Entrepreneur is on the ground at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Check back for highlights from the event as well as insights from thought leaders and innovators.
The Consumer Electronics Show, commonly known as CES, is an annual event in Las Vegas that serves as a showcase for tech enthusiasts. It’s a great window into where technology may be headed and what the big trends of the year will be.
Around 3,800 companies on average exhibit at the show, and more than 165,000 people from 150 countries are expected to attend, according to the Consumer Technology Association, the trade group that organizes the event.
Some of the most prominent technologies that we have used in our everyday lives made their debut at CES, including VCRs, car stereos, DVD players, HD TVs and personal computers. More recently, the show has featured virtual reality headsets, smartphones, drones and wearables.
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To get a pulse on this year’s CES, we reached out to four experts for their predictions.
Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.
1. Virtual will be big for consumers.
Virtual reality will go mainstream. Indeed, U.S. dollar sales of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices have been on the rise since July, and have increased 300 percent in the six months ending October 2016 vs. November 2015 to April 2016, according to The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service.
Improved technology and a wide range of price points make VR more accessible, but the industry will need to see scale in mobile to continue to drive adoption.
Also, I think voice will take center stage. Nearly four in 10 consumers have used a virtual voice assistant like Alexa or Siri, according to a recent NPD Omnibus study. At CES 2017 I expect to see additional types of devices integrate digital assistant capabilities — from wireless speakers to TVs and appliances. Whether the feature is built-in or arrives in the form of a connecting device like the Echo Dot, voice control and digital assistants are poised to change the way consumers interact with technology products.
Finally, despite sales growth, adoption of smart home devices remains slow. However, I believe at CES 2017 we will see how voice can be key to cut through platform fragmentation and drive interest. A symbiotic relationship exists between voice assistant applications and the smart home market. For wider adoption, digital assistants need to demonstrate they are useful for things other than setting timers and connected home products need to show they add real value to the home — not just connectivity for connectivity’s sake. Pairing the two together allows consumers to experience the best aspects of both.
— Ben Arnold, executive director and industry analyst for The NPD Group, a firm that tracks multiple industries including technology, retail and entertainment
2. Much of the same as last year, with some pops of disruptions.
This year at CES much of what will be on the show floor will be mostly evolutionary trends from last year: larger TVs, smarter phones, more self-driving car demonstrations, wearables, home health care and more powerful and even smaller computing devices. It is good and interesting stuff to be sure but mostly predictable.
The other face of CES that will be revealed in the conference sessions is much more exciting and rich, with visions of highly disruptive technologies, products, applications and services that cross fertilize each other. If I had to craft an umbrella name that covers these soon to be real disruptive trends I would name it “Tightly IP Coupled Very Smart Stuff.”
Under this umbrella you will find new products, applications and services that integrate artificial intelligence, ubiquitous broadband connectivity and cloud infrastructure into nearly every new thing for sale. The smartphones, smart home, smart city, smart cars and smart appliances will be powered by the next generation of AI from Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
— Stuart Lipoff, president of IP Action Partners, a technology consulting firm, and IEEE fellow
3. There will be less drones but more virtual and augmented reality, TVs and auto technology.
At the 2017 CES we expect a lot less focus on drones than in 2016 and a lot more focus on augmented reality and virtual reality . Drones haven’t gone away, but there are few solid applications for most consumers. However, small, inexpensive drones could do well as toys and for hobbyists.
There will be an increase in overall Internet of Things (IoT) consumer applications, such as home automation, as well as cloud-based IoT services providing consumer services, including face recognition for photos and videos.
Wearables will be important, although the smartwatch market hasn’t picked up as fast as many had hoped.
TVs that are 4K now have a standard including HDR as well as resolution and color capabilities, and with decreasing prices, these products should have greater pickup both for leading edge consumers and increasingly the higher-end mainstream consumers. Many consumers will consider 4K TVs their next replacement TV. So lower cost 4K TVs will have a big presence at the CES (as well as the higher-end versions).
Also, automobile technology will continue to play a big role at the 2017 CES as more autonomous driving functions are including in new model cars. This will also include tying consumer applications increasingly into automobiles and mobile activities.
— Tom Coughlin, founder of Coughlin Associates, a data storage consulting firm, and IEEE senior member
4. Virtual reality will need to step up its game.
I was at CES 2016 and noted that VR was present in a number of booths, and that 2016 would be the year that VR comes of age. Now at the end of 2016, that prediction is proving to be at least partially true. This was the year that Oculus, Vive and Sony VR headsets shipped, as well as Google Daydream “casual VR”. The caveat is that sales weren’t as huge as predicted, so there already is grumbling from certain sectors.
Yet, we haven’t gotten past the “shiny object” phase of VR, and now AR, so compelling experiences are largely elusive. The technological problems are challenging but relatively easy, since we know what “right” looks like — headsets need to be wireless and smaller, lighter; tracking needs to be better, etc. But the human experience and how to use these new capabilities to engage, entertain and train is an open question that still is deeply in the experimentation phase.
For 2017, expect VR hardware to be everywhere. It will be less of a “gee whiz,” but still a large percentage of the attendees will not own VR hardware, so for some percentage it will be a new experience.
The question will be how patient are users. Gamers have a high tolerance for “user pain” — buggy software, incomplete experiences, etc. — so they have been early adopters, but the broader public is used to a pretty refined experiences.. It will be interesting to see how much “Joe Sixpack” will deal with in order to move beyond “gee whiz” in VR.
At CES, it will be an interesting experiment to see how many attendees are not impressed by any old VR experience, and instead have moved to become a bit more discerning or cynical.
— Todd Richmond, director of the University of Southern California’s Mixed Reality Lab + Studio and IEEE fellow