Every year one or two breakout technologies capture the imagination of consumers. Eighteen months ago, it was Pokemon Go, the first augmented reality mobile app to really catch fire. A few years before that, it was 3-D printers.
Last year, it clearly was digital assistants -- Amazon Echo, Google Home and others -- that tapped cloud-connected artificial intelligence to respond to voice commands.
These smart speakers have set the stage for voice control to become a table-stakes feature in a host of gadgets. And that will probably be a key theme at this year's CES -- the consumer electronics extravaganza next week in Las Vegas.
"Last year, Amazon seemed to dominate in terms of intelligent assistants or intelligent speakers," said Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Technology Association trade group, which puts on the show. "It has been one of the breakaway products for the year. There is a fourth (sales) channel now. You talk to your speaker, and it buys stuff for you."
CES is a bit of a hodgepodge, but on a huge scale. There's a little bit of everything --smart beds, virtual reality headsets; 360-degree cameras, TV screens so sharp it's hard to look away, powerful gaming computers and a self-driving shuttle bus that taps computing power from IBM's Watson.
CES attracts about 4,000 exhibitors. More than 184,000 product buyers, industry analysts and journalists attended last year. Attendees came from 150 countries. The show is not open to the general public.
New at CES this year is a section dedicated to Smart Cities technologies, with more than 40 exhibitors featured. In addition, a new Sports Zone highlights technologies for athletes, arenas and e-sports, with 18 exhibitors.
Here is a look at some trends expected this year:
–– 8K TVs: Not long ago, ultra-high definition 4K TVs were considered the biggest thing on a small screen. But this year, 4K could make way for an even sharper resolution -- 8K screens.
"I think we will probably see at CES the first concrete product announcements around 8K," said Paul Gagnon, a display technology analyst with IHS Markit. "They will be pricey. There won't be many of them. But I expect to see them."