This Will Be a Big One

CES week is here, and it’s the one week of the year I look forward to looking back on. CES is a killer show — not because you are up to your armpits in interesting new products, but because it is so spread out that it’ll kill your legs as you hike all over the damn place. One year, I walked so much I actually ripped the soles off both shoes.

What is weird about this show is that it really comes too early for vendors to have much of what they intend to have in stores by the end of the year. So, it not only kind of messes up New Year’s for a lot of people who have to prepare for it, but also fails to deliver the impact it once did.

However, it remains one of the most powerful tech showcases in the world, and this year we’ll see a ton of things that likely will have us thinking more and more about the world of tomorrow.

I’ll share more on that and close with my first product of the week: the unusual Phab 2 Pro Phone from Lenovo, the first Google Project Tango phone.

Flying CarsFlying cars are a big deal for me, because I first got involved with this technology in the 1970s with a company that started with a flying saucer. My father put down a deposit on one of the vehicles — he died recently and clearly never got the car. This is how far the technology has come.

There was a showcase a year ago of an autonomous flying car that is actually a people-carrying drone, suggesting that Uber one day might fly to your house rather than drive, at least in rural areas.

Folks apparently realized that if you could get a car to drive itself, and if you could create a drone capable of carrying large packages, then you could create one that could carry people. It is this idea of push-button flying that makes flying cars interesting. I know of several vendors that will be talking about this or showing prototypes at CES.

 

Next-Generation Computing

Microsoft last year brought forward the Surface Studio, a product that blends a high-resolution touchscreen with a digitizer to create a unique all-in-one. It makes the iMac look so last decade — which, given it hasn’t changed much in the last decade, wasn’t a huge stretch.

This class of product has proven ideal for creators, and with the next version of Windows 10 designed specifically with creation in mind, the OEMs are stepping up. In short, there will be a ton of Surface Studio-like products at CES, each doing its best both to stand out against Microsoft’s offering, and to showcase the power of Windows 10 Creator’s edition. If you are a creator, this likely will be your year.

 

Prototype Cars

There will be a number of prototype cars at the event. One that recently came to light, Rinspeed’s Oasis, is equipped with Harman LIVS (life-enhancing intelligent vehicle solutions). It showcases the advantages of a car that is designed to be driven by computer.

It’s basically a living room on wheels, with the focus on entertainment, access and range rather than on handling or performance. Cool stuff includes active glass, a steering wheel that turns into a table, and a huge screen for both work and entertainment.

You’ll see a number of these examples, showcasing each company’s vision of the near-term future and the world of tomorrow. I’m a big fan of Rinspeed and have lusted after its Splash car for years.

 

8K HDR TVs and OLED

Yes, you thought that wonderful 4K HDR TV was the be-all and end-all, didn’t you, and that you’d have at least three years before someone made it obsolete. Well, surprise — there will be 8K TVs at the show. The good news is we don’t even have much 4K HDR content, so your 4K HDR TV likely is safe for three years. These 8K sets likely will be wicked expensive initially — so look, but don’t worry about buying until sometime closer to 2020.

Closer in are OLED sets, which combine the marvelous blacks of the old plasma sets with the reliability and brilliant colors of LCD sets. The manufacturers appear to have fixed the problem of the early OLED TVs’ short service life, and this year the prices of OLED, which have been up in the nosebleed range, should drop sharply. That could mean your new TV isn’t that safe after all.

 

VR Everywhere

CES will be the big coming-out party for low-cost dedicated VR headsets and gear. The initial wave from HTC and Oculus was way too expensive, and the next wave is supposed to be far more affordable.

A lot of vendors will be showcasing their VR gear, so be ready for your kid or spouse to start signaling they want one of these things for their next birthday, and be thankful that it likely will be well below US$500 this round.