CES usually follows a predictable pattern: TVs, speakers, laptops, some tablets, a few phones if we're lucky, a smattering of car systems, smarter washing machines and some "fringe" devices like VR, which admittedly is becoming less fringe by the minute.
But at CES 2016, we're expecting a break from the norm.
Already we've learned that car tech and VR will be given a much greater focus during the 2016 edition. Since most companies reserve their next-gen mobiles for MWC, we're looking for the likes of LG, Samsung and Sony to announce stunning wearables, advancements in AR/VR and R&D developments that may never make it to market, but are sure as hell cool to look at (remember Youm?).
From virtual reality headsets and wearables to electric vehicles and drones, this CES promises to bring about a paradigm shift for the biggest tech show of the year. Read on for the top gadgets and trends to look for now and, we'd bet, well into CESes of the future.
Christian de Looper also contributed to this article
The organizing body behind CES has caught on to what we all already knew: the future is VR, and the future is here.
CES 2016 will feature an expanded Gaming & Virtual Reality Marketplace, giving room to 40 exhibitors to show off new devices and experiences. We'll be looking for the hottest developments in the VR space, including a new trend that's beginning to take hold: virtual reality cameras. Could we see more crazy rigs like the 360-degree Jump GoPro rig and the newly announced Nokia OZO? We hope so, especially as that means expanded and better quality VR content coming from creators.
There's buzz building that CES will give us a post-holiday treat in the form of Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive release dates. All are slated to come out in early 2016 - what could be earlier than January?
We expect wearables to make waves at CES 2016 as the sector has seen massive changes since CES 2015. The most significant development was the release of the Apple Watch, a device that's enjoyed respectable sales and prompted competitors to step up their game when it comes to smartwatches and bands.
We've also seen several updates to Android Wear in the last few months, bringing about a number of new functions, plus the first wave of high-end Android Wear smartwatches, like the Tag Heuer Connected. And with devices such as the Microsoft Band 2 putting its money where its mouth is when it comes fitness and health features, look for more smartwatches and bands at CES 2016 that make you feel as good as they look.
Just one of the names we think will make a wearable splash is Huawei. The Chinese firm is hosting a January 5 press conference where it will unveil a new portfolio of devices and discuss how its tech makes "people's lives more connected and convenient." We sniff wearable in that statement.
Considering the company already has the Huawei Watch, which has a comparable price to other smartwatches, we could see Huawei put its chips on a budget or luxury device to diversify its offerings. Also look for a new piece from Pebble, which reliably unleashes new watches at CES, even if it's just an upgrade to a current product.
The smartphone will feature at CES 2016, though not in as central a way as it will at Mobile World Congress just one month later.
The most likely candidate to show a new phone at CES 2016 is LG, which last year made headlines with the LG G Flex 2. While we haven't heard anything specific about a LG G Flex 3 release, it's possible the LG G4 maker could pull a repeat this year. Asus also unveiled the Zenfone 2 at CES 2015, so might its CES 2016 press event welcome the Zenfone 3? Don't call us surprised if it does.
The marker of CES phone trends is to show off a gimmicky feature (bending, in the case of the G Flex 2) or give a device the chance to gain some traction outside of the smartphone-saturated MWC. Phones revealed at CES aren't going to be barn-burners, but they are going to show you something you likely won't see in other devices during the course of the year. That, or you'll totally forget them a month later.
While we don't expect an earth-shattering phone reveal, we are keen to see phone developments on the inside. Huawei has developed a charging technology that brings a phone battery up to full strength 10x faster than most on the market. We'd love to see that in action at CES 2016. What's more, with Qualcomm in the house, we're sure to hear about smart charging and the Snapdragon developments it's got cooking for 2016 and beyond.
It's also highly likely Samsung and Sony will cart the Galaxy S7 and Xperia Z6 to Las Vegas to show behind closed doors, just as each has done with flagships past.
In fact, Asus has said it will create a more affordable version of the HoloLens, with plans on releasing the device sometime in 2016. A company like Asus turning heads with an AR device at CES would be a smart move, even if it doesn't plan on releasing it until later in the year.
It's also likely that we'll see smaller companies enter the augmented reality market with devices of their own, so keep an eye out for emerging firms with all-new experiences come early January.
As many as nine major carmakers and 100 automotive technology companies will be on hand at CES 2016, representing a hefty 25% increase in car tech companies over CES 2015. That's a big deal, and highlights the growing interest in automotive technology from various industries.
