CES 2021 is a very different tech show during a very different year. Most of us have had to forgo everything from movie theaters to gyms to bars in favor of streaming services, fitness apps and video chat platforms -- giving software and services a place closer to the top of the tech innovation pyramid. That evolution will be on display at the virtual conference.
While no one is walking the Las Vegas floors this week trying out new products that promise to consolidate your TV streaming, use your brain waves to dispel anxiety and improve your sleep, the apps and services that have been the center of our entertainment, exercise and work and social lives will play a big role at this year's CES, often taking advantage of the virtual environment that they operate in naturally.
Before we close out Day 1 of CES 2021 and gear up for the Day 2 lineup, here are a few services, apps and software trends we expect to see at the virtual conference.
Read more: The top 6 trends to expect at CES 2021
Streaming services grapple with the closure of movie theaters
Though there will be far fewer major media companies present at CES 2021, we'll likely get a glimpse at how some of the pivots from movies to streaming services are faring, as CNET's Joan Solsman reported. The head of Warner Bros. will take part in a keynote called Entertainment Transformed, and will likely discuss the company's plans to release all of its new movies this year for streaming on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters, starting with last month's Wonder Woman 1984.
Other CES panels will include executives from Amazon, Starz, Pluto TV and more discussing the massive increase in streaming service subscriptions since the start of pandemic lockdowns last March.
Though we aren't expecting announcements from major players like Netflix or Hulu, it's likely that 2021 will continue the surge in streaming service subscriptions, especially as more shows and movies change hands or premiere. The arrival of The Office on NBC's Peacock likely boosted subscriptions this month, for example, as Wonder Woman 1984 did for HBO Max.
The pandemic brings home entertainment, video chat equipment to the forefront
With many parts of the world dealing with surges in coronavirus cases and lots of people still working and entertaining themselves from home, home entertainment vendors will have tons of new TVs, soundbars and streaming devices on display at CES 2021.
We've already gotten a glimpse of new Sony TVs that boast massive, brighter OLED screens and run the new Google TV streaming system. Samsung has also already had a ton of new home entertainment products to show off, including huge MicroLED TVs that let you watch four shows at once, QLED TVs that come in 4K and 8K resolution and soundbars with subwoofer microphones to upgrade your home theater experience.
On the video chat side, we'll see a number of vendors looking to improve your experience on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or your service of choice, for work or for socializing. Companies like Owl Labs, j5create and Labpano will show off 360-degree cameras and related software, while Crew in a Box claims to offer a professional-quality plug-and-play remote video production solution.
It remains to be seen whether any of these will catch on as widely as popular smart home tools like the Amazon Echo Show, Google Nest and Facebook Portal, which all support Zoom and other video chat platforms now. But many people will continue working from home until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, these products will likely garner some interest.
Fitness apps, services and products explode in popularity
As the pandemic closed or limited use of many gyms and fitness classes starting in March, at-home fitness products, apps and services saw major growth. At CES, we expect to see several new offerings in this category. Ultrahuman, a new health and fitness app debuting at the show, uses a MasterClass-like strategy helping people meditate, workout and optimize sleep with the help of athletes, neuroscientists, artists and psychologists. Wearable company Amazfit is unveiling its new GTR 2e and GTS 2e smartwatches that include features like high-precision heart rate monitoring and blood oxygen saturation measuring.
Samsung TVs are even getting in on the fitness action: A new feature on the electronics giant's 2021 televisions called Smart Trainer lets you attach a webcam to your TV so the Samsung Health app can track your workout progress and offer coaching and encouragement.
With people investing large chunks of money in at-home gym equipment and the apps and services that come with them (looking at you, Peloton), it'll be interesting to see if, when gyms are totally safe to return to, people flock back or stay in their at-home fitness studios. The fitness tech we see at CES could be a further sign of the move away from working out in gyms and into living rooms.