What we see at CES is a good idea of what to expect the rest of the year. These themes will shape tech to come in 2017.
For tech lovers, CES is the biggest and best event of the year. Not only does it introduce us to a bunch of cool new products, it also helps to establish and define the trends we’ll be seeing throughout the year ahead. Some of them are more obvious than others, which is why we like to take a moment after the show to step back and digest everything.
Many of the trends we saw last year still hold true for 2017, but technology is ever-evolving. If you’re into voice assistants or virtual reality, this is definitely your year, but there is still plenty more to get excited about. So without further ado, here are the top trends we spotted at CES this year:
All Alexa, All the Time
2017 may be the year we all start talking to inanimate objects. It seems like just about every new phone, TV, car, and refrigerator announced this year uses Amazon’s voice assistant. Huawei’s Mate 9 phone has Alexa, as do TVs from Westinghouse, Element, and Seiki, along with an OS that resembles Fire TV and an included remote that supports voice commands. Even Ford is putting Alexa in cars, integrating the voice assistant for owners of the Focus Electric, Fusion Energi, and C-Max Energi, with more to come. But perhaps nothing can top Alexa in LG’s Smart InstaView Refrigerator, finally allowing your fridge give its own answer to the age-old question of whether it’s running.
VR exploded in 2016 and shows no sign of slowing down this year, with new accessories and technologies to make it better and more functional than ever before. Intel’s Project Alloy seeks to cut the cord entirely, with untethered headsets by year’s end. We also saw an example of this in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 headset.
And don’t forget about AR. This year saw a variety of AR glasses like the Lenovo New Glass C200, the ODG consumer-focused R-8, and the enterprise-focused R-9. On the handset side of things, the Asus ZenFone AR offers a more reasonably-sized alternative to Lenovo’s gigantic Phab 2 Pro. It runs both Google’s Project Tango and the Daydream VR platform. And that’s just the start of it. Expect a lot more in this space in the near future.
Internet of (Every)Things
This year, manufacturers are keen on connecting even the most seemingly mundane objects to the Internet. Withings, Kerastase, and L’Oreal, for instance, teamed up to create the world’s first Bluetooth-connected smart hairbrush, the Kerastase Hair Coach. It includes a microphone, three-axis load cells, an accelerometer, gyroscope, and conductivity sensors to identify brushing strength and hair quality.
For those with less hair, Griffin introduced a host of smart products, including a Connected Coffee Maker and Connected Mirror that display time, weather, status, and companion apps. Meanwhile, the company’s PowerBlock and PowerJolt Beacon are smart chargers that remind you to plug your device in to charge it. Yes, that means you need to charge your charger so it can remind you to charge your phone. What a time to be alive.
Surprisingly Good Gaming
This is a good year to be a PC gamer. In addition to some top-of-the-line Dell and Alienware gaming laptops, Samsung got in on the action with the Notebook Odyssey, the company’s first-ever gaming laptop built specifically with upgradability in mind.
AMD announced its next-generation Vega GPU; the chipset is a jack-of-all trades, equally capable in processing data for machine learning as well as powering VR headsets and 4K gaming rigs. Nvidia didn’t announce any new chipsets, but it is bringing gaming to the masses with GeForce Now, a service that lets basic Windows and Mac computers connect to powerful gaming machines in the cloud.
And we were absolutely blown away by Razer’s experimental Project Valerie laptop (video below). It boasts three 4K, 17.3-inch IGZO panels powered by a Nvidia GeForce 1080 GPU. It reuses components from the Razer Blade Pro, has an aluminum casing, and a mechanical keyboard. Razer’s Ariana, meanwhile, takes gaming outside the screen by using a projector to expand the picture from a TV to fill the entire wall and make gaming more immersive. Sadly, these two products are just concepts right now.
Drones Come Back to Earth
Although we did go to our first drone rodeo this year, the drone trend back on the show floor was decidedly less airborne. The Hover Camera Passport is a selfie drone, hovering around and snapping pictures of you doing anything from the awesome to the mundane. But what really got our attention was the PowerVision PowerRay, an underwater drone that uses sonar and LED lures to hunt (and film) fish like some kind of robotic manta ray.
Cars Get Smarter
Who doesn’t want a sleek, autonomous electric car that doesn’t guzzle fossil fuels and also cuts down on accidents? True to its name, the Faraday Future FF91 is a futuristic-looking Tesla competitor with a cool design, fast speed, and the ability to park itself without your help. Chrysler also showed off its Portal concept, a self-driving electric minivan for millennials. Equally futuristic, Honda’s NeuV is a two-seater meant to act as a ride-sharing vehicle and includes a slew of emotion-sensing features. Nvidia, meanwhile, has partnered with Audi to put AI-powered cars on the road starting in 2020, a tad earlier than BMW iNext.
Bye Bye Smartwatches?
Smartwatches may not have done too well last year, and we didn’t see many exciting new examples at the show. Fitness trackers, on the other hand, are looking better than ever. The Misfit Vapor, for instance, is the company’s first wearable with a full touch-screen display. And the Motiv Ringpacks all the functionality of a wrist-based fitness tracker into a tiny, stylish design you can slip on your finger.
Thin(ner) Is In for TVs
This year Sony revealed the OLED Bravia 4K TV, which was just one of several super-slim OLEDs that debuted at the show. We were most impressed by the LG Signature W, which is so thin it practically looks like a poster. LG accomplished this by offloading all the power, connectivity, and processing functions to a combined soundbar and control unit that connects to the TV with a ribbon cable. It’s capable of HDR video, and like the Bravia is compatible with Dolby Vision, which all combines to make it one of the most striking TVs we’ve ever seen.
Affordable Phones Galore
2016 saw the rise of flagship-level phones at midrange prices, and that trend looks to continue this year. At the head of the lineup is the Huawei Honor 6X, a metal unibody phone with solid performance and a unique dual-lens camera for a bokeh effect. There’s also the Coolpad Conjur, a 5-inch, 720p phone with specs that fall closer to the entry-level—but it also costs less than $200. ZTE launched the Blade V8 Pro, an unlocked phone that works on GSM networks. And last, but not least, the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom has a Snapdragon 625 processor, a gigantic 5,000mAh battery, and dual cameras for optical zoom. None of these phones are groundbreaking, but they all offer solid specs for affordable prices, which is a trend we’d like to see more of in every category.