Our Favorites From CES 2016

Every year the world converges upon Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronic Show to preview technologies at our doorstep and on the visible horizon. Despite the jowl-to-jowl crowds, it’s as close to heaven as one can get for the tech-gadget set, 1.87 million net square feet of technology on exhibit from around the globe. Displays, robotics, audio, drones, wearables, 3D printing, connected/smart home devices, and increasingly, automotive and mobility. There’s just too much to see across exhibition space spanning several convention halls, hotel conference rooms, and even outdoor mobile exhibitions. For those who couldn’t make it, we’ve done the footwork and hand-picked some of this year’s highlights below:


Samsung 170-inch SUHD Television
There’s big, then there was this insane 170-inch SUHD television on display at Samsung’s Future TV Zone showcase at CES. The display is actually the combination of several modular screens; seams between each unit were near impossible to discern, and in sum the gigantic screen was able to create an IMAX effect while watching first-person simulated action, whether film or video games. Our 55-inch television now seems paltry in comparison.


Panasonic Transparent Display
Panasonic’s concept transparent display – part of their Better Living Tomorrow booths – bodes well for people who hate the intrusive presence of a television. It’s about 90% transparent (Panasonic reps told us they’re working hard on eventually making it 100% clear), but it’s still an impressive glimpse of how manufacturers envision displays becoming part of the home decor rather than separate from it. The bigger manufacturers like Panasonic, Samsung and Sony were all notably pushing this type of home integration this year with a lot of simulated decorated spaces to illustrate the near future.


Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 35
Danish design audio and video brand Bang & Olufsen invited us to a small auditorium to experience their new all-in-one integrated wireless music system, a premium aluminum pentagonal-shaped soundbar designed for wall mounting or display on a stand. Even before turning it on the level of detail put into the design was evident, with B&O pointing out the speakers use of light and shadow to minimize the presence of the speaker, alongside the subtle – and difficult to manufacture – gap between the aluminum shell and the housing masking two 4-inch bass drivers and two 0.75-inch tweeters behind black fabric. Audio performance was warm with clarity throughout the demo, whether it was a Major Lazer track or an unexpected snippet of knee-slapping bluegrass which bathed the audience in surprise.


Philips Hue Media Sync Integration
It’s too bad we can’t share everything the Philips Hue team showed us behind closed doors inside the walls of their Aria hotel suite, because it was an impressive sneak peek of technology in development which left us excited about the future of home lighting. But still, this demo of Philips Hue lights syncing with the Frima Studio XBox One title Chariot assured us lighting in the era of LEDs and smart home integration means a whole new level of immersion and mood, with colors changing according to gaming backgrounds and action. Similarly also on display on the showfloor were clips from the new SyFy series The Expanse with Hue connected light bulbs integration, lights changing color according to on-screen action.


Faraday Future FFZERO1
It was near impossible to walk the showfloor this year without overhearing someone mention Faraday Future’s wickedly aggressive FFZERO1 1000-horse power hypercar concept. Tucked at the back of the convention center’s North Hall, the car was surrounded by curious eyes and hovering cameras abuzz with excitement. Designed as a non-production vehicle exemplifying the company’s lofty ambitions to change the automotive industry with connectivity in mind, Faraday Future Global Design Director Richard Kim shared the concept vehicle was “just 1% of what we’re really working on”. The former BMW exterior designer behind the i3 and i8 concept car also noted Faraday Future’s company culture is tied to a belief connectivity will be at the core of desired experience for the next generation of drivers disconnected from the era prior to mobile technology, and promised more was coming down the pipeline that would help usher in the future to the present.


Ford Velodyne LiDAR Sensor
Ford’s LiDAR system operates using visual, ultrasonic and radar sensors to paint a picture of the car’s external environment. A screen above the car showed the environmental data in real time at the Ford CES booth with graphics reminiscent of the infrared vision in the movie, Predator, all part of the company’s push in the relam of autonomous vehicle technology. Of course, there was much hand-waving and jumping near the car in testing the sensitivity of the system. Ford also announced plans for their SYNC in-car connectivity platform to work with Amazon’s Echo smart speaker and Alexa virtual assistant to bridge between car and home. Here’s to hoping one day we can command SYNC to fetch a robotic assistant to carry the groceries up the stairs for us too.


