As 2016 comes to a close, many tech enthusiasts start looking to the next horizon. It takes place in Las Vegas, and it's a massive event.

CES 2017 starts on January 5 and I'll be there as usual, scouring the showfloor for gadgets and tech trends. Here's what I'll be scouting.

1. Drone and autonomous car fleets

Not giving anything away here, but there are rumblings about the need for automated cars and drones to operate in a fleet, connected to each other and part of a fleet control center. I'm aware of at least one company making an announcement about a drone fleet. (Amazon has already started delivering products by drone in the UK.)

2. VR goes mainstream

VR made a splash at CES a few years ago, and last year there were quite a few tech demos. In 2016, three major products started shipping, including the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and the Sony PlayStation VR. (Oh, and Google released Daydream VR.) For CES 2017, I'm expecting VR to go mainstream with more apps and games, more companies involved, and more mainstream awareness.

3. Augmented reality that actually helps you

Augmented reality (AR) was more like a magic trick in the past. At CES 2017, I'm expecting to see AR that provides actual help in some way. AR is like an overlay on top of the real world. Microsoft HoloLens is a leader here, and I'm expecting to go hands-on. One example from 2016 of how this works is the Lenovo Phab 2 phone and the Lowe's app. You can use it to measure the space in a room and find out if a couch will fit.

4. We finally figure out that HDR is really important

I've tested 4K movies many times over the past year or so, and one of the big realizations I had is that HDR (or High Dynamic Range) is critically important. It makes 4K movies look much better with deeper blacks and almost a matte finish that makes movies look more realistic. HDR was big at CES in the past, but this year I'm expecting more streaming media devices to support it (one example is the recent Roku Ultra).

5. Chatbots become more viable

In 2016, I used chatbots to arrange all of my business travel. I wasn't quite ready to use them for banking or as an avatar that handles my email quite yet, but that's coming. I'm planning to track down chatbots that help us with productivity during our daily routine, and look for robots that also help us in more practical ways.

6. AI in the smarthome saves you time

Smart homes are going to get a lot smarter, and by "smart" I don't mean you can turn off the lights when you say a command. Instead, AI will watch who is in the house and look for traffic patterns, then adjust the heat, turn off lights, and remind me to close the garage door without any spoken commands or apps at all. Vivint is already planning AI for the home that adapts to your daily routine.

7. 5G debuts

I already have a few meetings to test out 5G service, the next wave of cellular connectivity. I remember testing 4G at CES for the first time a few years ago. 5G promises consistent connections with more access points not just a speed boost.

Published on: Dec 21, 2016