CES 2016: What To Expect From Automotive To New Fitbit, Drones + VR
CES 2016 is a critical show for big retail chains such as JB Hi Fi, Harvey Norman and The Good Guys, it’s also become a major event for car Companies.
2015, saw several consumer categories start to peak, notebook sales are down, GoPro is no longer a must have product and TV’s are all about large screens and Ultra High Definition.
Remember CES is a trade event where tens of thousands of retail buyers are looking for the next big thing, now it’s a showcase for automotive Companies and start-ups.
Companies like Ford, GMH, Mercedes and BMW are flocking to CES in the hope that their new automobiles are seen by the 4,000+ media attending the event as technology machines, packed with the latest in chip driven entertainment, navigation and eco management.
I doubt whether Henry Ford would never have considered the automobile a consumer electronic device. But more than a century later, the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show sure does.
“You could say we’re getting close to rivalling an auto show now,” CES spokesperson Laura Hubbard says.
So much so that CES organisers have dedicates 25% more floor space to its 115 auto-related exhibitors, which include nine top-tier manufacturers such as Ford, Audi, Toyota and BMW. Hubbard notes that autos are experiencing the same CES floor-space growth as buzzy drone, virtual reality and robotics tech.
The most hotly anticipated CES automotive moment will take place before the show truly gets underway. On the evening of Jan. 4, a mysterious new entrant into the electric car space named Faraday Future is likely to unveil a prototype vehicle.
Not much is known about Faraday beyond that it is backed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yeuting, CEO of Web video service Leshi TV, and has amassed about 400 employees.
A sign notes the spot in the desert north of Las Vegas where the mysterious new electric car company Faraday Future, which will unveil a prototype vehicle for the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.
Some industry watchers have mused whether the company is a front for Apple, which is rumoured to be getting into the auto business.
Kia plans to give details on its autonomous car program. Audi will show off an array of new safety-focused tech in its 2017 Q7 SUV. BMW, which last year showed off a vehicle that could valet park itself, will be on hand to discuss progress on leading-edge tech that includes cameras that track the driver’s eyes to anticipate what system he or she may aim to activate.
This year’s CES will cover 223,000 square metres of exhibition space, this is up from last year.
Video recorders, HD TVs, the Xbox games console and Blu-ray discs all made their debut at past shows.
But one expert suggests the tech giants may temper their ambitions this time round.
“Say goodbye to cool, say hello to practical,” explains John Curran from the consultancy Accenture.
“Many of the larger companies now put less emphasis on CES as a launch pad for major hardware.
Instead they focus on showing off new services to help garner excitement for existing products.
“But for the smaller businesses this is as big a venue as they are going to be able to find and is an excellent opportunity to catch the eye of journalists and key buyers from the retailers.”
New TV tech always makes a stir at CES, even if some of the innovations are not always practical.
In recent years, Samsung and LG have slugged it out to boast the biggest sets, but this year it may be about having the bendiest.
LG has shown off small bendy screens in the past but has yet to offer the tech to the public let alone to Australian consumers.
LG made headlines in May when it showed off an ultra-thin prototype that could be peeled off the wall – it will be fascinating to see how much further the two South Korean firms have developed the concept.
What I suspect is that LG is more interested in attracting investors for a new OLED manufacturing plant that can actually delivering volume product at this stage of the development cycle.
As far as screens you might actually want to buy soon, expect the focus on be on “HDR”.
The acronym refers to high dynamic range, and basically means that TVs can show millions more shades of colour and a wider dynamic range – added shades of brightness in between black and white – letting more detail be shown.
Amazon actually started streaming some of its shows in HDR this year, but competing standards meant the TV-makers hadn’t put their marketing muscle behind the format.
That’s likely to change at CES when a coalition of the leading players reveals a new specification. It will let them badge TVs to show they will support future HDR-coded content.
That should prevent an embarrassing repeat of the fact that many of the early 4K sets ended up being incompatible with the way ultra-high definition video is now streamed.
Netflix had previously said it was waiting until this moment to start supporting HDR – expect its chief executive Reed Hastings to reveal more at his keynote CES speech.
And while it’s likely to be many years before the mainstream broadcasters adopt HDR, several of the movie studios have said they will offer it on 4K Blu-ray discs – the first players are also expected to be unveiled at CES.
A big will-they won’t-they question mark hangs over GoPro’s CES plans. The action camera-maker has promised to launch a drone called Karma in 2016.
GoPro has teased that “Karma is coming” and released a video shot by the aircraft, from which this image was taken.
Rumours suggest it could deliver 360-degree views and incorporate collision-avoidance tech.
