at creating AR glasses that are as light and convenient to use as a pair of sunglasses.
The possible applications include simple augmented reality games and 3D location apps, like the upcoming Pokémon Go title coming from Niantic. Both VR and AR stand a chance of making gaming much more accessible to a broader audience, much like how the Nintendo Wii got everyone from kids to grandparents playing games together.
I’m looking forward to things that could make a fundamental difference in how we interact with technology. One startup, Eyefluence, will be there to show how you can use your eyes to control electronic devices. The company Tobii also thinks that eye-tracking is a good way to control video games. These new user interfaces will be welcome because I think we’re all getting tired of touch screens, mice, and keyboards.
Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, will go well beyond chip talk and discuss the tech that will deliver new experiences to consumers. He’ll show off new drones, robots, cars, and even smart bicycles. Human senses such as sight, sound, and touch will be increasingly integrated into the computing experience. In the future envisioned by Krzanich, you’ll have things like skis or snowboards that are connected to the Internet, are instrumented for analytics, and can offer you feedback in real time. We can also expect him to talk about Intel’s progress on its diversity initiatives announced a year ago.
Apple doesn’t go to CES. But its archrival, Samsung Electronics, will have a press conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Samsung could play in all of the major categories of electronics. You can bet it will make a big deal about the pervasiveness of inexpensive 4K TVs, which have four times the number of pixels of high-definition TVs. I expect that we’ll see plenty of expensive 8K TVs and ways to connect them to all of the other devices in your home. You’ll also see Samsung reveal products in almost every other tech category that exists.
Sony will likely be more focused as it has been slimming down to focus on things like cameras and game consoles. Panasonic is in the same mode, though I’d still love to see wild ideas like its “magic mirror” demo from last year’s CES, where it showed a smart mirror that could help you envision how you’ll look with different hair styles or makeup.
Self-driving cars will likely make a big splash. Nvidia has a press conference on Monday evening, and it will be all about auto technology. All of the major car makers will be there to talk about driver assistance or self-driving vehicles. I want to see who gets out first with something that really works and reduces the traffic nightmare — caused mostly by human error — on our local freeways.
As the week goes on, you’ll see more updates from me and VentureBeat’s Harrison Weber, Heather Newman, Fletcher Babb, and Stephen Kleckner. We’ll be on location covering a lot of things, like the press reception on Monday, the press conferences on Tuesday, and the keynote speeches from the leaders of Intel, Volkswagen, Netflix, and others. We’ll be checking out show floors in the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo, including the startups at Eureka Park.
We hope to find a ton of crazy and weird stuff, from iPhone-driven sex toys to retro vinyl record players. I’ll be happy to check out things like Consumer Physics’ Scio, which can scan any food or pill and tell you what it contains on a chemical level, as well as something similar from its rival Stratio.
Stick with us through CES. We’ll be happy if you read our coverage.