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BW Businessworld

Tech In The Year 2016

This year, one of the overwhelming themes at the show was Virtual Reality or VR as it’s more fondly called.

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The consumer Electronics Show, CES, is one from a handful of shows where one gets to see whatever innovations tech companies and startups can dream up. The themes that throb through the four days of this show in Las Vegas tell us something about the trends for the rest of the year. There are lots of extremely interesting gadgets — but some of them never see the light of day after the show. In fact, some are used to make a branding statement for a company or are there as an experiment. There’s also a lot of noise over specific technologies — those are often still in a hype cycle that races ahead of real life usage.

All the same, CES is an exciting and fun show where sometimes surprising and bizarre tech makes an appearance.

This year, one of the overwhelming themes at the show was Virtual Reality or VR as it’s more fondly called. In fact, we’ve moved on from the Year of the Smartphone and the Year of Wearables to The Year of VR. Any wonder Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wanted a big piece of it. This is the year VR can actually be bought, though it won’t spread far and wide just yet.

VR is led by Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive headset at the moment, but all sorts of VR gear is being showcased or launched. Early players have had the chance to refine their products — an example is Samsung’s Gear VR — and are ready to bring them to market. They need to become less awkward, make people less nauseous and they need to be less expensive. In India, Lenovo has just launched a phone with a headset, for just over Rs 12,000 that is focused on viewing VR content. And indeed, it’s probably on the mobile that the masses will first get to try out VR in its simpler forms.

Whether it’s a VR-ready PC or Google Cardboard, VR lets you interact with a space and objects that aren’t there. You can grab objects, walk through places and have an impact on another reality. Like a parallel universe. Its applications for gaming, marketing, education, and more make it an exciting technology to look forward to.

Wearables were a theme all of last year. In many ways, wearables didn’t fulfil their touted potential. At CES, wearables were still all about health and fitness tracking. But things did get decidedly interesting as companies showcased new ways of doing wearables, including, tech built into clothing. At CES, a smart bra that tracks and encourages working out caught much attention.

Drones and connected driverless car tech were mega at CES as well. Drones of all kinds are buzzing their way into the wild and the one thing that is glaringly obvious is the urgent need for regulations to be worked out. As for driverless car tech, that will actually make its way into consumer vehicles a lot this year, but not as driverless cars — more in the form of tech solutions that assist driving and make it smarter.

The Internet of Things and the Connected Home were also big at CES this year. As usual, there were some jaw dropping and unimaginable things, such as Samsung’s fridge with an enormous 21-inch screen on the door. It’s been said to look like a vertical TV. It’s supposed to tell you what’s inside, what needs replenishing, etc. It will also send messages to your phone to remind you what to order. It’s going to be $5,000 so it’s a whole lot cheaper to open the door and look. But the fridge is supposed to be a “Family Hub” to let you control a lot of other connected things all over the house. The IOT star at CES though, was Amazon’s Echo, for which everyone else is building add-on tech.

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 25-01-2016)