This January, the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) descended upon Las Vegas, impressing the world with the latest developments in smart homes, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), robotics, drones, wearable tech and much more. I had the privilege of attending this year’s CES, and I returned to blustery Chicago with a wealth of knowledge and an eagerness to make sense of all the mind-blowing tech.

Three themes in innovation stood out that will change your life – and the way you do business…

Simulated environments

As Mintel Trend Fauxthenticity explains, consumers have grown more comfortable with goods and services that look, taste, sound or feel like the real thing, even though they’re known pretenders. As such, the time is ripe for the multitude of VR and AR developments that were everywhere at CES.

Augmented reality and virtual reality are poised to revolutionize the gaming world in an unprecedented way

With both technologies reaching new heights as an increasing number of developers jump in, AR and VR are poised to revolutionize the gaming world in an unprecedented way. The much-buzzed-about Oculus Rift finally launched to much fanfare during CES – and sold out its $599 sets within 15 minutes – but it doesn’t end there.

Techies and marketers alike are realizing the potential of AR and VR to provide consumers with “fauxthentic” brand experiences, and across exhibit floors, a bewildering number of companies’ booths utilized platforms like Samsung’s Gear VR to demonstrate products and services in a truly immersive fashion.

  • Home improvement giant Lowe’s is currently rolling out its Holoroom approach in stores, and the creative VR application was demonstrated at CES. Users can design the kitchen or bathroom of their dreams using a tablet, and then step into a virtual world to explore the immersive room and share it with friends and family.
  • Hyundai showed off its creative new Virtual Guide: an owners’ manual app that uses AR to show (not just tell) the user all of the information they need about the part of the car they’re viewing.

Computers that interact and think

Mintel Trend Who Needs Humans? looks at how automated technology has machines increasingly replacing people – for better or worse. At CES, from robots to drones to artificial intelligence (AI), machines continued to take on more astounding humanlike qualities.

  • Robots continued to impress with new capabilities; among the most desirable were the clothes-folding Laundroid from Seven Dreamers and the Somabar Robotic Bartender.
  • Drones also branched into new territories, from the Ehang’s 184 AAV automated passenger drone to the Lily drone camera from Lily Robotics, which can fly, follow and film its owner after simply being thrown into the air.
  • AI will drastically take the IoT to the next level, and at CES, IBM announced partnerships with Under Armour, Medtronic and Softbank Robotics to do so. The companies are all using Watson, IBM’s computing power technology, to make sense of data generated by smart devices – and in turn, make those devices even smarter.

Wearables of all shapes and sizes

Wearable technology devices are unobtrusive, self-charging and can help us monitor our health and take control of our lives, as explored in the Mintel Trend Second Skin. CES 2016 saw the persistent proliferation of wrist wearables from fitness trackers to smartwatches, all of which are on the path to becoming more ubiquitous, durable, functional and capable of holding a charge longer. Outside of devices meant to be worn on an arm, wearables are progressing toward diversified and improved functionality.

  • Fashion bag maker Knomo revealed for the first time at CES its Drop & Go collection. The sleek bags are a magnetic wireless charging solution; simply drop an iPhone into the designated pocket, and a magnetic connection automatically attracts it to the built-in charger.
  • Innovative consumer goods brands are finding new ways to meet the demand for wearables. L’Oréal and PCH unveiled My UV Patch (available later this year), touted as “the first-ever stretchable skin sensor designed to monitor UV exposure and help consumers educate themselves about sun protection.” The patch sticks to any skin surface and contains photosensitive dyes that change color when exposed to UV rays. Users can then take a photo of the patch and upload it to an app, which analyzes the dyes to determine the amount of UV exposure that has been received.

Mintel Trends will monitor the many ways in which these themes and others are impacting both people and companies. In the meantime, consider these thought-starters for the latter:

  • As consumers demand more transparency from CPG brands, VR could be used to immerse consumers in the production process, such as visiting the farm or factory and meeting the people who are involved in the production.
  • Smart algorithms have taken the guesswork out of choosing products or services that might appeal to us. Cognitive computing could take this a step further, allowing brands to act predictively – for example, banks could recommend appropriate services for an upcoming life change.
  • The potential to sync devices and apps that have different functions (e.g., fitness trackers and food-journal apps) could unlock a new realm of “smarter” personalized, branded recommendations (e.g., 360-degree health and wellness plans).

To find out more about Mintel Trends and how they impact your market, click here.

Stacy Glasgow is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.