Five trends to watch at CES 2017

The most proactive stuff out of Vegas

CES 2017 trends

CES is here, and over the next few days we are going to be swamped with gadgets from big brands as well as small start-ups you probably haven’t heard from before. And perhaps never will again. Fast forward a few months, and some of these hyped-up gadgets would have vanished without a trace, while others would have come and flopped. A few will even pop up again at CES 2018, with feature enhancements and a brand-new marketing spiel. Tech trends evolve.

So it is rather tricky to pick up winners from the gadget menagerie on display at CES 2017. However, we can more reliably look on CES as a crystal ball, stare squinty-eyed into it, and predict broader tech trends for the year ahead.

Incidentally, the official CES site has put up a What’s Trending page that delivers an overview of trends emerging from the #CES2017 hashtag. Last time we glanced at it, cars and amps were the hot words scrolling across the screen. And yes, “proactivity” zipped by more than a few times. So our first prediction is that, in 2017, you will be hearing that word often, doled out by tech CEOs and CMOs during the launch of their smart – and proactive – gadgets.

Let’s look at five proactive trends likely to proactively dominate tech talk in our brave new proactive 2017.

Smart speakers for smart homes

Speakers that chat. Picture: Google

The next big thing seems to be a smart speaker that you can chat with and ask for advice on everything from cooking up a storm to planning your next vacation. The battleground has drawn in bigwigs like Google, Samsung, LG and Amazon. The tech will also be gradually customised for users in the UAE, and will form the default interface that you use to interact with other gadgets and utilities. So forget about touchscreens and mobile apps – you will be talking to the smart speaker and ordering it to shut the lights, turn off the washing machine, or even water the smart potted plants in your smart home.

Cars will get smarter

The FF91: So smart, it sometimes refuses to do what it is told. Picture: Faraday Future

CES is now a proper car tech show, and this year we will get to see what the BMWs, Nissans and Hondas have in store for 2017. Self-driving technology has emerged as a big thing, and the likes of Nvidia, Clarion, Delphi and Renesas are likely to wow audiences with the latest in automated driving, parking assist, collision avoidance and emergency braking – yes, we are still a few years away from having self-driving cars on Dubai’s roads, but some of this smart technology will surely make its way into models available this year.

Elsewhere, Faraday Future, which The Telegraph describes as a “mysterious start-up”, has been talking about the world-fastest accelerating car for a while now, and the company took the wraps off it at CES. Called the FF91, this electric car can go from zero to 60mph in just 2.39 seconds and comes with more sensors and smarts than anything currently out there. Though, rather amusingly, its self-parking demo failed on stage with the car refusing to budge, let alone park itself – according to Nick Sampson, the company’s SVP of engineering and R&D, the car was being “lazy”. So maybe that is another buzzword that you will hear in 2017, used to describe smart tech that snubs you or refuses to follow your orders.

TVs to gape at

Thin is in. Picture: LG

It is incredible how TV manufacturers continue to come up with fresh reasons for you to junk your existing set – with which you have zero issues – and switch to the latest version that delivers sharper, brighter and more detailed visuals. This year, you will be hearing a lot about HDR, OLEDs and Quantum Dot TVs. And QLED – at CES, Samsung announced this new panel technology that delivers thinner TVs that are 1500 to 2000 nits brighter. Arch-rival LG is also out with an OLED TV that is “impossibly thin”, has wide viewing angles, and comes packed with Dolby Vision for HDR and Dolby Atmos for a theatre-like audio experience. Panasonic too has packed everything but the kitchen sink into its second-generation OLED TV – including Hybrid Log Gamma, which is the upcoming evolution of HDR tech.

VR will go mainstream

Lenovo’s Windows VR: A whole new world awaits. Picture:

What started out as a niche curiosity that required dorky-looking headsets strapped to your face will finally become a common sight in 2017. The headsets will still be clunky affairs, but they will get cheaper and better. While Google will improve its Daydream VR offering, and Samsung is expected to add AR to its next gen Gear VR, it will most probably be Microsoft that steals the limelight in 2017. It has brought  VR to Windows 10 computers, even those with mediocre specs. The company will no doubt leverage its substantial base of Windows 10 users, while affordable VR headsets will be manufactured by the likes of Acer, Asus, HP and Dell. At CES 2017, Lenovo has already shown off its Windows VR headset that offers a higher-resolution experience than the high-end Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. And it’s less than $400 (Dh1,470).

The robots are coming!

Kuri, sing me a song, will you? Picture:

Fortunately, these mechanical critter will be gunning after your coffee machine, and not your job. Well, not in 2017 anyway. Looking at the number of invites he has received, Tim Bajarin, a veteran tech industry analyst and futurist, writes that personal robots will be an interesting highlight of CES this year. These task-oriented machines include robotic vacuums and coffeemakers, as well as robots that follow you around and become your sidekick cum personal assistant. For example, the Kuri robot unveiled at CES 2017 apparently possesses personality and awareness to add “a spark of life to any home”. It can even recognise people and respond to questions, while making facial expressions and bobbling its head. Though there is no word yet on whether it can whip up better coffee than humans.