CES 2016: four trends to look for at the year’s biggest tech conference

From scooters to virtual reality, here are four trends that are likely to show up at CES 2016 – and stick around well after the show ends.

Rick Wilking/Reuters
An attendee passes a sign for the opening event at CES 2016 (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 4, 2016.

The Consumer Electronics Show, held each year since 1967 (and based in Las Vegas since 1998), isn’t a perfect predictor of what the future of electronics will look like. Plenty of products make a big splash at CES but aren’t widely adopted by consumers – 3D TVs, for example, were all the rage at previous CES events, but still aren’t selling particularly well. Still, many major tech trends, from the VCR to Internet-connected appliances, debuted at CES. As CES 2016 gets underway, here are four trends that are likely to stick around after the exhibition booths are broken down:

1. “Rideables”

Last year, the Gogoro Smartscooter was one of the biggest surprises of CES, and this year other “rideables” – Internet-connected vehicles such as scooters and electric skateboards – will be all over. Segway will make a big announcement on January 6, and plenty of smaller companies will be showing off electric bikes, scooters, and three-wheeled vehicles. We won’t, however, be seeing any hoverboards, since they’re banned outside of demonstration booths.

2. Virtual and augmented reality

We already know that major VR companies such as Oculus and HTC will begin shipping their headsets in the spring, but other players may well announce their own VR devices at CES 2016 – 40 exhibitors have rented space at CES to show off VR technology. We’re also likely to see some games and movies announced at CES that will use virtual reality to immerse people in digital worlds. Augmented reality devices, which cause digital objects to appear alongside physical ones, will also get a lot of attention at the show this year.

3. Cars – self-driving and not

Over the years, automakers have had a bigger and bigger presence at CES. That’s because even staid companies are embracing the idea of car-as-gadget – that is, an auto that can receive software updates to improve its performance over its life. This year, expect to see a handful of major announcements (and lots of smaller ones) from Detroit. GM has been working on the electric Chevy Bolt for years, and will show off the production model at CES 2016. This is a big deal, since the Bolt could be the first long-range, mass-market electric car (GM says it will get more than 200 miles on a charge and will cost less than $40,000 before tax credits). Volkswagen will announce a new electric car at the show, and Ford and Google may share some details about how they’re cooperating on self-driving cars.

4. Securing the Internet of Things 

The Internet of Things, the quickly-growing web of home appliances and devices that communicate with one another and with phones, tablets, and computers, isn’t a new trend by any stretch. But in light of security lapses last year ranging from cars that can be remotely controlled to hackable baby monitors, companies and regulators are giving serious thought to how to safeguard privacy and security now that so many devices are connected to the Internet. Companies will likely use the CES stage to introduce beefed-up security for Internet of Things devices, recognizing that many people won’t feel comfortable having them in their homes unless the devices are reasonably hardened against hackers. The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and the Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, the two regulatory bodies tasked with overseeing the Internet of Things and other technologies, will also discuss privacy and security issues in a series of panels

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