Comment & Opinion

Is wearable tech and virtual reality set to dominate CES 2015?

What surprises will be on the expo floor?

Is wearable tech and virtual reality set to dominate CES 2015?

We can expect something of a dichotomy at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, because 2014 was a weird year in tech terms.

We heard a lot about what's coming - with the likes of Oculus Rift and Apple Watch leading the charge - but very little has actually made it onto the shelves yet.

Most of the CES's 3,500 vendors seemed to have used 2014 as a year of announcements, with a view to making 2015 the year of delivery. Given that this is the first major trade show of the year, we can therefore expect to see the unveiling of products, concepts and technologies we've been waiting a long time for (and are very excited about), but probably little in the way of the usual surprises.

Inside virtual reality

VR is the realm that both consumer and tech world has its eyes firmly fixed on for 2015, with the gaming world in particular being perched at the edge of its virtual seat. So what will CES have to offer in terms of immersive face tech?

Well, HP is looking to position virtual reality on your desk, with a new breed of 'holographic' monitor. The HP Zvr display promises to let you view and manipulate 3D animated objects in real time via its 23.6-inch HD, blended reality technology.

Early tests have demonstrated simple gaming applications, though this is, for the time being anyway, likely to be aimed at enterprises.

Funky graphics for HP's Zvr

Giroptic is one of the more interesting additions to this year's show, however. It's a very portable, handheld camera that films in 360 degrees, which will raise the eyebrows of anyone who's interested in creating virtual reality content; whether for games or other multimedia.

It includes recording or streaming of the spherical video data, three microphones and also takes photos.

The $500 French-made device raised almost 10 times its Kickstarter goal in July of 2014, and will be showcased for the first time at CES. Virtual reality games are going to need interstitial and in-game video footage just like any other platform, so an affordable 360 degree camera is our bet for the show's sleeper hit. Assuming the quality is visible in the captured video, of course.


Go really fish-eye with Giroptic's cameras

A more unusual angle has been taken by newcomer 3DRudder, which has developed a foot-operated input device aimed at the virtual reality market.

This semi-spherical device is placed on the floor with your feet on the flat platform on top, with motions being used to control, for example, character direction within an FPS. It's being taken to CES 2015 in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign.

What wearables?

Naturally we're all waiting to get our hands (wrists?) and the Apple Watch, but Cupertino isn't likely to unveil at anyone else's show. But that just makes room for more smartwatches, and there are several confirmed as attending.

CES 2014 was dripping in first generation smartwatches, but things have progressed a lot over the last 12 months. So we might well spot a few upgrades to existing wrist tech, such as superfical changes like a metal strap for the Moto 360, but Lenovo is one of those promising to unveil its entry at this year's show.

This will be a different beast to the Motorola device, despite the two companies now being one, though other than it being touted as a flagship little else is known about Lenovo's wearable tech ahead of CES.

Newcomer GoldKey will be there to reveal its Android-powered Secure Communicator smartwatch, which includes a 5-megapixel camera, GPS, speaker, microphone, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and promises dual-factor authentication for secure (as its name suggests) communication. Fascinating.

Like a gold Apple Watch? GoldKey does its best

It's not unlikely to see Samsung reveal yet another addition to its Gear range of smartwatches, which already number five different versions. CES is a big stop of the annual show circuit for the Korean giant (with many anticipating the Galaxy S6 being shown off alongside new tablets) so if a new smartwatch exists, it's likely to appear here first.

Smartwatches are being put to use in the automotive section too, with both BMW and Hyundai unveiling smartwatch apps for their connected cars. So perhaps 2015 will be less about new smartwatches, and more about how they can be integrated into other areas of lifestyle technology - everything from Nest to connected lightbulbs will be on show for the Internet of Every Livingroom. 

Some technology evangalists are pegging CES 2015 as being a lacklustre affair with few new surprises, and while they're probably right so far as unexpected unveilings go, we're excited to see the users' reaction to the devices we've all seen, but not yet played with.

And that's going to have repercussions throughout the year, which in our book makes CES 2015 a show well worth watching.

Yes. Spanner's his real name. And, yes, he's heard that joke before.