CES review: Will 2016 be the year of Virtual Reality?

posted on Saturday, 16th January 2016 by Geny Caloisi

lighting Design  CES 2016  Virtual Reality 


CES 2016 was, as usual, massive. The show spilled out of the conference centre into the Venetian Hotel and The Sands. Haman even went solo at the Hard Rock Hotel. It is an important show for the consumer electronics industry and having had the privilege of being able to walk its halls, here we bring some highlights of the things we liked. Watch out for the CES Harman, Audio and UHD TVs special reports too.

Virtual Reality was making big waves at this year's show. Everywhere we went there were VR goggles on display. From PlayStation VR to HTC Vive, and a host of no-name hopefuls, it seems plenty are prepared to bet big on an immersive headset future. Oculus priced its consumer headset at $500. Throw in a powerful PC and the system isn't going to be cheap to run. Ultimately everything depends on available applications.

Surrounded by drones and other cool gadgets, we found Marxent, a virtual commerce platform that allows customers to compose their own interior design and virtually walk the room using VR glasses. Joining forces with retail home improvement and appliance stores, such as Lowe’s, Marxent can upload the retailer’s full catalogue of furniture and appliances into its system. The VR solution lets users create a dream kitchen or bathroom on an iPad in mere minutes, then experience their design in 360-degree Virtual Reality while wearing an Oculus headset. Its quick processing power means that while your partner is checking the virtual room you could be moving the furniture around at will – or under instructions. But if you are not sure about your choice, you can even check with your friends! Designs can be exported to YouTube 360 for easy sharing. The Holoroom transforms something intangible, something that is in your head, into something that everyone can see. In fact, Lowe’s Holoroom is being rolled out across the US, six Holorooms installed in 2015 and an otehr 12 to come this year. 


It seems that today, capturing life with a panoramic view is not good enough. Films and photos have gone 360. This is particularly useful for virtual reality applications, but it can also be used for surveillance. 

360Heros debuted its Bullet 360 control system for interlocking multiple GoPro cameras in a 360Heros VR rig. The Bullet360 enables users to operate multiple GoPros simultaneously by plugging them into an internal wired interface. The system is triggered via a simple remote and features controls for turning cameras on and off and firing the camera shutter buttons simultaneously for both video and photos.

Also using the 360 concept, French company Giroptic introduced its small format three lenses camera. Its shape looks a little like a frog – appropriate to the origin of the tech company, and it’s allegedly the first and only 360 HD Camera able to record full spherical photos and videos without any software or post-processing. Retailing at 499 euros, the water proof camera can be pole mounted, to take it out and about, using its lithium battery; using PoE live events can be streamed; and you can even use it upside down, hanging from the ceiling with its light bulb adaptor as a home surveillance system.

To accelerate it all, GoPro has announced its plans to work with YouTube in a virtual reality (VR) initiative that will include easy to use consumer-grade VR cameras or perhaps the solutions described above. 

Smart everything
There were a lot of smart watches and wearables at the show, fridges that could order food automatically and connected cars, including one amazing prototype presented by Harman which even came with its own helipad at the back for its drone. Being at CES you suddenly got the urge to purchase gadgets you never thought you needed!

Panasonic announced a high-end connected Smart platform called ORA that will integrate all household endpoints. Panasonic President Julie Bauer explained during the press conference: "Panasonic defines the Smart Home as one that has lighting, heating, cameras, motion sensors, and smart appliances all tied to one, powerful software platform that enables customized managed experiences. Our new Smart Home innovation ÔRA is a platform capable of integrating them all – regardless of their own operating system – into a smart living experience you can operate on a mobile device from anywhere in the world." As yet, ORA is a North American product only. It'll be interesting to see if Panasonic rolls it out across Europe in the future.

Smart home and smart technology during CES 2016 had mobile phones and smart TVs at the centre of the intelligent system. The majority of the ‘smart’ oriented companies were promoting green solutions for energy saving, or for life optimisation (in terms of health, control of your home, etc)

French company Ubiant presented its colour coded home energy and well-being manager. The Luminion Hemis candlestick shaped LED lamp can display different colours indicating whether one is ‘on the green’ or ‘on the red’ with regards to energy consumption in one’s area. Hemis has an app that connects to its cloud platform and with Quickmove, which links with the IoT for a more accurate diagnosis.


iLuv will sell you an LED light bulb for almost $50 dollars (£35). But it’ll cost you only $41.2 (£29) a year to run with an 83% of energy saving over a regular light bulb. It’ll also last a lifetime (20K hours), give 800 Lumens (the equivalent of 60W) and connect directly to your mobile to control it, combine it with other light bulbs or change its colour!

