Yeah, it's always been a gadget orgy in the middle of the Las Vegas desert. But every year, what matters at CES — the big annual Consumer Electronic Show — is always a little different. And while there's always plenty of bullshit to weed through, CES is still an accurate barometer for what to expect from technology in the year ahead.
This year feels laser-focused on the next generation of transportation and entertainment. And, of course, the kind of rampant consumerism we all know and love.
Gizmodo will be reporting from CES all week long. Here's our expert take on what you can expect from the show.
Car stuff, car stuff, and more car stuff
CES has increasingly become more of a car show over the last few years, and in 2016 that trend continues. CES is a time for auto and tech companies to show of their latest collaborations, whether that's infotainment systems, guidance systems, or simply a smart car's onboard chipset.
Companies like Faraday Future are so eager to show off all the cool shit they're bringing to Vegas, they have even put together a little close-crop auto porn to whet our appetite.
— Faraday Future (@FaradayFuture) December 30, 2015
Chevy, Audi, and Volkswagen will also be in attendance, showing off their latest wares on four wheels, and the ultra-big auto news may be finally finding out more details about the Ford/Google autonomous car company that's rumoured to be in the works.
TVs. Always TVs.
CES has changed a lot over the years (remember that weird porn phase), but one thing has remained constant — televisions. In 2011, it was all about 3D. In 2014, smart TVs were the future companies were selling (a future that is still a terrible idea). In 2016? It's hard to say what the Big New Thing will be, but the Internet of Things will likely be at its heart. Samsung already announced that it's integrated SmartThings, the IoT company it snatched up last year, into every one of its new televisions, making your TV not just an entertainment center but the heart of your entire home.
We're probably also going to see a lot more OLED TVs from other companies, hopefully at affordable prices. Panasonic will definitely be among them, having shown off an OLED set at IFA 2015 in Berlin a few months back.
Ever since Oculus launched its VR headset on Kickstarter in 2012, CES has been a huge stage for the emerging entertainment platform. This year, consumer virtual reality tech is at its zenith, and I just want get these headsets on my face already.
Other companies have been pretty tightlipped so far about what they will actually be showing. It's probably a safe bet that Oculus will have its consumer unit show floor-ready for CES, and with Sony planning a long evening press conference, PlayStation VR might be ready, too. HTC's Vive will also definitely be making an appearance.
Samsung's already teased an upcoming controller for Gear VR, and I can only assume an absolute shitstorm of VR accessories is coming for the Las Vegas Convention Center. 2016 is the year of VR, and at CES we will finally see what that really means.
The unforeseen gadget success (and subsequent failure) was the "hoverboard" that doesn't hover. Basically segways in disguise, these things exploded in popularity in 2015, and then they literally started exploding. But that probably won't dissuade a flood of millions and zillions of ripoffs, hopefully with neat non-exploding features.
Segway just announced a hoverboard-with-a-seat hybrid about a week ago, so the needless hover-gadgetry is already increasing. Strangely, CES (along with many other parts of the world) has banned hoverboards from the showfloor, which is a little awkward for any company trying to sell you on one.
Tons of weird
But you really just want to see the weird shit, right? The strange, superfluous, crazy, awkward, head-scratchingly bizarre things that only a trade show like CES can spawn. Same here. Samsung's got a smart belt. So that's a start. There was this stupid thing from last year. I hope Sony makes a $US5,000 ($6,863) Walkman this year. And another celebrity meltdown would be fun.
Seriously you guys, it's going to be great.
Illustration by Andrew Liszewski