There's one really good reason to attend the CES 2016 conference in Las Vegas each year: You will see, in full display as you walk around, the trends that will shape the entire year.
Over the years, everything from 4K broadcasts to thin tablets and the proliferation of ultrabooks has impacted budgets and changed which devices might replace that crusty old laptop, Wi-Fi router, or server in the back closet.
These trends do more than just help you plan your purchases. They show you how digital technology will drive how we do business and impact your customer base. Blink and you might miss the re-emergence of smartwatches or aerial drones and get stuck with outdated tech.
This year, there are a few interesting trends to track.
1. VR is getting even bigger.
If you're not working on a VR app for your real estate business or travel agency, get with the program. One of the coolest demos here is a product called iCAROS, a flying simulator where you lay on a contraption made of steel and float above a game-world. Samsung, HTC, Oculus, and many others make the goggles, but I keep seeing add-on hardware that makes the experience more realistic.
2. Baby tech is advancing.
There's a whole section at CES 2016 for baby tech, which might not seem that impressive until you look into what they are developing. One product called the Owlet fits on an infant's foot (up to 18 months old) and monitors breathing. The device connects to a base station and an app.
3. The hologram is real.
A company called Kino-Mo based in London makes a hologram for signage and other purposes. It looked ultra-realistic to me, hovering above a table like the Death Star. In one, a watch seemed to spin in midair. A camera projected a 3-D multisided image.
4. Drone racing is a thing.
Kopin recently developed a battery that is small enough to fit into a pair of smart goggles and last all day, showing a small high-res display. No, it's not Google Glass all over again. Instead, it's being used at places like Zappos for drone racing events, during which the controller can see the video feed from their quadcopter. It's an emerging trend: pop-up displays will help bicyclists, runners, and sports fans.
5. Twitter wants to become hardware-enabled.
A company called Muzik showed me a demo of its headphones. As you listen to music, you can share a "moment" that includes your exact location or let your followers know which music you like. There's something called Twitter City at a hotel here with other hardware vendors showing how to integrate with the social media platform. It's a sign Twitter wants to be much more than an app.
6. Electric cars we will actually purchase.
Tesla is a big name in electric cars--for everything except actual sales figures. Meanwhile, Chevy revealed the new Bolt EV here at CES, a car that, at around $30,000, will be much more affordable for the average consumer and has a range that's also impressive--about 200 miles.