The key car trend at CES 2016 will be autonomous driving. With Delphi, Google, Mercedes and Tesla leading the self-driving charge, car and car tech makers won't want to disappoint when it comes to showing the future of transportation.
Nvidia, for one, plans to follow last year's CES appearance by talking once again about self-driving cars. The company holds autos close to its heart, and we expect CES 2016 to be its biggest foray yet into the autonomous car space. Brace yourself for something vehicularly significant coming from the chip maker.
Audi just announced plans to show a concept car at CES, one that will likely include piloted driving abilities.
It's also likely that we'll see announcements related to in-car infotainment systems and developments like advanced window displays at CES.
Finally, Faraday Future, a brand-new car maker, will unveil a concept car during the show. Big deal, you say? Given that FF is an electric car maker with interests in autonomous driving and other technology, our interest is piqued, to say the least, as this could be the beginnings of a true Tesla rival. Smart, even self-driving, electric vehicles - this is a trend to watch.
Laptops and tablets
Laptops are often front and center at CES, and there have been a number of major developments in 'top technology over the last year. USB-C, for one, has seriously begun to gain steam, and manufacturers are sure to show a shift towards embracing the standard to keep pace.
The top trend when it comes to laptops though will be Windows 10. High-power, affordable and everything-in-between machines will likely dominate the CES laptop conversation, setting the stage for the rest of the year.
But laptops won't be the only devices to feature the new operating system: tablet manufacturers are going to show off their latest slates running the new operating system, including ones that will compete with the Surface Pro 4 and even Microsoft's first 2-in-1, the Surface Book.
It's also likely that firms will unveil aimed at taking down the Apple iPad Pro, meaning that larger tablets with a focus on creating, productivity and media streaming should make their presence known at the show.
Smart home and Internet of Things
What CES may sometimes lack in major device announcements it often tries to make up for by showing us the future of connectivity, from our homes to our clothes.
On the smart home front, not only will see the latest intelligent washing machines, but we also expect to hear more about home security solutions and smart home systems, à la Nest. For example, a smart home company named Blink was already named the CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree. Blink is known for a Kickstarter campaign that raised $1 million and offers wireless home monitoring at an affordable price. We think Blink and more of its kin will be a big trend to watch for in the convention halls.
As for the Internet of Things, the last two CES have attempted to show us just what life could look like if everything in it were connected. Intel did just that during CES 2015, and with CEO Brian Krzanich giving yet another keynote, look for even more talk of data, chips that can fit on buttons and robots.
Samsung has been all about IoT at CES of late - even committing to becoming a 100% IoT company by 2020 - so expect an update and expanded look at what this means for the company and consumers during as we rapidly approach that deadline.
We're heading into a hugely important year for drones. With more recreational unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) taking to the skies than ever before, companies like Amazon lining up to send delivery drones door-to-door, and the US requiring the registration of some drones, we could see major and long-lasting developments in the drone space before long.
CES 2016 promises to deliver the latest in drone development and provide a read on what's to come. There's a dedicated Unmanned Systems Marketplace at CES this year, where 25 UAV makers will show their wares. Parrot also, just announced the Bebop 2 drone, setting a new standard for affordability and battery life. We hope to see both these become hallmarks of drones heading into the New Year.
Drone photography and other applications, like search and rescue, are additional capabilities we'll be on the look out for when it comes to drones at CES.
Ah, TVs. Just when you think television sets and services have been all innovated out, CES comes along to prove you wrong. 2016's show will be no different. Here's why.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) and 4K content are going to be major areas of focus for every company, from LG to Sony to Panasonic to TCL. Delivering content that actually looks how its supposed to on the expensive HDR-compatible or 4K TV you bought is finally coming around, and CES 2016 should see the largest deliverance on this promise yet.
Streaming services will continue to mature, and with Dish and Sling TV holding a joint press conference this year, we expect a sizable something is on the way.
Lastly, but most fun, TVs at CES are all about pushing the boundaries of what's possible. How many pixels can you pack into a display? How sharp can you make the contrast, and how curvy can you make that screen? Is this the last we've heard of SUHD and Quantum Dots, or are we in for the next round? Will we see another set of sets that can bend, this time automatically?
The main trend you can expect with TVs at CES 2016 is that companies will go for broke when it comes to impressing you, no matter how unrealistic these screens are for your living room.