As CES 2016 begins to draw to a close, there’s a truth show officials probably don’t want to admit: This was not a show with a breakaway item.
That’s not a bad thing. By taking a year to catch their breath, electronics companies were better able to refine products that are still in the process of catching on with the mass market (or, in some cases, just about to test the waters after lots of sneak previews in previous years).
There were certainly themes, though – the biggest of which was arguably the connected car. A decade ago, automakers didn’t have a presence at CES. This year, nearly every major automaker including GM, Ford, and Toyota were out in force, each one pushing their own vision of what connected car means. GM even unveiled a production ready car, the Chevy Bolt EV.
Car tech was such a big part of CES that we’ll look it separately in an upcoming story. As for the traditional gadgets and gizmos, here are the ones that really turned our head.
HTC Vive – Unlike the competing set, the Vive lets you physically explore your virtual world, walking around and seeing things from different angles. It also will release with VR controllers, as opposed to Oculus, which has pushed back the launch of its Oculus Touch until later in the year and will initially rely on the Xbox controller.
LG Signature OLED TVs – LG’s OLED line has been the best of the best in the television world for the past few years – and it’s not slowing down this year. With some of the darkest black color you’ve ever seen, the sets boast an astonishing depth of just 3mm. The color range and brightness are improved and the addition of HDR – high dynamic range, a technology that improves the contrast and colors of images – makes things even better.
Dish Hopper 3 – Dish has the remarkable ability to anticipate their customers’ demands long before the customers realize they want something.Yes, the fact that the Hopper 3 can record 16 shows at once is overkill, but it will prevent any in-home battles between family members for control of the DVR. The Hopper 3 is seven times more powerful than its predecessor and plays 4K content at 60 frames per second. It’s the new standard for cable and satellite boxes.
Samsung KS9500 SUHD TVs – Samsung rules the TV market saleswise and there’s no reason to expect that to change this year. This year’s “Super Ultra High Definition” sets use what’s called Quantum Dot technology, which enhances brightness and uses less energy. They also supports HDR, resulting in amazing picture quality and colors that pop off the screen. This line represents Samsung’s best TVs in years.
Oculus Rift – The Rift is ready for its debut – and while the price tag shocked people and the full list of launch games won’t be announced until next month, it still has a lot to offer. The experience is thoroughly engaging and the system has a wide variety of titles that should appease a wide variety of players. More importantly, the Rift’s launch will signal the beginning of a three-way VR battle (with HTC and Sony) that will be a lot of fun to watch.
Seven Dreamers Laundroid – While still just a prototype, this was a system that made us want to believe. A robotic device that folds your laundry? What’s not to like? Made by Japanese company Seven Dreamers, Laundroid still has a long way to go before it’s practical. It’s a refrigerator-sized device and it takes 3-10 minutes to fold a single item, but there’s talk that it may be incorporated into select Panasonic washers and dryers in the next two years. And it gives us hope that some day in the future, we can feel less guilty about leaving clothes in the dryer for days after they’ve been dried.
Samsung SmartFridge – Samsung’s talk-of-the-show refrigerator has a lot of bells and whistles, but what’s remarkable is they don’t seem to be pointless additions. The embedded camera that takes a picture every time the door is closed? That can come in handy when you’re at the store. Alerts when a food item has been in there long enough to go bad? Fantastic. And the built-in touchscreen will offer recipe suggestions, news and weather alerts, and let you automatically reorder food thanks to a partnership with MasterCard. It’s a strong argument for the Internet of Things and the smart home.
Sphero Force Band – Controlling Sphero’s BB-8 toy/droid from your smartphone is plenty of fun. But exerting your will over the holiday favorite with hand motions is even better. The company is already positioning itself for a strong holiday with this wristband that lets you control BB-8 (and presumably other upcoming Star Wars-themed devices) in a way Rey and Finn would envy.