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CES 2016

2016 Year of Consumer VR


2016 Year of Consumer VR

At CES 2016, we got a glimpse of the real arrival of consumer virtual reality (VR). VR is an immersive experience where you can interact with your simulated environment, real or imaginary. VR has been promised for decades (does anyone remember the movie Lawnmower Man (1992)?) but up until now, hasn't delivered a convincing experience that truly transports the user. We're finally at the inflection point for mass adoption - processing power (needed to realistically render a complex 3D environment that tracks with one's movements) and display technology (that presents a pixel-dense, quickly refreshing image separately to each eye) can finally deliver the dream of VR.

The first consumer ready Oculus Rift, developed by Facebook-owned Oculus, was on display at CES. Previously only available as a developer edition, the Oculus Rift is open to pre order and set to be available to all consumers in March 2016 for $599. 

The package includes the headset that provides the visual experience with mounted headphones, an Xbox One game controller for navigating in the virtual world and a camera that provides head tracking. What the package doesn't include is the powerful computer needed to drive the experience - Oculus estimates at least $1000 for the necessary processing capability. The equipment is of little use if there is no content; however, the units will ship with two games, Lucky's Tale and Herobound, and the Oculus store will have many more games, applications and experiences available to new VR adventurers.

Perhaps the top challenger to Oculus' domination of the early days of VR is the HTC Vive, which had a long line waiting to demo the unit and garnered a best VR of CES award. The Vive is a partnership between smartphone manufacturer HTC and the game developer Valve, and while generally similar to the Rift, has two significant differentiators. First, it has a front-facing camera for integrating your real surroundings into the virtual. Second, it has a Chaperone system which allows you to walk around in your virtual environment by actually walking around but not bumping into things in your room. Room-scale VR lends a significant boost to the feeling of immersion, being able to traverse in VR as you do in the real world and makes VR a more active experience. The Vive is also expected to ship with VR-specific controllers, while Oculus' Touch controllers are not due until the second half of 2016.

The Vive is taking pre-orders at the end of February, but the price has not yet been disclosed. Given Valve's expertise in game development, there are expected to be many VR-optimized games available in 2016.

 Finally, Sony's virtual gaming system linked to their gaming-console PS4, PlayStation VR, was also on display at CES 2016, although little new information was disclosed.


Expected sometime in 2016, PlayStation VR has the benefit of a large installed base of PS4 units (over 36 million sold so far) and popular game developers on board. While the display resolution is not as high as the Rift or Vive, the refresh rate (which can improve immersion and helps reduce nausea) is higher and the PlayStation remotes are already spatially aware.

 The consumer releases of the Rift, Vive and PlayStation VR in 2016 signals the beginning of the VR revolution. Likely relegated to early adopters at first given the high prices and other hardware needs, the user experience and VR content will be developed for more mass adoption in the next few years. First to market does not guarantee success and competition for consumers' wallets among the big three will drive innovation in product and content development.


Innovative Cars at CES 2016


Innovative Cars at CES 2016

Cars took center stage at CES last week, just before the International Auto Show in Detroit this week. CES, marked the introduction to much of what is innovative in cars right now with traditional auto makers and startups alike lining up to share what’s new. Innovation appeared in the form of new electric vehicles, onboard software and apps, as well as services like ride sharing and driver assistance. The complete self-driving car remains fleeting, but signs of its impending introduction were everywhere. 

Ford, for example, “…will continue investing $4.5 billion in 13 new electric vehicles by 2020, the company will focus more attention on the transportation services sector, which includes ride- and car-sharing services targeted at Millennials, whose indifference to traditional car ownership is causing the industry to rethink its business models,” according to CEO Mark Fields.

Let’s start with VW, winning Engadget’s Innovation Award. The VW BUDD-e was awarded for the extremely efficient battery, able to be charged up to 80 percent in 15 to 30 minutes. The 101-kWh battery in the BUDD-e can go an impressive 373 miles between charges.

Some other car concepts

Toyota Kikai

BMW i8 Spyder introducing gesture control with AirTouch

Chevy Bolt EV - The long-awaited Chevy Bolt, which will bring a fully electric vehicle with a 200-mile-per-charge range to the masses at a price of under $30,000.

Autonomous Driver Platforms

Autonomous driver platforms are introducing technology that, over time, will make cars nearly impossible to crash. 

Nvidia Drive PX 2

Infotainment Systems 

Android Auto

Full Digital Sound


Are we turning our cars into smart phones? Most people plan to replace their cars every 10 years or longer. Ten years ago, I was using a Blackberry… it’s hard to imagine that these in-car systems won’t accelerate the purchase and replacement cycles for new cars in a meaningful way. 

Finally, not a smart/ connected car, but a very interesting new vehicle - the flying car. Passenger Drone by Terrafugia

Some of most meaningful impacts to our lives might be seen in the partnership between Ford and Amazon. Announced at CES, Ford CEO Mark Fields took the stage with Amazon to roll out their shared vision to connect Ford’s Sync Connect and AppLink services with the Amazon Echo home automation hub.

The command "Alexa, ask my Ford for the charge status of my C-Max" spoken to the Echo tower was met with a robotic response communicating the current battery level of the plug-in hybrid and the estimated range. "Alexa, ask my Ford to start" would remotely start the car allowing the cabin to be warmed or cooled.

Once in the car, the driver would be able to access Echo home automation functions using the Ford Sync voice command system. "Alexa, turn on my home lights," or "Alexa, open the garage door," could be spoken to the system to activate connected lighting or garage door openers.

Other home-to-vehicle functions being explored include locking or unlocking the vehicle remotely ("Alexa, ask my Ford if the doors are locked,") stating the vehicle location, temperature for plug-in models and more. On the vehicle-to-home side, Ford drivers will gain access to any of the Internet-enabled smart devices (lights, home security, thermostats, garage door openers, and more) that are compatible with the Echo and Alexa, as well as services, weather reports, music and more. With the tap of a steering wheel button, a driver could be asking "Alexa, when's my next appointment?"

Timing for this launch has not been announced yet.