CES 2016: Bigger, Better and Broader

By David Henderson - 2016-02-16

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s largest electronics show has come and gone. 2016 was a record breaking year - over 3,800 event exhibitors unveiled their latest technologies across more than 2.47 million net square feet of exhibit space this year in Las Vegas. This year's CES show, like the ones before it, showed off a mix of the dreamy and the pragmatic in technology. Product prototypes ranged from the futuristic autonomous vehicles that would grace the roads and the skies someday to the ones that aimed to solve daily problems like restocking your fridge and helping you stay safe and healthy. There were OLED TVs, smartwatches, Virtual Reality (VR) and Drones that were not entirely new but were even better and more refined forms of themselves from a year ago.

Not only were new and improved products announced this year, but the 92-year old organization behind the CES show announced a new change as well. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has aptly rebranded itself to Consumer Technology Association (CTA), marking a shift in the market where consumer technology and lifestyle integration have become a must have in all products across industries.

Here are a few different trends and categories that caught our eye at CES 2016.

Cars and CES: Bigger and Better

This year’s car show definitely hit the high water mark both in terms of scale and significance of the automotive technology. Trends such as autonomous driving and personalization of the driver experience were at the front and center position. You can read more about the auto tech and its presence at CES 2016 in a Micron blog post here.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR):  Refined and Ready

If you didn’t believe that Virtual Reality was going to be the big tech story of 2016, CES undoubtedly changed that. Leading manufacturers set up impressive demos for attendees to dive into a virtual immersive world and no one was disappointed. Depending on which product you tried, you could explore Paris, tour a carnival cruise ship, enjoy a concert or be teleported to the depth of the ocean floor.

While HTC showed its latest Valve powered VR rig (Vive Pre), they also announced the launch of its Vive headset with a front facing camera that would allow users to do real-life things without taking off the glasses. Google and Lenovo also announced a consumer mobile device that would incorporate tech from its depth sensing Project Tango robotic sight technology. The biggest reveal however was Oculus’ consumer price ($599) for its Rift headset.

AR Focus at CES highlighted industrial use cases. Intel's Daqri smart helmet is a classic example - it's intended for real-life work situations where workers can get context specific information in hands-free manner, enhancing productivity and accuracy of work being done.  CES not only saw a wide range of 2nd generation Glass type AR products, but a maturing ecosystem of industry specific (healthcare, education, training, manufacturing, maintenance, etc.) application development companies that are ready to unleash immense potential of AR in industrial and enterprise applications.

While VR and AR hardware has gotten better and more practical, this is still a nascent and exciting area for innovation to meet the power-performance envelope and make these devices feel like true wearables.  The best is yet to come, and Micron is actively engaged in exciting new developments with our partners.

Drones: Hitting New Heights

Drones were everywhere at CES 2016, getting bigger, smaller, smarter and more agile. The biggest “wow” factor for drones was its ability to avoid obstacles along its path which make the future of “follow–me” drones all the more exciting. Some noteworthy mentions are: Yuneec’s Typhoon H which was the belle of the ball, going from a quad-rotor to six-rotor design, and adding retractable landing gear (to avoid blocking the belly-mounted 360-degree camera), and Intel's RealSense 3D depth-capturing imaging technology. Parrot, meanwhile, showed off the Disco, a prototype fixed-wing drone with a 45-minute flight time that looked like a civilian cousin to the Predator. Most interesting of them all was the Ehang 184, an octo-rotor aircraft that's designed to ferry a passenger around town at altitudes of 1,000 feet or more. Yes, flying cars are finally here! The leader in the category, DJI, announced a black version of its Inspire 1 Pro drone and the Phantom 3 4K, which is the same as the older Phantom 3 Professional, but with a shorter video transmission range and at a lower resolution. Drones, an area historically reserved for military and industrial applications has now hit the mainstream consumer. The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) rolled out plans to create a new standard for commercial drones and now requires every consumer who is flying a drone to register with the government, it allows consumer drones in the market to flourish without any impending impositions by the civil aviation agency.

Wearables: Purpose Driven Accessories

The usual suspects in the world of fitness trackers were out in full force – Fitbit, Garmin, Fossil and Misfit represented with exciting new products that continue to support the fitness goals of many. Fitbit also launched a brand new fitness centered lifestyle smartwatch called the Fitbit Blaze. Smartwatch makers Samsung, LG, Motorola displayed their ultra-polished products for customers to see and wear at their booths. These products are now blurring the lines between traditional watches and smart watches. Eventually, all watches will have some level of smartness built right into them making smartwatches ubiquitous. However, what was interesting to see is that smart minds are beginning to craft gear that does one job and does it well. WiseWear showed a personal attack alarm in a piece of jewelry which allows the user to send a SOS message to an emergency contact with a double tap, L’Oréal’s UV Patch helps people monitor exposure to sunlight, and Owlet came out with a small baby sock to monitor vital signs. Going forward, as this category of products matures we might start seeing products designed for specific purposes rather than those that take the swiss-army like approach. Wearables which started primarily as a fitness tracker and smart watch focused application is now making a presence in many other aspects as well esp. in medicine and healthcare.

Smart Home: Internet of Everything is Here

In the consumer space, IoT (Internet of Things) is more evident in the connected/smart home space than any other. Every year the number of appliances that get connected at home with each other and to the internet is astounding. CES 2016 saw many of the large Electronics OEMs making Smart/Connected Home as the central theme of their booths, a privilege that was previously reserved for TVs.  Companies like Panasonic (Ora), Samsung (SmartThings), LG (Homechat), Elgato, iDevices, Honeywell, Lowes, and Vivint all showcased holistic platforms that connect everything-the doorbell, security cameras and thermostats, refrigerators, water leak detectors and lights. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (BT) planning to offer low power solutions soon, this trend is only likely to continue.

TVs: UHD, OLED, Bendable and Gigantic

Since the beginning of time, CES has always been the place to introduce and show off the best in TV technology. Giant screens and huge displays at resolutions of 4K and even 8K dominated the floor space. HDR (High Dynamic Range) was one of the major focus areas for all TV manufacturers this year.  At CES, the (ultra-high definition) UHD Alliance’s inter-industry working group announced a new standardizing program for “Premium” UHD TV.  A new UHD Premium Logo will be granted to products and sources that are capable of meeting a set of performance criteria that make them capable of delivering a premium experience including multiple “high end” elements of UHD.

Among the various manufacturers, LG and Samsung still continued to dominate the physical and mental space in the world of Television. LG’s organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TV still seems like the king of the hill, but what makes them even more fascinating is that screens are so thin that they can now be bent and rolled up. Samsung also displayed a modular TV concept which allows for mega-screens at nearly any aspect ratio.

The New Wave of Consumer Products are here...

Mobile phones dominated the world of consumer tech products not long ago. They continue to be the corner stone product for consumers, but there is also a real shift happening into more diverse and vibrant product categories as our world becomes more embedded with technology. Each of these categories have a unique memory requirement that will help meet their means and deliver new value propositions. Micron is excited to continue to partner with our customers to deliver these innovative solutions!

David Henderson

David Henderson