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CES 2015 - The Top Two Themes

January 31, 2015 – by Per Christensson

Each year at CES, a few predominant themes emerge. There were several new types of products at CES 2015, including wireless chargers, driverless cars, wearables, and the Internet of Things. However, the top two themes that stood out to me were virtual reality and drones.

Virtual Reality

CES 2015 Virtuix Omni Demonstration

Virtual reality products have been around for years. However, the buzz at CES 2015 was that this is the year when virtual reality is finally going to break out. Oculus (the company Facebook bought for $2 billion) had one of the most popular booths as people waited in line for hours just to try on one of the latest headsets. Razer demoed their "OSVR" platform, an open source development kit for virtual reality devices. Both Oculus and Razer touted their latest gadgets as almost production-ready, meaning they plan to begin selling them to consumers this year.

Even with all the hype surrounding virtual reality at CES this year, I'm not optimistic. Virtual reality devices have failed every time they have been introduced to the mass market and I don't think this year will be an exception. The Oculus demos showed that the 3D visual and aural experience has improved by leaps and bounds in the last decade. But this doesn't fix the main problem with virtual reality: you have to wear a bulky headset.

While virtual reality might look cool from inside the helmet, it's hard to argue that anyone using a virtual reality device doesn't look ridiculous. Plus, you have to be careful where you use it so that you don't knock over any lamps, plants, or people while you are flailing your arms about. I worry that even if the VR devices are released this year, it will be another passing fad and the VR headsets will soon end up in the same pile as Wii controllers and Guitar Hero guitars.

Drones

Attack of the drones! CES 2015 was filled with drone exhibits by companies from around the world, including France, China, and the U.S. Fortunately, the drones were all confined to netted cages or show floor would have been rather chaotic.

CES 2015 Parrot Drones

There were a wide range of drones, from mini-drones that could almost fit in your hand, to large drones that were nearly three feet in diameter. The most impressive display (and the most popular based on the size of the crowd) was Parrot's drone demonstration. Five mini-drones flew in a programmed pattern, almost dancing to the music playing in the background. The drones moved together, then switched places, then followed each other through the ring in the middle of the cage, each with striking accuracy. The onboard LEDs lit up to the music, giving the drones a highly personal feel, similar to the robot from WALL-E.

This demo and others at CES showed that drones have come a long way in the past few years and are now very capable machines. We've already seen drones used for taking photos and videos with GoPro cameras but I think we're just beginning to tap their capabilities. I know it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but drone delivery service might not be too far away.

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