New realities, robots and smart everything – welcome to CES 2016

Brid-Aine Parnell

Monday 4 January 2016

Visitors to the Las Vegas desert should expect to be wowed by virtual and augmented reality, drones, robots, self-driving cars and lots of smart devices

Every year, Las Vegas plays host to arguably the biggest show in the tech year’s calendar – the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The almost-fifty-year-old event has seen the debut of game-changing technologies from the NES to tablet PCs and while it can’t be a paradigm-shift every year, CES is certainly still the place many top firms like to show off their latest and greatest products.

So what can attendees expect to see this year? Visitors to the Las Vegas desert will get the usual array of updated PCs, laptops, smartphones and televisions at CES 2016, but alongside them, there are a few trends that are likely to stand out from the crowd.

New realities

The top trend on everyone’s mind this year is virtual reality, with CES 2016 playing host to a much larger Gaming and VR Marketplace with 40 exhibitors ready to show off their new devices. Odds are good that three highly anticipated VR gadgets will be given release dates, including the long-awaited Oculus Rift, along with PlayStation VR and HTC Vive.

Alongside the headlining VR acts, CES 2016 is also likely to see some new companies touting Augmented Reality (AR) experiences, after Microsoft’s HoloLens pushed the sector to the top of the agenda. Again, there’s not much in the way of hands-on tech available here yet, so firms will be showcasing what they hope the technology can do as much as what it can already do, and talking about how to make gadgets like HoloLens affordable for the masses.

Driving technology

For a while now, technology firms have been dabbling in the automotive industry, putting gadgets inside cars and even coming up with transportation of their own, such as Google’s self-driving cars. But lately, car companies themselves have started to realise how big the tech market could be for them. Nine major carmakers are planning to show up to CES 2016 and they’ll be joined by large numbers of auto tech firms and electric vehicle manufacturers.

Autonomous vehicles should be a particular highlight, with Nvidia making noises about new CPU technology that could allow car computers to better process what they “see” with their cameras. And visitors should also expect to see a concept car or two, such as a prototype from relative unknown Faraday Future, which it claims could rival Tesla’s vehicles.

Flying high

Just a few weeks ago, Amazon unveiled its latest delivery drone, highlighting another trend that’s going to be big at CES this year. The show will have a dedicated Unmanned Systems Marketplace for the first time for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturers, or drone makers, to exhibit their flying contraptions. Visitors will likely hear a lot about the potential delivery drone sector, as well as traditional UAV applications like photography and cinematography. And of course, there will be much discussion of how best to navigate the legal requirements to get the UAV sector well and truly off the ground.

Smart everything

It seems like we’ve been talking about the Internet of Things and smart devices for a long time now, but they are still top trends in the tech world. Smart Home, Smart Watches and (other) Wearables are all getting their own marketplaces at the show and connected gadgets will probably feature in the Fitness and Technology marketplace too. Last year, CES had its largest ever IoT showcase, with over 900 exhibitors demoing their wares for attendees. Between the marketplaces, conference tracks like the CONNECTIONS Summit and events like the Wearable Tech Awards, the 2016 show is proving that interest in the sector continues to grow.


Another sector that’s getting more floor-space than ever before is robotics, which is getting 70 per cent more room than last year. That will give visitors the chance to see the offerings from over 20 exhibitors in a dedicated marketplace and attend a robotics track at the conference as well. Robotic firms won’t be confined to one place either, aside from the crossover with UAVs and autonomous vehicles, there will also be plenty of robot start-ups in the Eureka Park.

This year’s show is unlikely to see a single defining product rise up out of the crowd, but the steady progress of new (or renewed) tech sectors like robotics, UAVs, autonomous cars and virtual and augmented reality should still prove more than interesting for attendees.


Building the next-gen data centre

Where traditional and web-scale apps co-exist