CES 2016 preview: What to expect from the biggest tech show on earth - from virtual reality and wearables to drones and driverless cars

Lynsey Barber
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VR will be even closer to reality this year (Source: Getty)

No sooner has the new year arrived than the annual CES event is upon us, the biggest show of technology and electronics which are soon likely to change our lives.

This year, there may be less focus on the headline-grabbing devices that have become familiar in recent years, according to Accenture, as the less glamorous technology and software underpinning our digital lives - think connected homes and security - get more of the attention.

But the trends at CES 2016 are likely to focus on four major areas - wearables, virtual reality, driverless cars, and drones. Here's our run down of what to expect.

Who wore it best?

The rise of wearables will continue with Apple Watch having made its debut in 2015 and fully launching the concept into the consumer's mind. While they're likely to be the biggest driver of wearable growth in the next three years, according to IDC, new items will be emerging too.

Fitness tracking king Fitbit is due to make an announcement - likely new products - as is Misfit, the wearable tech company bought by traditional watchmaker Fossil in November. One of Misfit's devices is a familiar activity tracker, but another is not. "Activity tracking is great but it's very 2013. The era of wearable controls is here. Controls, identity, payments, we're on it. We have a lot of software updates coming in the next six months," chief executive Sonny Vu told Wareable.

The concept of wearables is likely to expand with exhibitors showing off devices in healthcare and clothing. There's also likely to be a greater focus on the apps and services used on wearable devices, Accenture says.

Is this reality?

We have the headsets, now, we just need the stuff to watch and play on it. Much like the iPhone launching with a handful of apps, the development of VR hardware is potentially difficult to get on the consumer radar like, say, the hoverboard craze, and often the hardware and software development go hand in hand. But it's not just entertainment where VR will make progress, beyond there are areas such as healthcare to property - expect demonstrations of further applications of the technology.

Most of the major names in VR - Facebook's Oculus, Samsung, Sony and HTC - will be in attendance and showing off what the devices can really do.

On the road

Of course cars are all about tech, but that tech has largely remained in the world of car-making... until now. With the prospect of driverless cars not far down the road from almost every major tech company, it's no wonder the traditional car companies are eager to grab the attention of their new rivals' crowd.

That's why you'll see the likes of Volkswagen (including Audi), General Motors, Kia and BMW on the floor and making keynote speeches.


Fresh from its woes in 2015, Volkswagen will showcase its new electric vehicle concept looking to leave behind a terrible year when it was left scandalised by emissions tests and look to a future free from such problems

VW exec Herbert Diess is giving a keynote speech and the German car maker has already teased us with this:


The Korean car maker is also already full-speed ahead, promising the unveiling of its self-driving car plans, having received a permit to test vehicles in Nevada less than a month ago. It's already outlined ambitions for partly autonomous vehicles by 2020 and to get fully autonomous ones in the hands of consumers by 2030.


BMW is promising to unveil its software concept for driverless cars. It's calling this the AirTouch 3D gesture control. Translated, that means controlling a screen with gestures rather than touch.

Ford + Google

One of the oldest car brands in the world and one of the biggest tech companies in the world are teaming up, each bringing their own expertise to the road, according to reports. There's widespread speculation that this will be announced at CES this week.

Game of drones

Drones may be experiencing the spotlight of regulators as well as tech enthusiasts, but that shows no sign of slowing things down.

The commercial and consumer drone space has tripled in size at CES and the US market alone grew by more than half in 2015 to become worth $105m, according to research from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

No doubt there will be discussion about the Federal Aviation Authority's (FAA) new rules for drone registration in the US which soon come into force, after all, the FAA administrator Michael Huerta will be there.

GoPro chief Nicholas Woodman will be making a keynote address, and many are crossing their fingers for an announcement about its drone plans, if not the devices itself.

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