As always, International CES, held last week in Las Vegas, was a showcase of all things new — and sometimes weird — in the consumer technology world. Through my various meetings, in addition to exploring the show floor, I noticed six key macro trends that I believe will shape the direction of the industry over the next year and beyond, all of which are pertinent to Tractica’s areas of research coverage.
- Smartphones are fading into the background – If there was one big takeaway, it was that smartphones are not big as they were 2-3 years ago. Yes there was the LG Flex 2 and Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, both of which were interesting from a design perspective, but that was about it. This suggests that the R&D and innovation budgets have moved toward wearables and connected objects in general.
- Smart watches are taking over from trackers – Activity trackers have defined wearables so far, but the Apple Watch has shifted the momentum clearly toward smart watches. Trackers have suffered with retention issues, which smart watches are trying to solve by positioning the device as a fashion, notification, health, and wellness utility. It was funny to see some company representatives wear both a tracker and a smart watch on their wrists. I don’t expect that to fly in 2016. Also, many trackers have taken the form and utility of a smart watch.
- Unmanned machines are going mainstream – Whether it was the autonomous concept car from Mercedes-Benz, the countless drones flying around in their cages, the robots that can clean windows, or humanoid sales robots, it’s clear that future CES shows will see more unmanned machines and humanoid robots on offer. CES this year had a dedicated space for unmanned machines and I expect that to expand in future years.
- Curved displays are here to stay – There were a plethora of curved TVs, curved monitors, and even curved phones at exhibitor booths. They offer a much better viewing experience and are easier on the eye. With virtual reality (VR) trying to steal people away into solitary worlds, the screens in our lives from the big to the small will need to compete for our attention. Curved displays might be the answer. I see curved displays as a step toward foldable displays.
- Wireless charging finally leaps out of the pad – For many years, we have been fooled by the term “wireless charging”. It is without wires, but the pads and surfaces on which you have to place your device to charge still limit you. We might have finally found the technology in Wattup from Energous Corporation, which is truly wire-free and uses Bluetooth and RF to charge devices within a radius of 15 feet. Energous also received multiple awards at CES. I see Energous as an acquisition target rather than a business that will be successful in licensing the technology on its own. They essentially need bigger clout to round up partners. Also expect competitors to emerge. The success of this technology will determine the success of wearables with battery life being a major concern.
- VR is more than just gaming – Oculus showed off their new headset, the Crescent Bay edition, which is possibly the closest to their commercial launch version expected later in 2015. I did get to try it out and was completely blown away by the experience.
Yes, gaming will be the first frontier for VR and gamers can be forgiving around some of the resolution issues that VR faces today. But it will be entertainment media that is likely to expand the market and create more interest. Samsung Gear VR was showing around an immersive movie experience of the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon. For those who caught the demo, they might have literally seen the future of entertainment.
There was a lot of interesting stuff around smart homes and sensors, also gesture recognition seems to be going mainstream with auto manufacturers showing off gesture technology in cars. With 3,600 exhibitors showing across 2 million square feet of space, I am sure I didn’t capture all of it, although I did clock 14,000 steps every day on my Misfit tracker. I will be doing a separate post around wearables, but CES was definitely a mind-blowing show for anyone interested in where technology is headed and one has to experience it in the whole rather than focus on a single area.