For the past 50 years, CES has been where the consumer electronics industry has gathered to see all of the latest tech innovations before they’re available to customers.
In recent years, product manufacturers have showcased 4K Ultra HD TVs, virtual reality, smart home devices and wearables at the trade show. Going back further, the show served as a launch pad for the VCR (1970), camcorder (1981), CD player (1981), DVD (1996), HDTV (1998) and DVR (1998).
So what’s this year’s can’t-miss, gotta-see-it-to-believe-it, breakout technology? Here are a few hot trends to watch as CES runs today through Sunday.
TVs remain at center stage
Big TVs have long been the star of CES. Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony and LG annually steal the show with massive screens, ultra-thin displays and the latest advancements in crystal-clear picture quality.
The big innovations of recent years — 4K Ultra HD resolution and high dynamic range — are now seemingly everywhere, no longer reserved solely for premium TVs. And they’re starting to creep into the broader home theater experience, with UHD Blu-ray players and gaming consoles.
VR takes the next step
Virtual reality went mainstream in 2016 with the introduction of Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, and it will continue to expand its reach at this year’s CES.
Microsoft has announced plans to support virtual reality experiences on Windows 10 with much more basic system requirements than those needed for Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. That opens the door for a new wave of PC headsets from companies like HP, Dell, Lenovo, Asus and Acer.
We’ll also start to see more augmented reality, building off the popularity of Pokémon Go. Practical applications include “augmented listening” for hearing aids and headphones and improved automotive heads-up displays that can project your speed and directions in front of your car’s windshield so you don’t need to take your eyes off the road.
Artificial intelligence expands
Voice assistants burst onto the scene in 2016, with Google Home and Amazon Echo emerging as popular gifts during the holiday season. Now, a variety of companies and manufacturers are exploring ways for their own products to better interact with devices.
Manufacturers are also beginning to weave artificial intelligence into technology beyond phones and speakers. Samsung, for example, announced it’s launching a new “Music” service that will allow smart TV customers to identify songs from live TV and get recommendations for other music they might like.
Cars! Cars! Cars!
The auto industry has revved up its presence at CES in recent years, with a whole section of the show floor now devoted to automotive technology. More than 100 auto-related companies will be among this year’s exhibitors. Nissan’s CEO will be among the show’s keynote speakers.
Much of the focus will be on futuristic self-driving and electric vehicles. Hyundai will showcase two driverless cars, Honda will introduce its NeuV electric commuter vehicle (complete with an “emotion engine” for enhanced human-car interactions) and Chinese-backed startup Faraday Future will unveil its first production electric car.
There will also be a lot of car technology on display. Connected infotainment systems, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, will stay top of mind. More sophisticated cameras and collision-avoidance systems for safer driving also will be on display.
A lot of little tweaks
Although a lot of focus will be on products like self-driving cars and lifelike robot assistants that are years away from becoming commonplace, most innovations at CES will be significant (albeit less flashy) upgrades and changes to existing technology.
We’ll see new and improved laptops, smart home devices, wearables, drones and even household appliances. You know, the latest version of all of the different products that you’ll find on the shelves at your local Best Buy store.
Some new products will be more eye-catching than others, though. LG, for example, is releasing a levitating speaker — yes, as in floating — that provides 360-degree sound.
See featured tech items from CES at BestBuy.com or stop by your local store. Interested in more cutting-edge technology trends? Check out Best Buy Ignite, a web page devoted to products from startups and entrepreneurs.