These Will Be the 6 Hottest Categories at CES

Wearables will be even more wearable. TVs more viewable. Drones more available. 3-D more printable. This year's Consumer Electronics Show will feature everything from biometric socks to 3-D scanners, and it's all of interest to tech-hungry marketers and brands that want to play with the next product that might give them a new line into customers and behavior.

"The new technology doesn't always have a marketing application upfront," says Luke Eid, global director of innovation at TBWA Worldwide. "But we take it through research and development. We experiment."

His agency is playing with minidrones and motion-capture armbands. Eid expects to see electronic leaps at the show, which should bring professional-grade tools to the masses—like drones, for instance, or cinema-quality video products.

"This year is about the refinement of a bunch of ideas we've seen from previous shows," says Jonathan Nelson, CEO of Omnicom Digital. "There will be more mobile and wearable devices, the Internet of Things, screens everywhere. And where there are screens and people's attention, there is advertising."

Here's a look at the categories to seek out at CES and what to expect from each:

1

TVs and Video

It’s a no-brainer at CES that TVs will feature some new gimmick, but you never know what will or won’t catch on. For instance, 3-D TVs never quite broke out of Las Vegas. But this year, 4K super-HD will be surpassed by 8K, which is approaching an almost-unbelievable level of clarity. Also, companies like Google will have more digital video offerings—think Chromecast, the TV streaming device. Smaller screens will be attractive as well, with tablets and smartphones from Samsung, Sony, Huawei, LG and others.

2

Gaming

With new consoles already out this year from Microsoft and Sony, portable gaming will be of top importance—given its reach among millennials. That leads to mobile devices that can process better graphics and faster rates thanks to cloud computing (which bears the weight of all that data rather than storing it on the device). Also, look for a convergence of technologies in gaming—3-D, virtual reality, motion sensor.

3

Drones

Once the domain of the U.S. military and major industries, the time of the amateur drone owner is here. Expect to see cheaper and smaller drones for the everyday enthusiast, such as Parrot MiniDrone. They are increasingly used in marketing campaigns— for instance, TGI Fridays launched them in restaurants to entertain eaters. They’re also getting more sophisticated by featuring more advanced camera work like 4K picture quality, which GoPro is developing. This just means more Dronies, please.

4

Wearables

With the Apple Watch on its way, this space has fresh momentum even though initial signs are that consumers can quickly tire of these gadgets. That’s why a big focus this year is moving away from companion devices like workout bands and toward making everyday clothing more connected. For instance, smart socks could feed runners biometric data, or yoga clothing could help users monitor their techniques. Wearables will blend further into the background, and literally into the fabric of our clothes.

5

3-D Printing

Popularized by companies like MakerBot, this space is becoming more accessible—industrial- style manufacturing tools almost anyone can play with. One company being featured by CES organizers, Fuel3D, makes a 3-D scanner that renders real-world objects into printable digitized ones. Also, look for 3-D printed food to break out this year—kind of like in Star Trek.

6

Robotics

CES will feature more exhibitors than ever at its Robotics Marketplace, with a 25 percent hike in companies attending. Robotics are invading the home, connected to smart devices like thermostats and helping with chores. For instance, Five Elements Robotics builds Budgee, the robot that will carry groceries from your car.