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CES 2016: 3 Big Tech & TV Trends to Watch

After a decade or so of attending CES, I know how to manage (mostly) the combination of anticipation and dread that comes with preparing to head out to Vegas to see more than 100,000 of my closest friends. And one way to get a handle on the enormity of the event is to consolidate the content I'm interested in into a few broad categories. With that in mind, here are three of the big trends I'll be watching at CES 2016. Stay tuned for on-site reporting (and plenty of visuals) next week.

Virtual reality
In past years I've walked away from CES with funny pictures of people wearing 3D glasses. In 2016, that image is sure to be replaced with photos of people decked out in VR goggles. Thanks to the deep pockets of Facebook and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), and innovation from small companies and big brands like Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), virtual reality is on the verge of creating a mainstream presence. From the CES PR pitches flooding in, I've seen hints of everything from new VR cameras and chips for virtual reality gaming to interactive VR tabletops, VR motion controllers and -- you knew it was coming -- VR streaming of adult entertainment. (Side note: Let's not forget the origins of CES, and the connections to the adult industry that persist today.)

Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre and yours truly (Mari Silbey) are not immune to the VR headset look.
Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre and yours truly (Mari Silbey) are not immune to the
VR headset look.

According to the Silicon Valley consultant firm Digi-Capital, investment in the virtual reality market jumped by a factor of six between the second quarter of 2014 and the second quarter of 2015. And the Consumer Technology Association (no longer the Consumer Electronics Association) says there will be more than 40 companies exhibiting at CES this year specifically in the Gaming and Virtual Reality Marketplace. That's not including the big names like Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) that are also likely to have VR demos in their central area booths.

Naturally, VR investment is going to have a big impact on communications networks. That aspect will be less evident at CES, but you can be sure the service providers in attendance will be paying attention to the networking implications. (CES is as much -- if not more -- about back-room deals and debates as it is about the demos on the show floor.) Compression technologies like the patented solutions NextVR has for shrinking VR streams down to bit rates of 6 Mbits/s to 8 Mbits/s are going to become increasingly important, as are software tools for network resource management. (See The TV of Tomorrow Is All Digital, Virtual.)

In fact, virtual reality may become one of the most worthy challenges of the New IP era. VR applications are one thing. Developing the infrastructure to support those VR apps, many of which will be seen first at CES 2016, is quite another.

IoT at home
Like last year, research firm Parks Associates will once again host its Connections Summit at CES 2016 focused heavily on the Internet of Things and smart home technologies. But this year the smart home stakes have risen considerably. Now we have Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Google overtly competing to own the IoT hub in the home with the Echo and OnHub products, while cable and telecom companies are also consolidating their strategies for delivering smart home services both through their own equipment and software platforms, and with the help of popular gadgets like the Nest thermostat and August smart locks. (See Xfinity Home Nets Nest & More.)

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Mitch Wagner 1/7/2016 | 5:22:24 PM
Re: Connected home We lost the whole contents of the fridge. The power company agreed to pay to replace it. The catch is that we had to itemize everything. 

Could you itemize the value of the contents of your fridge right now? What is the value of a third of a bottle of salad dressing?
thebulk 1/7/2016 | 11:58:08 AM
Re: Connected home @Mitch, I think that will be one of the biggest bennifits for the smart home, that we will be able to know before something is broken and hopefully avoid massie failures. 
thebulk 1/7/2016 | 11:23:40 AM
Re: Connected home That had to really suck with the fridge, I hope you didnt lose too much. 
thebulk 1/7/2016 | 10:57:36 AM
Re: Connected home @Mitch, I couldnt agree more about standards, it needs to happy, like yesterday. 
Mitch Wagner 1/5/2016 | 10:31:59 AM
Re: Connected home The refrigerator would know several weeks in advance when a part was in danger of failing, same way as now can be done with industrial equipment. It could alert the service center for a service call. The service center would make sure the needed part was available and on the truck with the serviceperson when that person rolled to make a service call. 

And even if that didn't work, then at least I'd get a message and be able to text my neighbor: "Hey, the fridge just died and we're out of town. Help yourself to whatever's in there before it goes bad." And then the fridge could alert the service center, make sure the necessary part was available, etc. 
t.bogataj 1/5/2016 | 3:09:48 AM
Re: Connected home Mitch,

How on earth would your knowing the refrigerator died help you while you're 10,000 miles away??? Except for spoilng your vacation immediately?

No sensible use case here.

Mitch Wagner 1/4/2016 | 11:08:26 AM
Re: Connected home As someone who once came home from a week-long vacation to find the refrigerator had died on the second day, I can see an IoT use case in appliances that yell for help when they're on the verge of failing. 

Likewise, who in the developed world can stand to be without a washing machine? Like we're going to go down to the river and beat our clothes against flat rocks?
Mitch Wagner 1/4/2016 | 11:06:30 AM
Re: Connected home thebulk - Standardization will prove to be a huge issue. A business might buy a whole platform, but consumers buy their appliances in pieces parrts over the course of a decade. Dishwasher now, refrigerator in seven years, whatever. These appliances will be purchased from separate vendors, but for the smart home to talke off, they need to work with one another. 

Fortunately for the IoT, vendors are working on this. 
Mitch Wagner 1/4/2016 | 11:03:40 AM
Re: Connected home msilbey - People who have Echoes love them. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a luddite on that one, not seeing the need.

Then again, I am never out of arm's reach of my iPhone, other than when I shower. Never ever. I keep hearing about people who want to check something online but they "left their phone in the other room." I don't even know what that means.

So perhaps I am not the target audience for the Echo. 
thebulk 12/31/2015 | 10:19:23 PM
Re: Connected home @msilbey, I agree that it going to just keep getting smarter and have more in home functions. I think devices like this one, perhaps not exactly this device to take over and be intergrated across our home, car and mobile device. 
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