With CES only a few weeks away, gadget makers are sending the usual flood of invites and meeting requests to try to drum up interest in their products. It's clear the big themes this year will be smart appliances for the home, drones, robotics, and all kinds of car tech, along with the usual monster TVs and gaming rigs.
Here are six announcements we heard about that give you a taste of what to expect from this year's electronics orgy in the desert.
A rival for Tesla
Cars are huge at CES, from infotainment systems to all kinds of driver assistance technologies. This year we should get the first glimpse of a brand new electric car from Future Faraday, which hired away engineers from Tesla and BMW to build its product. The car offers "smart and seamless connectivity to the outside world," and Farady promises "unique ownership models, in-vehicle content and autonomous driving." Press are invited to experience the "vision concept" on Jan. 4. We're not sure what a vision concept is, but if it's not an actual car we'll be very disappointed.
The smartest washing machine
Whirlpool, LG and Samsung got unexpected attention at the last CES for their smart washing machines. At CES 2016 there's a new entrant, Marathon Laundry Machines, whose washer-drier has far more smarts than any self-respecting laundry appliance ought to.
The machine has a powerful CPU, Wi-Fi connectivity, a 10-inch touchscreen, and a gigabyte each of RAM and disk storage. The WiFi lets you keep tabs on your load from afar, so you don't go check it before it's done. More interesting is that you can instruct the machine to wash and dry your clothes when electricity rates are lowest, which is usually the middle of the night.
If a landlord installs Marathon machines in a shared apartment complex, tenants can log on to see when the next machine is free. You can also keep the door locked until you arrive so no one pilfers your wash. Founder and CEO Glenn Reid built the first versions of iMovie and iPhoto at Apple, so of course he's promising "Apple like simplicity." The machine will go on sale in mid-2016 for $1,199, he says. Whether anyone wants a computer in their laundry room remains to be seen.
4K: Here comes the content
Ultra high-def TVs with 4K resolution have headlined CES for the last couple of years, but what goes largely unmentioned is the distinct lack of content. Anyone watching 4K at home today is doing so on disc or from a handful of streaming services.
At CES 2016 there'll be a demonstration of real-time 4K TV broadcasting using ATSC 3.0, a new U.S. broadcast standard, beamed from a local TV transmitter. The standard also supports HDR (high-dynamic range) video, which provides greater detail in shadow and a wider range of colors.
All the stuff you didn't know you needed
What would CES be without stupid novelty items that no one really wants. This year a French company will introduce D-Vine, "the first espresso-like machine for wine." Pour in a vial of wine (sold separately) and the machine aerates it and brings it to just the right temperature for the wine you selected, all in less than a minute. D-Vine is on sale in France for 500 euros (US$530) and at CES it will launch in the U.S. Six vials of wine cost 19 euros. A fancy rack that stores 20 vials is 69 euros. The cost to your dignity? Priceless.
The loudest smartphone on Earth?
Marshall, the amp maker that brought you the sound of Jimi Hendrix, has branched out into smaller products that still bring the noise. At CES it's launching its Marshall London smartphone in the US. It's an Android phone with two headphone jacks, two front facing speakers, a dedicated music player, and a volume dial on the side that goes up to not 10, not 11 but... 36. Because blaring insanely loud music in your ears is a great idea, no one ever said.
Get fit, get well
There's all manner of fitness trackers at CES, but here's one you might not have thought of. Levl says it spent five years developing a sensor that analyzes your breath to figure out how much fat you're burning during a workout. It sounds fishy, but their website has a section called "science" so it must be true. The sensor detects the level of acetone in your breath. "When the body is burning fat for energy, it is in a state called ketosis. During ketosis, the body generates molecules called ketones, one of which is acetone," the company explains. We don't know yet what the device looks like or how much it will cost, but all will be revealed at CES.