January 7, 2016
LAS VEGAS, NV – It is January, which means there is no shortage of articles that predict tech trends for the upcoming year, or list all the must-see hoopla at CES in Las Vegas. So let us consider this a “list of lists.”
I have combed through and distilled a lot of those articles into the standouts that I would bet will be big news in the year ahead.
1. Screens. Televisions always seem to take the lion’s share of CES headlines, and 2016 will not be an exception. But as we progress from HD to Ultra-HD to large-format 4k TVs, the next frontier will be the format of those screens. And sometimes evolution does not mean bigger, but smaller.
So here is some big news: on Jan. 4, LG announced the world’s first rollable display. You read that right: you can roll-up this 18-inch display like a newspaper. Sure, we have seen flexible screens, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge smartphone. But this announcement from LG could mean significant advancements in a wide range of edgeless displays across many categories.
Of course, the age of screens may die off when Magic Leap launches its virtual retinal display, which projects a digital light field into the user’s eye. The secretive startup is rumored to be receiving another $800-plus million in funding, on top of the $542 million Google-led investment round in 2013.
But, for now, 4k content will become more readily available and the price tag on 4k TVs will continue to drop.
2. Smart glasses. No, the idea of technology you wear on your head has not died. Since we are not expecting any big announcements about Facebook’s Oculus, HTC and Valve’s Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR at CES this year, the door is open for smaller players in virtual reality (VR) to steal headlines.
Coming from the guy who brought us James Bond’s mini-submarine car in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” Ralph Osterhout’s company ODG is now making available a pair of $3,000 R-7 Smart Glasses that offer a Google Glass-like hardware/software platform that provide the wearer with 3D stereoscopic see-through displays, wireless connectivity, a built-in 1080p front-facing camera and a range of sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes and magnetometers.
And while most of the hardware out there could be generously described as a snorkeling mask with tethered wires that inspire images of an old-timey scuba helmet, this one is more akin to those big, plastic, drugstore sunglasses that your grandma wears over her regular glasses.
ODG is marketing its product to developers for enterprise application, so we will have to see who does what with them.
3. Smart … rings? Much has been written about fitness tech, and FitBit is set to announce some advances to keep competitive with the Apple Watch.
But while I am on my rant about most wearable tech lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, here is a gadget that I might wear even if it was not a gadget.
Born from a Kickstarter campaign back in August, and raising more than $650,000 from nearly 2,400 backers in about five weeks, the ŌURA ring has taken the wearable community by a storm.
You put this beautifully designed, waterproof, Zirconia ring on your finger, and it measures and analyzes your body and learns about you and your lifestyle. It automatically sends information to your phone, where a mobile app displays observations and makes personalized recommendations about things such as sleeping patterns and activity levels.
4. The Internet of (Too Many?) Things. Toss a paper airplane on the CES show floor (actually, do not -- security is tight this year) and chances are it will land on something that is “connected” that probably should not be. Forks. Coffee makers. Lightbulbs. You name it.
On this topic, I will keep things short and sweet, except to say that it will be exciting to see how connected things, especially medical tech, can continue to improve the lives of consumers, and build on frameworks such as Apple HomeKit and Apple Health.
5. Connected cars. Over the past few years, automakers have used CES to announce some exciting advancements, from innovative powertrains to in-vehicle telematics. In fact, CES has helped make it seem necessary to upgrade your car as frequently as you do your smartphone.
This year, sure, we will see more news from Apple’s CarPlay, Google’s Android Auto, and proprietary platforms such as Ford’s Sync AppLink. The most notable announcement here is Toyota’s partnership with Ford to deploy Livio’s SmartDeviceLink, a platform that works for both smartphone apps and in-dash infotainment applications, which means consumers can – once third-party developers get their hands on it – transfer apps and settings from vehicle-to-vehicle, even between different manufacturers.
We will also get more announcements about self-driving/autonomous cars and connected cars: car-to-car, car-to-infrastructure such as traffic lights, stop signs and the road itself, and car-to-driver. But the big, big news was supposed to be Faraday Future — but sadly its big announcement fell flat.
If the well-funded start-up that says it aims to “change the way the world perceives mobility” is going to nip at the heels of Tesla and place its name next to Apple in the annals of history, it will not be with the design of its early concept car. It will need to deliver on its aim to redefine how the car connects to the driver, and how the driver accesses – not buys – the car. But according to Faraday Future, anything with an FF badge on it is years away from hitting the streets.
6. Drones. Of course, drones. A predictions list for 2016 must include drones. More than 100 are expected to make an appearance at the show this year.
But one standout will be the Lily, which claims to be the world’s first “throw-and-shoot camera.” Think selfie camera built into a lightweight (under three pounds), high definition (it shoots 1080p), waterproof drone that follows you around automatically and captures your jumps on the slopes. But like George of the Jungle, you will want it to watch out for that tree – the Lily isn’t capable of obstacle avoidance (yet).
W. Joe DeMiero is Los Angeles-based management director for digital at Team One, Saatchi & Saatchi's premium, luxury and aspirational brand agency and part of the Publicis Groupe global network. Reach him at email@example.com.