The firm’s chief executive Nicholas Woodman is speaking at a dinner event, but it’s still unclear if he’ll offer a first peek at the aircraft.
Even if GoPro holds fire, there are dozens of other firms set to show off flying tech, including:
PowerUp FPV offers owners a first-person view from their aircraft. A piece of kit from an Israeli start-up that transforms a paper aeroplane into a controllable aircraft that streams views back to a virtual reality headset.
Fleye – a ball-shaped drone from Belgium that hides its rotor blades behind a plastic sphere to reduce the risk of injuries.
Uvify – a drone from South Korea said to be fitted with 3D-recognition equipment that can navigate its way around indoor environments.
Britain’s Intelligent Energy will also be showing off a hydrogen fuel cell, which it says lets drones stay airborne for hours, rather than minutes, at a time.
Chip-makers Intel and Qualcomm will try to explain why adopting their rival drone technologies could give manufacturers an edge.
HTC is inviting select journalists to take a look at its revamped Vive VR headset on Monday.
The headset – created in conjunction with video games firm Valve – was supposed to have gone on sale by now.
However, the Taiwanese firm delayed the launch to add what it says is a “very big technological breakthrough”.
Is it eye-tracking sensors, a way to get rid of its external wiring or something else? We’ll soon know.
Sony previously said its PlayStation VR headset would go on sale before July 2016.
Sony is set to follow with its own press conference on Tuesday when we should get more details of the PlayStation VR – the add-on headset for its bestselling console.
But one company watcher thinks the Japanese firm will miss a trick if it doesn’t make another VR-centric announcement.
“Sony should come out with an accessory to convert its Z5 Premium smartphone into a VR solution,” says Ben Wood from consultants CCS Insight.
“Its 4K screen is a solution looking for a problem – its high resolution really would lend itself to the experience.”
Oculus has already carried out a similar trick for Samsung’s phones, but its focus this time will be on the Rift.
There were long queues to try out Oculus’ Rift headset last year.
The Facebook-owned business recently confirmed the PC-powered VR headset is “on-target” for a Q1 launch.
With pre-orders about to begin, surely it’s time to find out how much it will cost.
There should also be news about “affordable” 360-degree cameras – if VR is going to take off beyond gaming, people need an easy way to record their own videos.
New VR controllers will be on show including a first look at Samsung’s Rink sensors.
The Consumer Technology Association is talking up this category, noting there’s 71% more space dedicated to robots than in 2015.
Despite smartwatches gaining ground in 2015, Fitbit and its fitness trackers remain wearable tech’s bestselling brand.
The firm has an early-morning press conference on Tuesday, suggesting it has something major to reveal.
Fitbit is hinting at something new with a leather strap in its CES invitation.
“We could see a revision of Fitbit devices and software to better track stress via heart rate variability and skin temperature, along with software that offers coaching for better sleep and stress management,” predicts Charles Anderson from the investment bank Dougherty & Company.
“We also expect to see Fitbit in more pacts with fashion brands.”
The firm’s activity-logging rival Misfit is also at CES. The business was recently taken over by the watch giant Fossil, and we may see the first fruits of their tie-up.
Chinese tech giant Huawei whose products are being taken up by Australian retailers, is tipped to unveil a smartwatch targeted at women and smaller start-ups are also expected to unveil female-friendly wrist-wear.
Health and beauty
Cosmetics companies are starting to embrace consumer electronics.
L’Or?al is back for a second year with a new mystery product following the success of its Makeup Genius app in 2015.
Another French firm, Romy, is in town with a device that custom-mixes skincare ingredients to suit each user at different times of the day.
Samsung has said it intends to make its next range of Smart TVs double as command-and-control “smart hubs”, while LG has pre-announced the SmartThinQ Hub – a cylindrical device that does much the same thing.
If at this point you are trying to stifle a yawn, hold on – there are a few products in this category that intrigue.
LG’s SmartThinQ Hub collects information from a range of compatible smart home devices.
The man who developed the original iMovie for Apple has turned his attention to laundry and will unveil a washing/drying machine called Marathon at Monday’s CES Unveiled preview.
The device can be set to keep clothes locked inside until their rightful owner returns – although how many flat shares will be able to afford its $1,200 price is another matter.
Attendees can also sniff out Sensorwake – a clock that wake you up with the smells of food, places… or money.
It’s been said that it’s a heck of a lot easier to get an overview of CES from outside Vegas rather than trying to tramp around its epic-sized show floors.
We’ll certainly try to highlight the key announcements as well as some of the more weird and quirky reveals.