Earlier this month, I was in Las Vegas for CES, exploring all the latest advances in consumer technology, featuring smart homes, smarter hoovers, and the most intuitive Virtual Reality headsets to date. Here's my personal round-up of highlights:
Smart homes are getting smarter
Smart home tech has been growing pretty rapidly in recent years, and it’s booming now. Every stand from the big brands down to the start-ups has been bustling with folks trying to get some inspiration for their batcave.
With Apple and Google launching their smart home platforms later in 2016, it will be interesting to see how each one enters the market. Devices within a smart home will need to be compatible, so the choice of platform is a difficult one as it will have affect purchases further down the line. It’s unclear how popular open-source languages will be, regardless of them being the obvious consumer choice for the way they offer flexible purchasing in the long-term.
With the larger companies leading the charge, the market will also be a tough one to penetrate for start-ups, unless they can bring something truly new and innovative to the table.
A hoover that doubles up as a guard dog
The AR LG Hom-Bot Turbo+ gives you smartphone control over your automated vacuum via an in-built camera. Through an app you can manually control the areas it covers just by tapping the screen. It also works as a home security device, sending photos of the inside of your house directly to your smartphone, whenever it senses movement. It seems unlikely that it’ll be outselling Dyson anytime soon, but I can see huge potential in such a versatile, user-friendly product.
VR drifts into the mainstream
VR and AR have been around for a long time, but it’s clear this year that they’re much improved, and they’re here to stay. You can especially see a buzz around the Samsung stand, where every day there’s a line of hundreds of people wanting to try out the headset’s latest advancements.
Headsets themselves are getting cheaper. You no longer need to spend hundreds on an Oculus; just buy a reasonably priced headset holder online, connect your smartphone, and you’re away. And with so much content readily available now compared with a year ago, there’s so much to play with. The high end headsets will still offer the best experience, of course, but they come at a premium. Development software is already on sale to the public, so it’s reasonable to expect some third party games and innovations in the near future.
The big brands all seem to have staked their claim in the market already. Their potentially industry-defining successes and failures should become evident later in the year, as customer uptake will decide whether VR adds value to brand experiences, or if it’s a short-lived marketing channel where the brand experience is just as virtual as the reality.
What’s coming beyond 2016?
Neuro headsets seem to be the next step in VR gaming. I’ve played with a few, and with metal tabs they can tap into your imagination. Controlling a character with your thoughts alone would be the natural apex of the videogames industry. Companies such as BrainCo – a group of scientists and biomedical experts – are already honing the technology for a broad spectrum of applications, from improving attention spans, to controlling smart home appliances and even prosthetic devices.
There have been some companies this year daring to work with holographic visuals, namely Kino-mo, who used propellers and LED lighting to project 3D visuals. I can see interest in this growing after the excitement around VR dies down. People are likely to want something that they can see and interact with, without having to wear any unwieldy headsets.
Hopefully in the next year we will see start-ups take the lead with their forward-thinking innovations and bring something a little more user-friendly to the table at CES 2017.
Laverne Pereira is a senior designer at Hugo & Cat and was previously a technology consultant for The Gadget Show.