This year, the Consumer Electronics Show kicked off again with 3,600 exhibitors and 170,000 attendees in Las Vegas. After nearly four decades, the annual show has become the biggest, craziest and most exciting showcase for the future of technology. And has wide-ranging implications on not only consumers but marketers, investors and business owners.
So what were some of the big trends at CES this year?
The Retro Kick
In spite of the futuristic slant that marks every CES, this year saw a reinvention of some timeless classics. One trend we didn’t see coming is new and improved record players. That’s right, for vinyl. As Bloomberg reports, vinyl sales climbed 52% in 2014. Bluetooth and USB connections are making your old vinyl collection more accessible, especially for those who have never heard of RCA cables.
Another trend back from the dead that will come as good news to audiophiles is a generation of high fidelity audio players. Sony’s new Walkman can can play up to 33 hours high resolution audio. The Neil Young-backed Pono also recently went on sale for $399. The Pono has it’s own high quality music format and was spurred by Young’s own distaste for low quality digital music.
On the smart watch scene, Withing’s new smart watch skips the bells and whistles for a classic-looking watch. In addition to the hour and minute hands, there’s another dial to keep track of your movement and bluetooth to connect that data with your computer.
The Screen Scene
Focus has shifted from the all-in-one smart TV to an aggressive arms race for the biggest, baddest high resolution display. The 65-inch Sony Bravia X900C is thinner than an iPhone but boasts more pixels than it’s 4k competitors. Samsung put on display 8k screens that put 4k to shame, and 3D screens that didn’t require glasses. LG reinvented the LCD screen with quantum dots – little nano-crystals only 20 atoms thick that improve color reproduction by 30%. Curved-screens also had a strong showing, with the technology improving the viewing angle many LCD screens suffer from, and also adding a sense of depth that flat screens can’t offer.
The Quiet Rise of 3D Printing
3D printing wasn’t quite the rage this year as it was in previous years. But while we quietly wait for our Star Trek-style replicators, 3D printing has been making huge advancements. That’s because the materials that printers can use is rapidly expanding, suggesting lots of new applications. Plastic has given way to filaments (printing materials) like carbon and metal composites. More exciting though are the filaments that imitate limestone and wood – the wood composite can even be sanded and stained like real wood. Other companies are rolling out filaments that can conduct electricity, opening the flood gates for 3D-printed circuit boards.
The Self Driving Car
Google’s self-driving cars have given hope to us all, but until now consumer self-driving cars seemed like something from the distant future. But this year, Mercedes unveiled the F 015 a self-driving car concept that is within 20 years of being a reality. Mercedes reimagined the car as a lounge: the 4 seats face each other in parlor-like fashions, and the driver’s seat can swivel around should someone need to grab the wheel. But while the F 015 is too far in the future for some, the LA Times reports that by 2017 Cadillac, Tesla, Mercedes and Audi expect to produce semi-autonomous cars that can drive themselves on highways.
Will these trends become staples in the tech world, or fizzle out like fads? Only time will tell, but I’m excited for all the great gadgets and tech that the future holds.