This week in Las Vegas, the electronics industry assembled to woo journalists with the shiny new toys of the year. Most of them aren’t worth your time: Thinner TVs. Dumb objects with Wi-Fi. Apps you’ll never use.
But if you have the patience to sort through the pile, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will show you the trends to come: 2016 will be a year of virtual reality, big drones, small mechanics, and wireless power. Here are the best ideas from CES 2016:
Last year HTC delayed the release of its Vive virtual reality headset–which unlike the Oculus Rift, allows you to walk around your room while using it–citing a major breakthrough. Now we know what it is. Through a new feature called Chaperone, Vive will overlay your physical environment inside the VR world. You can pull up this view on command, or it will pop up automatically if you walk too close to a couch or a wall. [Read more]
Takeaway: Virtual reality will quickly solve UI problems to better fit with your reality.
Wireless charging has been a CES tech demo for years. But Energous may be the first company to make the idea practical. They’ve developed a 3mm x 3mm chip, designed to squeeze inside any wearable, that can receive 10 watts of wireless energy so that you never need to recharge at a wall socket. It’s not quite perfect. The power transmitter is a USB dongle that, c’mon, no one is going to stick into their laptop to power their Fitbit. But the technology is small enough, smart enough, and powerful enough to make a big impact in the near future. [Read more]
Takeaway: Soon, you’ll never need to remove your Apple Watch.
The whole quantified sleep trend is a bit depressing. It’s like, I get it, Jawbone, I shouldn’t have drank so much and stayed up watching old Saved By the Bell episodes. Your graph of the five times I woke up last night doesn’t make me feel better this morning. But! Sleepnumber’s It bed has an interesting, new take. First, the company built sleep measurement into a piece of furniture, so it’s just part of your domestic infrastructure. Second, it says It will learn from your sleep patterns, and then sync up with your smart home to improve them. Sleepnumber’s example? If you sleep better when it’s cold, your bed will tell your Nest thermostat to turn down the temperature. [Read more]
Takeaway: The most promising self-quantifying smarthome is one that improves my life without guilting me about my lifestyle.
Samsung’s Gear VR is a $100 add-on for your phone that the Wall Street Journal called virtual reality’s “Atari Moment.” It’s immersive and superb…but the controls leave a lot to be desired. At CES, Samsung debuted a concept called Rink, a series of palm controllers that give you hands and fingers within the virtual world, as part of their remarkable R&D projects shared at the conference. The tech is far from polished, but assuming Rink is cheap and works as well as the Gear VR, many of us will be able to delay that $600 Oculus Rift pre-order. [Read more]
Takeaway: Entry level VR is getting really good, really fast–so much so that high-end VR could be the exception, not the rule.
70% of car seats are improperly installed, while 96% of people think they’ve done the job right. (By the way, what the heck is that other 4% doing?) While the best solution for baby seats would be the car manufacturer doing the job itself, 4Moms has done the next best thing: It designed a seat that will install itself, properly angling the seat, and tightening the straps to proper tension. It’s like Back to the Future‘s self-lacing Nikes, but a lot more useful, priced at $500 when it hits this summer. [Read more]
Takeaway: Our objects of tomorrow will install themselves. And there’s always a buck to be made off nervous parents.
You can call the Ehang 182 a drone, but it might be easier to think of it as a big robot helicopter. Hailed like an Uber, it’ll automatically land near you, pick you up in an air conditioned cockpit, and fly you to any destination you enter (there are no manual controls). But let’s be honest: This $300,000-$400,000 drone, which promises to ferry passengers around for 10 miles on a single charge, is vastly impractical, even on the off chance that EHang, a Chinese manufacturer of tiny consumer drones, can pull it off. However, the vehicle right in line with drone concepts we’ve already seen. It’s inevitable. [Read more]
Takeaway: Cars aren’t the only autonomous vehicles of the future, and drones will come in every size.
Last virtual reality breakthrough, I promise: A company called 8i is showing off its ability to capture full, 3-D video of human figures. Their proprietary technique is unique in that it claims to build 3-D figures from a combination of two or more standard video cameras (rather than depth sensors). And furthermore, 8i is building out its media to be optimized for you to view with an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. The results are as good as we’ve seen this technology look, with demos including a comedian, baby, and several bikini clad ladies. A sprinkling of sleaziness aside, it’s a generation jump beyond the volumetric video we’ve seen so far, and a taste of the telepresence possibilities to come. [Read more]
Takeaway: Virtual people will be hanging out in your living room soon.