CES 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the annual consumer electronics trade show.
There have actually been well over 70 CESes since there used to be a summer version in the 1980s and 90s; this will be my 60th. And while interest in the show waned a bit in the 90s due to competition from Comdex, it’s been full steam ahead since Comdex bit the dust.
CES officials expect at least 170,000 at this year’s show, with 50,000 coming from abroad. Those in attendance can explore 1 million square feet of show floor and expect to walk at least 15-20 miles; make sure you pack comfortable shoes. As for what you might see as you give your Fitbit a run for its money, here are what I see as the five major themes for this year’s CES.
Smart Cars and Autonomous Vehicles
One of the more interesting exhibitors at CES is the automotive industry. It’s been represented at the show for decades, but mostly for add-on sound systems, in-car entertainment systems, and navigational products.
But CES has now become the place for auto companies to show off versions of their smart cars and prowess in self-driving cars. This year, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is expected to show off an autonomous vehicle during a keynote.
We should also see a lot of products that can be added to a car to make them smarter, such as Navdy’s add-on that delivers a heads-up display for navigation and connects to smartphones to make existing cars more intelligent. Also look for innovative designs from Corning, which will demonstrate how “smart” glass will change the way we interact with our cars of the future.
Faraday Future is also expected to show off its electric car, a wannabe Tesla rival.
VR, AR, and Mixed Reality
At CES 2014, Oculus introduced its “Crystal Cove” VR headset prototype, and it became one of the bigger hits from the show. Since then, Facebook has acquired Oculus, which introduced a consumer version of the Rift this year. We’ve also seen the HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR$399.99 at Amazon, and Samsung Gear VR. However, VR so far has focused on games or vertical apps that bring VR to things like real estate listings, travel, and other visually driven business disciplines.
Standalone, powerful VR headsets not tethered to a PC are still in the works, so VR still has a few years before it reaches mainstream consumers. But virtual and augmented reality will be big at CES 2017, as will those that combine both experiences, or mixed reality.
8K on the Horizon
4K TVs, or those with HDR, were a hot topic at recent CES shows, and that should be the case again this year. 4K TVs are now more affordable and 4K content is slowly rolling out. The big question will be whether to buy a TV with an LCD, OLED, or Quantum dot display. Sony argues that LCD has a lot of life in it yet while LG wants to move everyone over to OLED. Samsung says Quantum dot is the future.
Cost will be a big factor in this decision. LCD resolution quality has improved, but these sets are also mass produced, so they’re less costly than OLED TVs, which require a more labor-intensive production process. Quantum dot TVs are also pricier than LCD, but all three are highly competitive and the value of each is in the eye of the beholder.
CES will also have at least a couple TV vendors showing off 8K TVs. The goal is to start moving people to 8K by the 2020 Olympics, which will hopefully be shot in 8K, with a more complete rollout by 2021-2022.
IoT Will Be Everywhere
The Internet of Things (IoT) will be represented in just about every product in one form or another. Connected devices and IoT-related products will be in everything from new wearables and health-related products to appliances and vehicles. One could almost call CES the IoT show given that just about every product shown will have some form of connectivity. CES recognizes this and has pavilions dedicated to connected health, fitness, communications, and automobiles.
Personal Robots, Transportation Devices, and Drones
Given the amount of invites I have received about personal robots, I suspect this will be an interesting new category at CES.
Some of these robots are task-oriented, such as robot vacuums and coffee makers, but some are actually small robots that follow you around and become some type of personal assistant. Also hot will be personal transportation devices like hoverboards and different variations on the idea of giving people new forms of personal transportation options. And we should see dozens of new drones that target both business and consumers.
While I enjoy walking the full show, the most interesting area of the show for me is something called Eureka Park, home to many startups and booths sponsored by specific countries such as France, China, Spain, Italy, and others. Every year, I find some gem from one of these vendors; it’s one of the richest areas of CES to mine for new products and product ideas.
For many, the show has just become too big and crowded and they choose to not attend. I respect that decision, but I still see CES as very valuable to check out new products, see old friends and meet new ones, meet with clients and of course, network. Thankfully my health is holding up and walking 15-20 miles during the show is actually good for me.
I expect CES to also have a surprise product or two, so stay tuned.