The consumer electronics show in Las Vegas is done for another year and the tech world is already turning its eyes towards MWC in a couple of weeks. However, I thought we should take a look at the major trends appearing this year and what it means practically for consumers in the real world.
To nobody’s great surprise major car companies used CES to showcase everything to hydrogen powered cars to the latest in driverless car technical. New concepts from BMW and a new player in Faraday Future may have captured people’s attention but it was other announcements that are more likely to make a difference in the consumer market. Mainstream manufacturers Kia with is Drive Wise range of semi to fully autonomous vehicles, Toyota FCV hydrogen powered concept and Ford’s Smart mobility program which includes current road testing of experimental driverless cars all put forward an exciting vision of the future. In addition, Volkswagen unveiled the BUDD-e an electric powered van and Chevrolet showed off their own take on the electric car in the Bolt. It’s no wonder that CES is become the Car Electronics Show. As wonderful as all this sounds however it’s important to remember that a lot of these plans won’t start becoming a reality until 2020 not least of which because of the need for uninterrupted internet connectivity.
Drones and Robotics
The CES floor was no doubt buzzing with new drones but the biggest announcement was the Yuneec’s Typhoon H. Using Intel’s Real Sense technology and Sonar senses the Typhoon H is able to avoid large obstacles in conjunction with the standard high end features it isn’t surprisingly that it captured a fair amount of attention. Most of the other announcements like the DJI Inspire Pro 1 and Phantom 4K offered upgrades to existing models. On the robotics side it was undoubtedly the Ninebot the collaboration between Segway, Intel and Xiaomi. No word yet on price but I suspect when it hits the market late this year that it will be out of reach for most consumers.
Internet of Things
Just in case you have been living under a rock the new age of computing connects all kinds of device to the internet in order to make our lives easier. The IoT is yet to really take off with consumers but with big announcements from Intel with the Curie and Samsung’s partnership with Microsoft might mean that this is the year that IoT starts building for the future. Intel’s plan with New Balance to print custom shoe inserts caught my interest as it might offer everyone with flat feet like myself an easier solution.
Virtual and Augmented reality
The biggest news in VR broke before the convention got started with Oculus Rift announcing their pricing for their long awaited headset. A $600 US price tag seemed to get a few people upset but considering the price of other products and the inclusion of an Xbox One controller this appears reasonable. Now if any US techies really want to get worked up they can think about the $920 plus postage for Australian preorders, now that’s ridiculous. In addition, the other major developers including HTC and Sony used CES to demo new virtual reality content and their latest builds. One thing is for certain 2016 is definitely going to be the year of VR.
MWC in February is when most phone and tablet makers except Apple announce their major product news but that doesn’t mean they didn’t bring anything to Vegas. Acer showed off their first Windows 10 handset the Liquid Jade Primo while the Huawei Honor 5X seemed like a premium Android handset. At the more affordable end LG’s K series and Alcatel’s Windows and Android phones got plenty of attention. PC makers seem to be following Microsoft’s lead making more hybrid Surface like devices that focus a little more on sleek design. Out of all these tablet convertibles my favourite was definitely the Samsung Galaxy TabPRO S, a high-end Windows 10 tablet with a full keyboard cover. Notably this marks the first time that the Galaxy brand has not been associated with Android suggesting that Samsung has recognised the benefits of Windows in the tablet market, we will just have to wait and see if this trend continues.
E3 2015 has unleashed a wave of surprises and exciting new games for Xbox One and PS4 fans alike but with all the announcements done, it’s time to reflect and see who won this heavy weight fight. To give a detailed comparison I thought I would break this down into three categories; System, Games and Peripheries.
Xbox One: Possibly the biggest surprise of E3 was the announcement of backwards compatibility coming to Xbox One this spring (Fall for my friends in the Northern Hemisphere) but currently only available to those lucky enough to be invited to the Xbox Preview. So far the list of Games is very short but it will grow quickly before the app goes live and personally I can’t wait to start playing Mass Effect on my Xbox One. Not only has this caught Sony by surprise but they have since disappointed fans by quickly killing any rumours that they might be doing the same any time soon. In addition Microsoft gave us a look at the new Xbox dashboard complete with Cortana that we will see later this year with the Windows 10 update.
PlayStation 4: Compared to the Xbox event Sony was much more game focused but they did talk about some exciting changers to PlayStation Vue. The live streaming TV service is being released in new regions and with a chose your own channel service. Notably this sees Sony move further towards the all in one entertainment system that was the original goal of the Xbox One.