Nest cameras, we were told, are manufactured by iLuv. At CES the company was showing its new mySight 2K. A sleek design, not bigger than a glass of wine, the full HD camera blends multiple sensor exposures to improve dynamic range. It offers a 15 degrees viewing angle and it has the option to zoom in whenever you want.

But there was one different smart gadget that could be just the ticket for those of us that tend to travel a fair bit. Bluesmart was presented as the suitcase that cannot get lost. The carry-on suitcase that has proximity sensors; digital lock; two USB battery chargers; location tracking system, its own built in scale and can connect with your airline to check your itinerary. It connects with your phone through a mobile app. It retails for around £300.

Vinyl revival
Speakers of all sizes, colours and specs were to be found on every corner of the show. Many were almost identical, with a fashion for LED light coloured portables and bright cases on the floor standing speakers. One of the main differences came on the price range, depending on where they were manufactured. 

But when it comes to music the stars of the show were turntables. Many companies were showing their support for vinyl and the one that took the prize for me was Sony, with not just a sleek turntable but also the ability to rip in Hi-Res. The PS-HX500 turntable has a simple design with powerful capabilities. Thanks to its USB port the PS-HX500 can be plugged into a PC or Mac and using Sony’s new software which will allow you to record the LP as a DSD file.  Sony says it should be available by spring for about £400.

Panasonic hi-fi brand Technics also announced a return to turntables, which had already been previewed in 2015. There will be two versions of the new model: the 50th Anniversary Grand Class SL-1200GAE limited edition, to be released this summer (only 1200 units) and the non-limited Grand Class 1200G (pictured below) due before the end of the year. Yours for $4000.

Crop SL_1200GAE

CES Unveiled
The pre-show CES Unveiled event, held at the Mandalay Bay, had a few interesting gadgets. A neat oblong rectangular triangular-shaped speaker with the strength of a titan; the Hercules’ Ocean-proof Wae Outdoor Rush has been designed specifically for extreme sports. Using Bluetooth wireless technology, the Hercules rugged new speaker has been named a CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honouree. 

The compact dust, sand, snow and shockproof speaker can play non-stop for up to 12 hours. As the Wae Outdoor Rush is IP67-certified, it means that you can also immerse it on up to a metre of water for up to 30 minutes - including salt water, so you could not only swim but also dance with dolphins now. Additionally, it features a built-in FM radio; it can charge a smartphone, is compatible with most attachment systems and pumps out impressive sound for its size. You can get it from April this year for $130.

You might think that wearing your pyjamas to a trade show would be inappropriate but  apparently it isn’t if you are promoting SleepPhones Harmony, the new Bluetooth headphones-in-a-headband. With sleep sensors and a real-time intelligent music, the SleepPhones Harmony becomes a smart-device that can adjust volume, sounds and beats based on the level of your sleep indicated by the sensors in real time. All the information about how well the audio improved the quality of sleep throughout the night, is uploaded to the company’s secure central server-and sounds can be adjusted accordingly, night after night.

We got a pair to try out and although the fleece headband can get you a bit too warm, it works really well on airplanes, doubling as an eye mask. The 4mm-thin padded speakers inside the headband can be adjusted to target the music straight into your ears. The speakers interface with a Bluetooth module that is 0.3 cm thick, and has a mini USB rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can play 12 hours of  music. Three buttons allow control of volume and song selection, although it takes a bit of time to get used to finding the right button at the back of your neck. Brilliant if you like going to sleep to music or talking books without disturbing your bed companion or getting strangled by your headphones cables.

CES Unveiled was crammed with hopeful start-ups, many of which were re-inventing the wheel, such as the search engine company that wants to take on Google, but it was most jolly. Many companies are to watch out for and the proliferation of ideas and re-inventions can only mean that this industry is set to grow. In fact if you are planning to visit CES 2017, be prepared because the show is extending to one more day, from Thursday to Sunday (January 5-8th).

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Geny Caloisi

Geny Caloisi is an accomplished technology journalist who has worked in a variety of AV industry publications. 

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