6. Wearables are exploding, but you may not want to buy them yet
VentureBeat’s Harrison Weber gave a complete rundown of 56 wearables he tried at CES. While the explosion of creativity and devices is thrilling, it is also a time for consumers to be wary. We know that the Apple Watch is coming soon, and I didn’t see or hear about any device that is going to be much better than that one. For sure, you’ll find devices that are cheaper than the $400 Apple Watch, though. You may want to get a use-specific wearable like the sunburn-preventing Sunfriend for $50, or just wait until all of the standards and features get sorted out in the coming year or so. Apple is going for the high-end audience that is fashion-conscious, and Intel has teamed up with fashion trendsetters so it can design devices that are appealing beyond the nerdcore.
But be warned: This is all going to change. New and more affordable sensors will come out that will make today’s wearables obsolete. The good thing is that we’re seeing prices go down, or perhaps just a greater range of cheap and luxury devices.
7. Tech is helping the lazy, the disabled, and the rich
This seems like a very broad topic, but let’s focus on eye tracking as a useful emerging technology. Eye-tracking control mechanisms from companies such as Tobii can help people who can’t control a mouse or touchscreen. That’s just one example of how incredibly liberating technology can be for the disabled. The same eye tracking can be useful to gamers, too, who can use it to target objects faster in shooter games. And it can also let us kick back on the couch and control our TVs and devices without getting off the couch. These tools are expensive for now, but we can test them on rich folks, who don’t mind being guinea pigs.
Tech making us lazy is a generalization. But here’s another example. The 4moms’ Mamaroo automated baby rocker is great for exhausted parents. But you can bet a lazy parent will just put the kid into the baby rocker rather than hold the baby.
8. Last year’s tech has become real
It sometimes seems like it takes forever for a tech idea to filter from concept to market. But it is fun to see when it happens. One good example: Intel has been talking about the RealSense depth camera for laptops and tablets for a long time. But it’s finally shipping in devices such as the Dell Venue 8 7000 Series Android tablet. The camera can recognize your gestures, measure the length of items in front of it, and focus your images better. The Personify 3D video-calling app also makes use of the RealSense camera for better depth perception in video calls.
These are just a couple of new apps that are available for the RealSense, which will become standard on most tablets and laptops with Intel technology over time. There were a bunch of other maturing technologies at CES this year — like 4K TVs and curved organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens — and better renditions of past experiments, such as the ultra-responsive Ford Sync 3 voice recognition system for cars. We don’t often notice when past trends become real, so that’s why I’m calling this out.
9. Asian companies are emerging as the strongest
The Asians are coming. Or they’ve come. CES is now home to some huge Chinese tech companies, from smartphone provider Xiaomi to Changhong, which occupies the booth that Microsoft once had in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Don’t be surprised if we see more Chinese companies or other Asian giants take up more of the show floor in the future. They’re unknown today, but they’re all working hard on becoming the Sonys and the Samsungs of the coming decades.
10. Drones and robots are multiplying
Ascending Technologies showed off its Firefly drones during the Intel keynote. They had a cool feature of being able to avoid collisions, so much so they could navigate a dense forest on their own with no human control. That feature was also useful for playing “drone ping-pong” during the keynote, where Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich showed that you could nudge them back and forth by stimulating their collision avoidance systems. There were hundreds of drones on display at CES. The market is still small, but the variety of drones is huge, with applications ranging from entertainment to selfies.
Note that other kinds of robots, particularly those with better artificial intelligence, are also going to be very plentiful. We’ll all make jokes about how these machines are creepy or will take over the world. But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to all of the useful things drones and robots will do for us — even though Toshiba’s greeter humanoid robot, dubbed ChihiraAico, was a little creepy.
11. 3D printers will be a bonanza for creators
The smell of burnt plastic was palpable in the 3D printing section of the Sands Expo, where companies like MakerBot showed off faster and easy-to-use 3D printers. HP also showed its Sprout computer, which allows you to visualize prototypes in 3D and then print them out on HP’s industrial-size Fusion 3D printer. These devices are going to be a godsend for creators, whether they’re product designers, entrepreneurs, or artists who want to easily transfer a design from paper to a digital form and finally a 3D prototype. We’ll see more digital content creation companies, toy makers, and small hardware companies emerge as a result. 3D printing is part of a creative movement, and CES showed that it is still growing.