Verdict: Got to give this one to the Xbox One as backwards compatibility has the potential to be a game changer as any one needing to replace their 360 can simply upgrade and still play all their old games. Some people like myself may have even put off the decision to upgrade because of this limitation. In contrast the upgrade to PlayStation Vue will benefit existing owners but probably won’t be that nudge to jump on board.
Before getting stuck into the exclusive titles it is important to recognise that comparing games is always going to be very subjective based on your past experience and your existing emotional attachment. This year that perhaps is more important than usual as most of the big titles from both our contenders have a touch of nostalgia and are the newest games to pre existing game series. Personally that means for me any new Halo is ultimately a kill all since I have been hocked from the very beginning but as always I will try to keep a critical mind.
Xbox One: The line up from Microsoft’s conference didn’t hold to many surprises as they emphasised the favourites; Halo 5 Guardians, Forza 6, Fable Legends, Rise of the Tomb Raider the official conformation of Gears of War ultimate edition and the 4th instalment in the successful shooter. However, there are a few completely new titles like the action RPG Ashen, run and gun Cuphead, free to play Gigantic, adventurous Sea of Thieves and the action adventure ReCore. In addition to all these new titles the Rare Replay a collection of 30 classic Rare games for $30 including Banjo Kazooie and Prefect Dark is an absolute steal for a quick hit of nostalgia dating back 30 years.
PlayStation 4: Games was defiantly the focus of Sony’s conference and they had done well to keep the biggest announcements secret before the expo. Leading with the long awaited The Last Guardian was always going to be a hit with fans and that was only the beginning then came the remake of Final Fantasy VII and the kickstarter Shenmue 3 which completed fans wish list. New titles like the borderless No Man’s Sky and the stunning looking RPG Horizon Zero Dawn as well as other exclusives including Street Fighter 5 and Uncharted 4 helped demonstrated Sony’s focus on hard core gaming fans. The steal however was Call of Duty as the lucrative franchise departs from its recent partnership with Microsoft to release exclusive content
Verdict: Despite my preference for Xbox i’m going to give this one to the PS4 due to execution, since Sony had been able to keep things quite in the lead up to E3 and pulled off the steal of the year by getting Call of Duty to jump ship.
Finally … Peripherals
Xbox One: Microsoft got the ball rolling here before the conference with the announcement of a partnership with Oculus Rift to take advantage of VR gaming. Extending this strategy Microsoft committed to a similar partnership with one of the other major developers in this exciting new avenue for gaming in Valve VR. The real star of the show was HoloLens as Microsoft showed off 3D Minecraft to a captivated audience but it doesn’t stop with the obvious applications as reviewers got the opportunity to test out the augmented reality headset with Halo 5’s new Warzone mode. If that wasn’t enough Microsoft have given us the Elite controller which is fully customisable with adjustable parts and settings to let users play their way.
PlayStation 4: Leading up to E3 every one was hoping for more information about Project Morpheus, Sony’s own VR headset. Unfortunately, I felt this was a bit of a let down since Sony spoke about the headset and showed an interesting trailer for RIGS a VR game that allows multiple players to enter the same virtual world the information and WOW factor was limited with only some vague assertions of a 2016 release. Thankfully reviews got to test drive the headset during the expo and it seems like it is going to offer a rich VR gaming experience.
Verdict: This one was a clear win to Phil Spencer and his Xbox team, not only did they bring the mind blowing demo but they also made sure they didn’t forget hardcore gamers with the elite.
It might not surprise anyone but i have to give 2015 to Microsoft as they seam to have finally learn’t and brought their A game. Overall Microsoft have taken more into account and listened to feedback with backwards compatibility, a real demonstration of HoloLens and a new controller. In addition the only category where Sony have out performed Microsoft this year is highly subjective as personally I’m looking foward to adding at least 6 of those exclusive Xbox titles to my collection ASAP. Meanwhile there are a couple of caveats to some of those surprises, firstly No Man’s Sky will release on PC at the same time as PS4 and most games will not be released until 2016 with Final Fantasy VII and Shenmue 3 without even that level of guidance.
But don’t take my opinion for it, check out the links and make up your own mind and leave your thoughts.
A pre-E3 bombshell! Oculus have announced a partnership with the Xbox for the release of their long awaited virtual reality headset. I’m still not sure yet if virtual reality will take off as it is limited by tethering and the practical application of VR in the everyday world but this arrangement makes sense for Microsoft. It provides an answer to Sony’s development of a VR system for the PlayStation 4 and gives consumers another reason to jump on board Windows 10. The deal further demonstrates Microsoft’s new mindset to open themselves up to different platforms and allows them to still capitalise on any future success in VR while still focusing on the augmented reality with HoloLens. Perhaps we will find out more at E3 about the potential of this new technology to change gaming.