The largest consumer electronics trade show, once called the Consumer Electronics Show and now simply CES, is set to take place once again in Las Vegas, Nevada, next week. Officially, the convention gets underway on Jan. 9, but press events and previews begin rather mercilessly on Sunday, Jan. 7.
The show, which started in 1967, now annually attracts nearly 200,000 people to the desert city, has been criticized for becoming rather rote in recent years, with unending minor updates to existing products, or fanciful concepts that never make it to the shelves. Some think this year will be different, but there’s only one way to find out.
Quartz technology reporters Mike Murphy, Dave Gershgorn, and Michael Coren, along with technology editor Matt Quinn, will be in attendance (follow each of them on Twitter for real-time updates). We’ll be there to wade through the e-junk and find out what new gadgets will be setting the tone for the year ahead in technology, and documenting it all on this very website. Here’s what we expect to see while in town:
More smart integrations
Last year’s most ubiquitous technology didn’t even have its own booth. Amazon’s Alexa, the voice assistant found in its Echo and Fire devices, was just about everywhere, with countless companies offering integrations to their own products, or even embedding the assistant in their own devices. It’s likely there will be yet more internet-connected devices at this year’s CES, offering apparently more convenience in our lives, although most of them are pretty unnecessary in truth. It’s also unclear whether any big players, like Google with its Home system, or Apple with Siri, will be able to catch up to the head start that Amazon seemed to develop after last year’s show.
One of the most common sights at last year’s event was creepy, minuscule humanoid robots milling around the convention floors. Most of them were pretty useless—basically tablets with faces—but a few have started to ship to consumers, including Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri, which we loved last year. Expect there to be many more crazy bots that may or may not actually bring any value to anyone’s life.
In recent years, some have joked—not well—that CES actually stands for “Car Electronics Show,” given that a large portion of the convention has been dedicated to technology for inside cars, as well as making cars safer and greener. We’ve seen new car operating systems, self-driving cars, plug-in hybrids, gadgets to bring connectivity to cars, cars with drones on them, and many zany concept cars. It’s unlikely that this year will be any different.
CES has always been about showing off the latest screens. For years, that’s meant new televisions, and there will be tons of those there, many featuring ridiculously high-resolution 8K displays, but there will also be new smartphones and tablets from a range of manufacturers. Many of the larger players, like Samsung or Apple, don’t show up or have separate events to launch their newest phones, but there will likely be new devices from smaller companies, replete with wacky gimmicks. Last year, we saw phones that could take and display actual 3D images:
We’ll also see a ton of other usual suspects, like fridges, drones, wearables, washing machines, and dishwashers.
The last few years have seen demonstrations of all sorts of new reality-bending technologies, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. VR systems were all the rage a few years back, with the launches of Oculus’ Rift headset, the HTC Vive, and the Playstation VR system. There will likely be new content demos for each at this year’s CES, but it’s unlikely we’ll see much new hardware. There’s recently been more focus around augmented reality, with software support from Apple and Google released since the last CES. Expect to see more technology built on top of smartphone augmented reality at this year’s show, and potentially some standalone devices to compete with the headset that Magic Leap finally showed off last month.
A few surprises?
There’s talk that we’ll learn more about what 5G cellular technology actually will be this CES, or that truly wireless charging may somehow no longer defy the laws of physics and become a reality. But what makes CES special, and part of why so many people decamp to Las Vegas each year, is all of the bizarre and wonderful gadgets and technologies that are on display. Sometimes it’s small things, like a robot that cleans your grill; sometimes it’s bigger things, like giant mech suits. But there’s always something bizarre that shows up each CES. And we’ll be there to cover it.
Sign up for the Quartz CES Daily Brief, a daily dispatch from our reporters at the world’s largest consumer technology conference.