Toyota FCV Plus Concept 001
We reported about this unique concept car a few months ago when it unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in October, but it was satisfying to see Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell technology vehicle in the flesh. The interior cabin proved to be as wild and exploratory in finish and material as the initial renders promised, complete with lichen-like webbing in the rear section and flowing LEDs everywhere. Don’t expect to see anything like this anywhere except at car shows.


Positive Posture Vaya Task Chair
We didn’t expect to find a new contender for best task chair at CES, but right across from Sennheiser’s booth was the Vaya waiting for our tired feet. The chair is the brainchild of Ken Okuyama, the designer behind the iconic Ferrari Enzo and the new-generation Porsche 911. And indeed the Vaya has something of an automotive seat aesthetic and engineered finish to it. It’s hard to say whether this is the “world’s most comfortable office chair on earth”, but in the few minutes we had sitting on it, we were intrigued to spend more time working from one.


Sennheiser Orpheus Headphones
Let’s suppose I was obscenely rich…a wonderful supposition indeed. Would I ever spend $55K for headphones under this condition? Probably not. But am I glad someone engineered something so uncompromising as this Sennheiser Orpheus headphone system for someone else? Definitely. The electrostatic headphones system is arguably the audio industry’s flagship model, a luxury statement piece made from a real slab of Carrara marble, topped with eight vacuum tubes that all disappear into the unit when turned off (alongside the front control knobs). When turned on the headphones performed exquisitely well, reproducing the Eagle’s Hotel California in such immersive detail I had to be tapped on the shoulder to open my eyes and hand over the headphones for others waiting behind me. With only 250 of these headphones planned for production per year, these will certainly appreciate over time just like the first Orpheus released a decade ago, the sort of design which will grace the pages of design publication as often as audio outlets.


Glowforge 3D Laser Printer
The Glowforge was already on our radar as one of the most anticipated consumer-level maker technologies we wanted to get our hands on. And if the crowds around their booth at CES were any indication, it seemed anticipation and excitement building around this versatile 3D laser printer was far from uncommon. Glowforge co-founder and CEO Dan Shapiro was kind enough to even make us a sample using the Design Milk logo to show what his printer is capable of producing.


Think Legos, but with electronics built into each block. Kids can connect magnetic modules to build real working circuits to musical instruments, electronic toys, spy kits, or burglar alarms. These are marked for kids over the age of 6 years old, but this…ahem…slightly older big kid is interested in playing around with Makerbloks too.


Samsung WELT
Wearable technologies are still somewhat intrusive, an additional device you have to add into your daily habits to work. That’s why something like the Samsung Creative Lab’s wellness belt – WELT, for short – caught our eyes. Most of us have to wear a belt anyway, so why not have that belt keep measurement of your waistline and activity levels. Samsung reps noted the WELT measures tension exerted by the wearer’s gut against the belt…a particularly frightening premise after the numerous Las Vegas buffets we enjoyed during our stay at CES.


Technics SL-1200G Turntable
Technics decided to celebrate 50 years of being the de facto standard for DJs worldwide with the reintroduction of a brand new Technics SL-1200 turntable. Two models, actually: the standard 1200G and limited run 1200GAE are hefty reincarnations of the discontinued direct drive wheels of steel. So what’s different besides the larger size and the additional “G” tacked onto the model number? A new coreless 9 pole motor to reduce vibrations, 78rpm function, high damped tonearm, and a USB port for updates. Pricing hasn’t been officially announced, but you might want to begin saving now, as Technics representatives on the showfloor mentioned a figure in the thousands.


This Guy Air Guitaring
Everything about this gentleman at the Sony booth exemplifies what makes CES worth attending: pure joy and curiosity of technology’s potential.

Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at