From bringing early Nintendo game consoles to the XBOX, VCR tapes to CD’s, DVD’s, and Blu-ray Discs, and standard definition TV’s to HD, 3D, and 4K resolutions, CES always leaves people asking, “What will be next?”
The annual show dates back to 1967, when it grew out of the Chicago Music Show and later received its own name, the Consumer Electronics Show. CES has since moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where it currently stands as the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow. With over 175,000 attendees as of last year (2015), the show draws a variety of Fortune 500 companies, startups, tech reviewers, and fans each January to see the latest and greatest in tech. As CES has grown to its currently massive (2,000,000 square foot) size, many companies have tried to match the success with their own unveiling events, such as the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) or Apple’s yearly September and October events. Many worry that, as a result, companies will begin to reserve CES for showing off wacky technology that won’t show up in stores for years, if even at all. Consequently, for viewers, this notion makes the show more exciting and surprising every year.
While CES certainly brought plenty of wacky tech in 2016 (see this power tool/phone charger hybrid), the show also unveiled a whole host of new and practical products that might give insight into what the future of tech will be. Over the years, some products have flopped (see 2014’s TrewGrip Keyboard), some have set standards for industries, and some have yet to prove themselves. With CES 2016 concluding this past Saturday, Jan. 9th, it is time to start deciding which categories this year’s products will fall into.
The TV battle between tech giants Samsung, LG, Sony, and Panasonic returned this year, but LG seems to have won handily with their new G6 and E6 series televisions. The G6 model features a 4k resolution with HDR Pro, making use of the newly popular OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display. With no backlight, individual pixels are able to completely turn off on these displays, producing blacker blacks and richer contrasts. The G6 was arguably the prettiest TV on the show floor, especially with its transparent glass back, but it also took home the award for thinnest screen, at just 2.57 mm thick.
The recent theme of transparent and curved displays returned as well this year, and once again LG left us amazed. Panasonic showed off a rather impressive transparent display, hiding a bookcase, but was overshadowed by this anomaly from LG. The 18 inch display is able to completely roll up like a newspaper, and though the market and availability for such a display may be years away, curved screens are definitely here to stay. Samsung and LG have already begun selling curved monitors and TVs, as well as placing curved edges on smartphone displays. It is just a matter of time before everyone uses something with a curved screen.
The next theme that returned with more prevalence than ever this year was wearables, specifically fitness wearables. Fitbit released their new fitness tracker, the Fitbit Blaze, in attempt to keep up with the recent increase in smartwatch producers. The Blaze features a heart rate monitor, GPS, and the ability to view certain phone notifications, such as calls, texts, and music. The Fitbit Blaze will be available for purchase in March of this year. Under Armor revealed their new “Health Box,” a smart kit of fitness devices including a wifi-enabled scale, heart rate tracking earbuds, and a fitness band. Perhaps more surprising than Under Armour’s appearance at CES was their announced partnership with IBM. The two will be teaming up to work on a fitness app that will integrate with Under Armour’s various Health Box devices. Finally, grabbing the attention of most attendees were the abundant supply of virtual reality headsets. Though currently geared towards video gaming, these headsets have a variety of other applications, including fitness, as the support continues to grow for these popular wearables. At CES there were several companies showing them off, including a new version of the Oculus Rift and a new Playstation headset made by Sony.
The final recurring theme this year, and arguably the main focus of CES, was the smart home and related smart appliances/devices. Where Samsung was lacking in the TV department, they made up for it here. The most popular item on the floor was Samsung’s newly announced Family Hub Refrigerator. The “Hub” features a wifi-connected 21.5 inch touchscreen running on their new mobile operating system, Tizen. With this touchscreen, one can order fresh food straight to his/her home from either FreshDirect or ShopRite. More stores will be added later this year. The fridge holds several other impressive features, but as a product that is seemingly impractical right now, Samsung’s fridge is certainly getting the average consumer one step closer to a fully connected “smart home.” Samsung’s other home device, revealed this year, was their new robot vacuum, the Powerbot Turbo VR9350. This wifi-enabled vacuum will make use of its on-top camera to make a map of the owner’s floor plan and will never miss a spot. The super smart device is sure to rival the likes of the ever popular Roomba by iRobot. Finally, Tech giant Amazon, though not officially in attendance at CES, made possibly the most impressive advancements in smart tech last week. Amazon’s new cloud-based voice assistant, named Alexa, found its way into several third party smart devices at CES and won’t be going away anytime soon.
For years it seemed companies would always be making better smartphone displays and brighter TV’s, but this year’s conference proved that this may not be true in the near future. As the number of pixels increases to the point where people cannot tell the difference, companies are changing their focus to the development of other smart devices. With its VR headsets, smart refrigerators, and autonomous home cleaners, CES 2016 cemented this focus and laid the groundwork for a future of connected accessories, homes, cars, and more.
Featured Image from cesweb.com.