10 trends to watch at CES 2016, from real VR to smart gizmos you actually want

ces 2016 trends
December always fills me with dread. Sure, I love the holidays and spending time with friends and family – who doesn’t? But I know that my worst fears are slowly taking shape in the deserts of Nevada, where an enormous, lumbering beast with 140,000 heads is growing: CES — the consumer electronics event we all love to hate.

The vitriol has grown in recent years, with sites like Quartz calling it “a dud” and “increasingly irrelevant.” Ignore these ignoramuses. Last year’s show was anything but, with records set for attendance and event space. It also featured some truly game-changing gear: We were wowed by the industry-changing Sling TV app, Dell’s impossibly sleek XPS 13, and OLED televisions from LG and others that left our tech-hungry team sitting in puddles of drool.

CES 2016 promises a  fresh collection of mind-melting gadgets, gizmos of all sorts. It’s likely the year we see a consumer version of the Oculus Rift. It’s likely the year you buy a 4K television. In 2016 your house will get smarter — and I bet your clothing does too. And all of that stuff? We’ll see it in early January in Vegas.

Sorting through it all is the real challenge. With 176,000 attendees and close to 3,700 companies showing their wares, including nearly 400 start-ups, making sense of it all is a challenge. Here’s what I think you should keep an eye out for as the beast lumbers into town.


Rinspeed Etos

People love these things, and 2016 will be the year they go from interesting novelty to useful gadget. The Unmanned Systems Marketplace in the South Hall will cover more than 25,000 square feet, a 200 percent increase over the 2015 CES, the CTA said. Exhibitors including DJI, Yuneec, Hobbico, and Squadrone System will show smart drones that track where you are to shoot better videos — think a drone that tracks you on a snowboard flying down a hill — and scary drones with face tracking that help you spy on your neighbor. There’s even a luxury car that comes with its own personalized drone and launch pad. Expect controversy.

3D printers

Food printer from XYZprinting

Geeks find these gizmos fascinating – and personally I’m still not sure why. It’s hard to understand how 3D printers work and vastly more complicated to actually try to use them. Most 3D printers are still far from ideal for most ordinary consumers. Nonetheless, we’ll see dozens of upstarts that want one on every kitchen table. Last year saw a food printer from XYZprinting — what will this year bring?

Wireless everything (No, for real this time)


Sure, you’ve got a wireless network at home. Sure, you’ve got a Bluetooth headset. Get ready for some truly amazing stuff. This year we’re likely to see legit wireless earbuds, such as the Pearbuds and Earin wireless buds. Then there’s wireless charging, a technology that broadcasts waves of power through your house to charge your stuff when you walk in the door. Companies like Cota and Technovator are honing the tech. This is crazy stuff.

Smart(er) homes

Samsung WA8700J
Samsung WA8700J

At CES 2015, jaws dropped not because of a new cell phone or a pocket-sized miracle gadget but because of a washing machine. LG and Samsung both showed off white-box appliances that turned traditional on its ear: Samsung had a washing machine with a sink on top of it. LG had a washing machine on top of a washing machine. Both had onlookers gawking. Expect even bigger changes this year, as appliances get surprisingly cool.

The Internet of really-we-swear everything

Blossom Smart Watering Controller
Blossom Smart Watering Controller

Last year was all about smartening your home. This year will see manufacturers doubling down on efforts to pack brains into your ordinary light switches, thermostats, and other controls. Expect more smart sprinklers, smart hoses, smart water faucets, and smart chairs than ever before. This trend shows no sign of stopping … and every sign of getting more complex as time passes.

Crazy cool cars…

Faraday Future Concept
Faraday Future Concept

It’s no wonder last quarter saw more sales than at any time in the last 15 years. Cars are hot again. Tesla is reshaping the sales experience, and a mysterious competitor named Faraday Future will unveil a really sleek competitor. Meanwhile, tech companies will highlight the brains they’re building into cars — look for big displays from companies like Harman and Nvidia, whose chips and software could power the self-driving cars of tomorrow.

…and driving gadgets galore


With Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto finally working their way into dashboards, car tech is finally getting the attention it deserves. It’s just the tip of a very cool iceberg, however. The constellation of companies making stuff to improve your current wheels continues to amaze me – from head-up displays like the Exploride to diagnostics to safety devices, gadgets can make an ordinary car extraordinary.

