CES 2016 has been and gone, but what has the show taught us about the tech year ahead? Join us as we pick out the big trends...
Aside from the sad feeling of having to return to work, and the start of ‘new year, new me’ fitness plans, the first week of January has a special significance in the tech world. It’s CES week, where the world’s biggest and brightest tech companies show off their most innovative tech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
This year certainly didn’t disappoint, with the likes of Samsung, LG, Sony and many others putting their best tech on display for the world’s press. Now that it’s all over, we’ve rounded up the best and the craziest tech on show, and picked out some of the big trends from this year’s show – trends that give us a little window into what our digital lives might look like in the near future…
The Smart Home
The idea that everything in your house should be connected has been a growing theme in the tech world for a couple of years now, but 2016 could be the year that we start seeing these devices becoming commonplace in our homes.
Samsung’s latest smart-fridge has an internal camera built-in – so you can check in from your phone and see if you’ve run out of milk on your way home – as well as an enormous touchscreen on the front that acts as a house notice board. Whirlpool’s connected washing machine, meanwhile, will automatically order more detergent and fabric conditioner when you’re running out. And a brand new bed unveiled by Sleep Number monitors your sleep patterns and helps you improve your sleep quality. Even ceiling fans are connected now, and will automatically turn themselves on when you arrive at home if the room temperature is a bit too stuffy for your liking.
This is a future where your house can sense when you’ve left a room, and automatically lowers the temperature and turns off the lights. And with your entire home connected to the same systems, everything should be accessible from your smartphone, and tuned automatically to your perfect settings. That’s been a conceptual possibility for a while, but at CES 2016 the connected home has started to really take shape.
Want to try automating your home right now? Check out our guide right here!
Fitness and wearables
Wearable fitness gadgets had a big showing at CES yet again this year. Fitness perennials like Fitbit, Misfit and Withings all returned with brand new wearables that all feature more fashion-forward designs, and feature-sets that include step and calorie counting, as well as distance and sleep tracking.
If you needed proof that fitness wearables are a big deal, look no further than the newest players in the market – US sportswear giants Under Armour and New Balance are both jumping in at the deep end with wearables. Under Armour’s heart-rate tracking wristband is built by HTC no less, whilst New Balance has partnered with Intel to create running shoes with built-in sensors, as well as a GPS-equipped fitness watch for dedicated runners.
It’s not all wrist-based either – Scandinavian start-up Hexoskin has been showing off the latest iteration of its smart shirt. Hexoskin Smart is a biometric shirt that uses sensors embedded in the fabric to constantly monitor your HR, breathing and movement, sending the information directly to fitness apps like Strava, Runkeeper and Endomondo. However far you want to delve into the world of digital fitness and wearables, you’re only going to see more devices like this over the next year.
Drones and Hoverboards
2015 was a breakout year for the ‘hoverboard’, so it should be no surprise then that companies are jumping at the chance to create their own. There have been plenty speeding around the exhibition floors at Las Vegas, but the pick of the bunch has to be the classy Razor Hovertrax.
If last year belonged to the hoverboard, 2014 was all about the drone, but drones are stepping their game up yet again this year by following cars into self-driving autonomous territory. Parrot’s Disco drone is the first autonomous flyer of its kind, and will automatically duck and dive its way around obstacles after you’ve launched it into the sky. All you have to do is throw it like a paper airplane, and the Disco stabilises itself automatically before ascending to cruising altitude. It’ll go for 45 minutes before returning home, and you can set routes for it via the included app, as well as browsing the feed from the drone’s camera right on your phone. It’s all very clever indeed.
We’ve already seen what 4K can look like on a smartphone thanks to the jaw-dropping screen on the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, but if CES 2016 has told us one thing about the future of our screens, it’s that 4K is sticking around for a while yet.
Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic have all brought brand new 4K tech to Las Vegas, from enormous TVs to Blu-ray players. Smart TV streamer Roku is bringing Roku TV into the 4K era too, whilst a variety of laptop and camera manufacturers are making 4K the standard for their high-quality display tech.
Sure, LG has also been showing off a colossal 98-inch 8K OLED TV in Las Vegas, and while technically it is production-ready, it’s not likely to see the inside of your living room anytime soon. As far as 2016 is concerned, 4K is becoming the standard, so get ready for plenty more of it.
How does 4K work? Keep it locked to Vodafone Social for an in-depth look at the next generation of display tech.
It does what?
We’ve come to expect the unexpected from CES every year, but the show never fails to disappoint when it comes to the wackier side of technology. Here are five of our favourite weird but wonderful gadgets from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
Do not adjust your screens, you read that correctly. At its press conference on Tuesday, Intel pulled the covers off of a hoverboard made in conjunction with Segway. So far, so normal for 2016 – that is, until they transformed the personal transporter into an autonomous robot, capable of recognising voice commands, streaming live video and making faces on its front-facing display. Even more amazing, Segway plans to make the ride-on robo-butler commercially available, promising developer kits later this year.
French gadgeteers Parrot have created ‘The Pot’ to look after your houseplants. Fill up the 2.2 litre reservoir and it’ll water your plant whenever it senses the soil is too dry. If that sounds basic, don’t worry: the connected app has a database of over 8,000 plants, and knows exactly how to look after each one specially. Throw in built-in acidity, temperature and light sensors too, and The Pot should be able to handle anything you plant in it.
We’ve seen curved displays before, so what’s the big deal with LG’s? Turns out, this 18-inch OLED display isn’t just curved, it’s bendy – so bendy that you can roll it up like a newspaper. What’s more, the display is double-sided which, in effect, makes this a digital piece of paper, albeit slightly thicker. LG is already pointing this tech at digital signage and business, but there’s a world of possibilities for mobile devices as well, and though we’re still a few years from seeing this tech in our pockets, it’s remarkable to see that it’s possible.
Do you remember Oakley’s ‘Thump’ glasses from yesteryear, with built-in MP3 player and adjustable earbuds? Well, they’re at it again, this time with help from Intel and their tiny Curie processing chip. Now called Oakley Radar, the glasses add a built-in exercise coach to the music functions, that will respond to voice commands and keep you updated on your progress. Oakley reckons these will arrive late this year, so keep your eyes peeled!
Another year, another high-spec gaming rig from laptop-specialists MSI, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, we don’t know much about the specs just yet. What we do know is that MSI’s latest laptop is the first to integrate Tobii’s eye-tracking tech, which, unsurprisingly, can track your eyes across the screen. But it also supports facial recognition. A few games have already added support, but with Ubisoft’s massive open-world shooter The Division promising to be Tobii compatible when it arrives this year, eye-tracking soon could be a big deal when it comes to next-level game control.
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