Top tech trends: 3D audio headphones, 8k and OLED to dominate CES 2019

posted on Thursday, 3rd January 2019 by Steve May

OLED  8K  Dolby Atmos  CES 2019 

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CES is arguably the largest technology show in the world, with more than 4,500 exhibiting companies, 250 conference sessions and upwards of 200,000 attendees from 150 countries. So what can we expect from this year’s show?

Top tech trends for 2019, according to the market analysts at Futuresource, will include 8k TV, immersive audio headphones and deeper voice integration.

Inevitably, 8k will be a key talking point when it comes to TV water cooler chat. Futuresource is predicting an array of 8k TV sets from top brands. With a 69 per cent growth in OLED TV shipments in 2018, OLED technology will also remain a focus for many throughout 2019.

It comments: “Hisense has recently launched its OLED range (due in the UK later this year), so expect their production models to be prominent. Chinese brands will be the likely entrants to 8K, although Futuresource research hasn’t seen anything available just yet. Samsung is the only brand not to have shown OLED in recent years, and Sharp looks like it is about to enter OLED. LeEco looks like it has yet to show OLED or 8k, whereas Vizio hasn’t gone with OLED, but it has previously shown a QLED, so it’s more likely they will go with 8k at CES 2019. Haier has also yet to show an 8k set.”

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Sony Oled

Futuresource also expects numerous announcements on a range of new and improved True Wireless headphone offerings. “This will be the year of extended battery life, with many products leaping beyond the eight-hour mark, due to a new Qualcomm chip,” says the company.

“Bluetooth 5.0 and USB-C charging will also be popular and inevitable upgrades, becoming entrenched within all form factors. Sony has already hinted that its new True Wireless products are expected in 2019. Will they be released at CES? It’s not certain, but that would be a logical step. Keep an eye on Sony.”

Can we also expect more USB-C headphones in the wired category, after the iPad Pro switch to USB-C? “This area is undersupplied, so it’s the perfect opportunity for a savvy vendor to emerge with a strong product.”

Cans are certainly getting smarter. Alexa integration in headphones is also tipped, following the introduction of Qualcomm’s new Alexa developer kit. Pioneer has just released an over-ear active noise cancelling model, the S9, with Google Assistant. Microsoft Surface over-ear headphones have also been touted.

One development which has implications for custom install is the introduction of 3D audio to the category. “New opportunities are pushing through for home entertainment headphones with 3D audio, immersive technology and head-tracking for a true cinematic experience." Futuresource suggests looking to Dolby Dimension, created for in-home listening, as well as Audeze Mobius, which is in contention for a CES innovation award. "Start-up, Noveto, is also one to watch and will be showcasing a new type of focused audio called Sowlo, which emits audio directly to the user’s ears.”

Smart home is obviously a key new area for CES. “Now that voice control has pervaded the smart home, there will be plenty of talk on the subjects of AI and IFTTT (if this then that) from a range of vendors and technology providers,” says the analyst. “Watch out for discussions and solutions that centre around smart home user scenarios, such as lights coming on in a certain mode, along with curtain commands, heating and associated triggers when the homeowner approaches their house.”

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There’s a boom in Wi-Fi and hubless smart home devices, adds Futuresource, particularly in lighting, coming in 2019, with more Wi-Fi offerings in light bulbs from the likes of LIFX and WiZ.

When it comes to home audio, Amazon and Google will continue to dominate over the next 12 months. “There were many smart speaker launches at IFA in September last year, notably from Bose, B&O, Libratone and Marshall. As a result, the Samsung smart speaker is playing catch up.” Another key audio brand, Technics, is also planning several introductions, including a new turntable.

Futuresource believes there will be many more smart speaker announcements in Las Vegas, although they may not get the attention that they deserve, as voice technology is focused on penetrating other devices. The market watcher is predicting announcements around Bluetooth speakers with voice control, and smart speakers with screens.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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