Virtual reality

Oculus Rift at CES 2015

Some technologies will always remain by geeks, for geeks (see the 3D printer). VR will break out of the geek realm in 2016, however, thanks to smart devices like the Samsung Gear VR and finally, hopefully, maybe, the launch of the granddaddy of them all, the Oculus Rift. With a PlayStation VR headset in the works, this tech is going mainstream fast. Look for VR and augmented reality to be simply everywhere.

Clever healthcare gizmos

Connected stethoscopes and thermometers sound dull. They’re not. Getting medical-grade information has been an incredible challenge in lawsuit-friendly America. Finally seeing the arrival of these gizmos warms the heart (and yes, there’s a device to monitor that). So forget ordinary step-trackers: Today’s tech-fueled fitness devices go well beyond simply counting your paces. A smarter class of device monitors your heart rate, studies how and precisely when your muscles fire, and can even detect how quickly you’re burning fat simply by smelling your breath.

4K TVs (of course)

TVs always take center stage at CES, and 2016 will be no exception. Bigger, crisper, and with higher resolution, 4K UHD models will be everywhere. Watch for service providers to be showing off their products as well; Chinese company Hisense said it plans to disrupt the U.S. market, and Dish changed everything last year. And then there’s Netflix, the hottest little company in town. What will 2016 bring? I bet it’s going to be amazing.

Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.

Xbox gaming chief has sights set on improving Microsoft Store experience

Xbox chief Phil Spencer acknowledged that the Microsoft Store still has a ways to go to become a solid platform for PC gamers. Microsoft promised to work toward improving the frequently buggy experience with gamers in mind.

Photography News: Flickr keeping Creative Commons photos, ONA gets colorful

Flickr has confirmed it's saving all Creative Commons images, ONA has released a new capsule collection in partnership with Passion Passport and 7Artisans has launched a new drone-specific 35mm f/5.6 lens.
Emerging Tech

Computers will soon outsmart us. Does that make an A.I. rebellion inevitable?

At this point, the question isn’t so much “if” AI will ever surpass humans in terms of thinking abilities, it’s “when.” What happens when we reach that point? Charles J. Simon attempts to answer that question in his upcoming…

What is Android fragmentation, and can Google ever fix it?

Fragmentation on the Android platform has long been criticized as a problem for security, consistency, and app development. We take a look at Google’s attempted fixes and ask if it can do more.

Looking Glass owners will soon be able to get more holograms on Vimeo

We're inching closer to recreating the iconic scene in Star Wars of Princess Leia calling out to Obi-Wan for help. A Brooklyn company has created the Looking Glass, a holographic display that lets you see 3D content without a headset.

The MacBook of 2021 could kiss the keyboard, and Intel, goodbye

Apple announced a new MacBook Air, which brings a fairly basic update to the line. But if you follow the rumors, there's a much bigger sea change happening. Based on patents, rumors, and pure imagination, here's what we think it'll be like.

Infiniti is using Formula One racing to hone its hybrid skills

Infiniti is partnering with the Renault Sport Formula One team, and not just to put sponsor stickers on the race cars. The luxury brand claims its engineers are working with their F1 counterparts to develop future hybrid tech.

Blizzard Co-Founder Allen Adham says ‘we have not forgotten’ core Diablo fans

Blizzard fans are skeptical of 'Diablo Immortal,' but company co-founder Allen Adham is confident players will like it when they play it. He told us that multiple Diablo projects are underway and hinted at end-game content in 'Diablo…

Privacy is becoming obsolete, but not everyone thinks you should fear its demise

As technologies like Alexa and Siri that require more information about us continue to develop, is privacy going to fall at the wayside, or can we take back control of our data to retain our privacy?
Emerging Tech

To make more room for livestock, the Dutch will moove cows to a floating farm

A Dutch company is developing a floating dairy farm, which they hope to use as a proof-of-concept for future agricultural systems. The farm will use automated cleaning and milking robots, while recycling waste into fertilizer.
Emerging Tech

Driverless cars can only take you so far. This is how smarter cities are being built

Companies and municipalities came together at the annual Smart Mobility Summit, to share new technologies for building smarter cities. They also offered insight into the challenge cities face.

As Amazon turns up the volume on streaming, Spotify should shudder

Multiple players are all looking to capitalize on the popularity of streaming, but it has thus far proved nearly impossible to make a profit. Could major tech companies like Amazon be primed for a streaming take-over?