IFA 2016: What to expect

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Samsung’s new Gear VR will see some serious competition very soon .
Image: brittany herbert/ mashable

If CES is the tech industry’s Super Bowl, IFA is like the NCAA Football Bowl. Not quite the trendsetting tech event of the year, but still worth getting excited for.

Held annually in Berlin, Germany, IFA is essentially Europe’s version of CES with one big key difference: It’s open to the public and not just industry folks. Also in attendance: Mashable . We’ll be bringing you all the major tech news from the proceedings all week.

Here’s what we expect to see at this year’s show.

More wearables

Image: fitbit

It’s been a quiet year for smartwatches. The usual tech suspects LG, Motorola, Huawei haven’t announced new Android Wear models. Is that a sign that smartwatches are a fad, and the fad is fading? Doubtful.

It’s been a very quiet year for smartwatches.

Fitbit only announced two new fitness trackers. Asus may launch a new round Zenwatch, per leaked images. And Samsung’s expected to announce its Tizen-powered Gear S3.

The wearable( smartwatch and fitness trackers) industry continues to grow, but it’s becoming clearer by the month that there are considerable challenges to making a wearable people would actually want to wear.

As it stands, smartwatches are still accessories and most are dependent on a connection to a phone in order to be useful. Perhaps at IFA we’ll watch more smartwatches with built-in cellular connectivity, specific features that makes them more like devices in their own right as opposed to just a wrist-based window to your smartphone.

Smart-home redux

The smart home and so-called “Internet of Things” remain tough sells. There are still too many vying platforms and no universal hub that connects them all.

Amazon’s Echo/ Alexa, Google’s Nest, Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings, WeMo, Philips and a dozen other connected home product manufacturers haven’t attained the smart home easier for consumers to figure out.

Alexa’s astonishingly great voice commands astonished everyone last year, and since then we’ve assured many smart home gadgets adopt Alexa integration. The tendency is continuing: Sonos just announced Alexa will come to its audio systems in 2017. And Triby, the first non-Amazon device with Alexa, came out in the spring.

It’s a safe bet we’ll probably insure more Alexa-integrated devices at IFA. And perhaps we’ll been talking about some the partnership agreement with Google’s upcoming Echo rival, Google Home? Oh, and I’m sure there will be tons of connected home appliances that nobody will ever actually need.

Mobile VR gets serious

Though the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive( and soon PlayStation VR) are available, the headsets haven’t precisely taken the world by blizzard. That’s not shocking, since they require expensive gaming PCs to run and entire rooms for genuinely immersive room-scale experiences. Rift doesn’t even have its fancy Touch Controllers yet.

Where VR is seeing rapid growth is in mobile. Samsung’s Gear VR with Oculus Store content continues to lead the way in mobile VR experiences. But its dominant poisition is threatened by cheaper mobile VR headsets from the likes of Alcatel and Homido and many Chinese smartphone manufacturers like Xiaomi and Huawei.

Image: google

Also in the mixture is Google Daydream, the search giant’s attempt to establish a new criterion in mobile VR. Google is enlisting many telephone manufacturers to build what will basically be Gear VR killers. Smartphones certified for Daydream will need to meet certain requirements high-resolution screens, powerful processors, new headsets and controllers in order to provide a good mobile VR experience.

It’s possible a phone producer or two already have some phones with 4K showings induced for Daydream. And we are looking forward there will be a couple of VR headsets and controllers to gawk at, too.

Autonomous car tech

IFA is not a car show, but as we’ve insured with CES over the last few years, the reveal has attracted newfound car tech-related announcements.

Whether we like it or not, vehicles are increasingly incorporating information technology and AI for sophisticated self-driving capabilities, cellular connectivity, integration with our phones through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and more.

It’s unlikely there will be any major auto tech news, but we’ll be on the lookout for whatever is dripped out for us.

Everything else

Panasonic’s magic mirror concept.

Image: michael raythmayr ./ mashable

As I learned during my first IFA last year, it can boring to insure the usual banal spec bumps in things like TVs( they’re bigger, sharper and display more colorings … just like every year) and speakers and storage and iPhone accessories.

Who knows, maybe the entire show will simply be USB-C dongles and accessories.

While getting a first look at products that you’ll be able to buy is great, I also like being surprised. I like all the weird and stupid and prototype conception stuff that dare to think outside the box.

Looking back, IFA 2015 had some far-flung futuristic tech that you’d merely see in sci-fi movies. Things like Sony’s funky smart home notion involving projectors and light bulbs with built-in speakers, a double-sided Tv, a magic mirror that applied digital make-up to your face, a smartwatch with a projection screen inside of it and a LEGO-style stackable mini PC all made the trip-up worth it.

I’m hoping we’ll see more stuff like this at IFA this year. Who knows, perhaps the entire reveal will only be USB-C dongles and accessories.

Mashable will be reporting live from IFA starting on Aug. 30. For up-to-date happenings of everything happens in the demonstrate floor, streets of Berlin and in the many taxis we’ll be riding in order to get to the Messe Berlin center, be sure to follow me on Twitter @raywongy and Stan Schroeder at @franticnews and Mashable on @mashabletech.

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