The CES 2016 gadget show is about to kick off, and nearly the entire technology industry has descended on Las Vegas to try and show off the future.
Every year, companies and technologists attempt to show that they have seen what’s coming and that they will be there to offer it. Every year, a lot of people get it wrong.
This year’s expectations are as big as ever. But they might also come true — there are high hopes for new industries like virtual reality and cars, but the products are already arriving too.
Every year, CES unofficially gets a big theme that everything’s supposed to be about — this year that’s virtual reality.
A range of companies are looking to get into the game — most famously Facebook-owned Oculus with its Rift, and Samsung. And they’re all convinced that riches lie in creating a believable screen that you can strap to your face.
It might be true that virtual reality is the future, and wearing the headsets is certainly an immersive experience. But that’s also the reason why this year’s CES might be a bit of a letdown: it’s really impressive and immersive when you have the headset on, but if you’re not there it mostly looks like people wearing silly bits of plastic on their face and gurning.
The future of transport might finally be arriving — according to the people who are selling it. Visions of where cars (and other vehicles) might be going vary, but most of the people who are paid to know agree that the future isn’t going to look much like it does now.
Expect to see all sorts of technology for adding to and eventually replacing cars. That will include everything from sophisticated in-car entertainment systems to technology that allows cars to drive themselves around.
The two will also come together in the kinds of mapping systems that are unveiled. Having good maps is absolutely essential to producing self-driving cars — but it might well turn up in your sat nav first.
Carmakers are going to have a big presence and the show, and technology companies that make stuff for cars will too.
Much of the actual technology will probably either be remarkably expected (better versions of what you’ve already got) or so far into the future that it won’t be all that exciting for the moment (self-driving cars, or flying ones, or vehicles powered by something else entirely).
But given that there is such confidence that cars are going to change — even if people disagree how exactly — it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the cars shown off this week to see what might be taking you around in the future.
The connected home
The connected home — also referred to as the internet of things, or the smart home — was the big theme last year. But it’s grown up a little now, and might be ready for actually putting into your house.
All tech starts ambitious. But the smart home has always been a little worrying because people don’t want to trust new and buggy products with their well-being and that of their loved ones.
Expect slightly more robust — if still silly — connected home gadgets this time around: appliances that can connect to the internet, for instance, but which still work nicely without it.
This was the other big theme of last year’s show — the wearables came thick and fast, and chips were stuck into everything from watches, to belts, through to bikes.
The category gained extra recognition through the rest of the following year. The Apple Watch came out in April and brought wearable computers into the mainstream.
This will be the year of new ideas, perhaps. The wrist is still in its infancy, but people are working hard on it — this year we might see wearable technology coming to other parts of the body, too.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies