Maybe it's me, but it seems like the 'Best of CES' lists starting coming out this year even before the show began. I practically didn't even need to hit the floor to walk away with an impression. But rather than give you yet another review or top ten list, I'll give you my predictions for which tech innovations will truly come of age in 2014.
Let's start with an easy one - 4K UHD TV. It's here. But don't pull out your hair (or your credit card) just yet. Not only will these sets continue to cost a premium for the added resolution, but you're also going to continue paying a premium for the size. You won't find many 4K TVs in the sub-50" range since the benefit of the added resolution can only be perceived if you're sitting close enough. None of this, however, is going to stop 4K from breaking into some of our living rooms this year -if it hasn't already.
There's also a lot of noise around high dynamic range technology that improves the brightness and contrast of the overall picture. This too will go mainstream this year, but I'm not convinced this will be as well-known or understood by consumers. Every TV manufacturer will have their own unique name for the technology, which means the marketing around it may only serve to differentiate between the manufacturer's own low and high end models.
My next prediction is that the 'Internet of Things' will finally come to mean someThing. For the past few years we've only really been acquiring a variety of independent devices that measure, track or can be remotely controlled. 2014 will be the year when it all comes together and the data collected is put to use - automatically. The benefits may be trivial. Consider a house that turns off (and locks itself) when the last person leaves; or warms itself up when it knows you're on your way home.
Or they could be lifesaving: think life alert for anyone with a fitbit, jawbone, or smart wrist-wearing device. They can even be advantageous from a retail and commercial point of view: cameras, smart shopping carts and low powered bluetooth sensors to ensure shelves are properly stocked, checkouts are properly staffed, and shoppers are reminded of what's needed in the kitchen or alerted to suggested items on sale. This isn't a pipe dream. There's at least one major retailer rolling out such trials this year.
Next up - in the order of likelihood - is what I'll just call immersive gaming. The leading company in this space, Oculus VR, had both old and new technology on display, and I have to say it left me speechless. Putting on the headset completely transported me from the Las Vegas Convention Center to a completely new and interactive 3D world. It's not like previous passing "virtual reality" fads that simply cover your face with a big screen. While it did cover my entire field of view, with it's motion tracking technology every movement I made was reflected in the game. Without even touching the controller I could look up into the sky, down at my feet, or even around a corner. There's no other way to describe - I was *in* the game. As big of a breakthrough as Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Kinect were for gaming, they don't come anywhere close to what Oculus Rift has in store for us. And no, it's not just for gaming either. Oculus VR even has prototypes deployed in automotive and aerospace industries. Get ready. The PS4 and Xbox One won't be the only piece of gaming hardware on next year's Christmas list.
And last, but not least, I'm going out on a whim and say that telepresence continues to make inroads. Over the past few years, we've all grown accustomed to video chatting. In our personal lives, it's been Skype or Facetime. In our professional lives, GoToMeeting, WebEx and a host of other solutions have become prevalent. Even though a part of me chuckled at the sight of a roving robot that looked like an iPad connected to a vacuum cleaner, I actually felt more comfortable speaking with a remote person, and took them more seriously, than the numerous individuals wearing Google Glass who were actually standing right in front of me. I can't quite figure out what would compel a business to actually buy into any of these roaming robots, but with price points continuing to drop, it's only a matter of time before someone at your office decides to get one. Is it all that practical? Probably not. But when has that stopped most businesses from investing in new technology?
It's really easy to make predictions and call for a wave of new innovation in our daily lives after each and every CES. After all, almost everything on display is or will be available very soon after the show closes. With dramatically shorter times to market, I sometimes wonder the value of these big box shows for anyone other than buyers. Perhaps more of us that attend these shows should start questioning what's in store for the next CES, instead of talking about what's in store today? But then I remember why so many of us attend in the first place. It's for all of those closed door meetings and discussions that are backed by countless non-disclosure agreements. In the end, maybe we can't share the good stuff precisely because it's the good stuff? It's certainly a new take on the phrase "What happens in Vegas...."
This blog was co-authored by John Douglas, Product Marketing, DG Media Mind.