What to expect at CES 2017

CES 2017
An employee of Virtuix Omni, an active virtual reality motion platform, showcases his skills with the Oculus Rift headset at CES 2016 in Las Vegas. Picture: Gulf News Archives

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to cut back on the time — and money — you spend on cool gadgets, then your willpower is going to be severely tested as early as in the first week of January. Yes, CES 2017 is around the corner and all those sneak peeks and rumours that abound about the hottest gadgets for the new year are going to be very tempting indeed.

Bill Gates and the Rock unveil Xbox at CES in 2001. The event has a storied history of major product releases

While the event unfolds in Las Vegas in the US from January 5-8, the media events and product unveils start a couple of days earlier. You can check the full schedule here. We for one are looking forward to the 2017 Tech Trends to Watch session, where the Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) chief economist, Shawn DuBravac, “will unpack and dissect how the  Internet of everything, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, wearables and more are upending and disrupting all that we take as given”.

Of course, gntech will be providing a steady stream of updates before and during CES. For starters, here’s a roundup of what we have heard so far.

HDR is not a gimmick (Picture: Forum.blu-ray.com)

In 2016, one of the biggest buzzwords in television was High Dynamic Range (HDR), which ramps up the contrast and delivers greater details, especially in darker scenes. Making its way to games and streaming services such as Netflix, HDR is here to stay — unlike some of the dubious TV tech we have seen in the past (3D, anyone?).

At CES 2017 we expect every TV manufacturer to showcase HDR-enabled TV sets in different sizes and price points. And at some of these booths visitors will also get to gape at another visual treat — 8K TVs. Too bad, you won’t be able to buy one of these at your local store anytime soon.

Panasonic’s first UHD Blu-ray player, the UBZ1, was unveiled at CES 2016

However, you will be able to buy Ultra HD Blu-ray players, at not-so-crazy prices. Rumour has it that LG will showcase its first model at CES, joining the likes of Sony, Panasonic and Samsung in this growing market for 4K BD players.

Meanwhile, on the audio front, we expect the first wave of Bluetooth 5 headphones and speakers to show up at CES 2017, and wow even hardcore audiophiles. The new specs increase the capacity of data broadcasts by 800 per cent over the current breed, and the upcoming devices will be able to play high-resolution audio at a quality indistinguishable from wired connections.

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro: The first Google Tango phone

Moving on to smartphones, Google’s Tango will make deeper inroads in 2017, and CES should offer some insights. Currently, Lenovo is out with the Phab 2 Pro, which has garnered mixed reviews and is best looked upon as an early sample of models to come. Asus has confirmed it will demo a Tango phone – the ZenPhone AR – and we expect a couple of other companies to also announce their take on this tech. There are more phones with Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 821 processor in the mix, though bulk of the phone announcements will be made later at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that will be held from February 27 to March 2.

Microsoft’s take on VR will work with cheap Windows 10 computers (Picture: PCWorld)

The biggest draw though could well be virtual reality. Microsoft has jumped on the bandwagon with VR tech that works on Windows 10 computers. These headsets will be manufactured by the likes of Dell, Acer, HP and Asus, and we might see the first wave at CES 2017. HTC is also expected to unveil a wireless version of its popular headset, the Vive VR. And of course, expect dozens of VR offerings from smaller manufacturers, some that work with Google’s Daydream VR phones.

Other things to watch out for at CES would be the usual gaggle of wearables, though it’s not all good news for smartwatches, with sales tanking and users not seeing much value in buying a smartwatch. But fitness trackers have been doing okay, and we will see more of those at CES along with Internet of Things (IoT) devices for smart living rooms. And smart kitchens. And smart bathrooms. And… well, you get the picture.

Faraday Future might unleash a Tesla killer at CES 2017 (Picture: Top Speed)

And oh, you no longer need to be James Bond to get close to the coolest in car tech. Recently, CES has morphed into a bit of a car show, offering everything from from the latest in electric cars to infotainment systems. A high-profile highlight is Faraday Future, which hopes to take on Tesla this year.

Elsewhere, you will get to see more laptops and desktops toting Intel’s latest Kaby Lake processors — expect more impossibly-thin looking ultraportables in 2017. And yes, don’t forget to look overhead — you might just see a few cool drones zipping by. If you are lucky, you might even make it in a dronefie.