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4 Big Trends at CES 2016: Cars, Wearables, Laptops, and Accessories for Everything

Daniel Bean
Assistant Editor

This year’s Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show doesn’t actually kickoff until today. But that hasn’t stopped companies from taking over the days leading up to the official opening with plenty of press conferences.

A quick survey of the gadgets and services announced at those early press events can be broken into four main categories: Smart cars; accessories; laptops (and tablets that think they’re laptops); and wearables. Here are some of the most interesting announcements we’ve seen so far.

A fleet of car news

This year’s pre-CES announcements have included a couple of fun new advances in car tech — and some interesting partnerships.

Microsoft has teamed up with Volvo to bring some vehicle function controls to its Band 2 fitness wearable. Similarly, Ford and Amazon have hooked up to link the Echo to its connected cars, meaning you’ll be able to unlock your vehicle from inside your home or ask Amazon’s Alexa system questions from behind the wheel.

Ford has also announced that it’s unleashing the largest crop of self-driving test-cars in the auto market, featuring new, more advanced self-driving sensors. And car-audio vendor Harman has announced that it will be bringing Microsoft Office to car consoles — though probably not in time for you to do this year’s taxes from the drivers seat.

Accessories you didn’t know you needed

Though Apple itself isn’t at the show, accessories for Apple gadgets most definitely are.

Griffin has come out with a portable Apple Watch charger to help you get your expensive timepiece through the day without dying. And (along with a slew of other new USB-C adapters) the company has also developed a Magsafe converter for Apple’s new MacBook USB-C charger.

For Apple and Android mobile devices, the new Bixi gesture-sensing accessory allows you to control your device when your hands are full or wet/cruddy. 

In the domain of home tech accessories, a company called Sevenhugs has unveiled a buttonless smart remote that, after being programmed, will detect what it’s being pointed at and change its touchscreen face to provide the appropriate controls.

Even the burgeoning space of virtual reality tech is getting accessory add-ons this year. The new 3DRudder VR game controller for your feet lets you explore virtual worlds while leaving your hands free.

Laptop copycats

When it comes to computer hardware world in 2016, originality apparently is not high on the list of design requirements.

LG’s new 15-inch MacBook knockoff looks so much like the original, it’s almost embarrassing. Sure, it’s a few inches larger than Apple’s gold laptop, and it runs Microsoft’s Windows 10 OS. But otherwise it’s a veritable clone. HP has also come with a laptop playing off of the 12-inch MacBook, featuring USB-C ports on a super-slim body that measures just a hair slighter than Apple’s newest laptop.

Meanwhile, Samsung is announcing a Microsoft Surface imitator. Dell and Lenovo, of course, have Surface-like hybrid models of their own. But Samsung’s looks to be the thinnest of the bunch – even slimmer than the actual Surface Pro 4.

Lenovo, on the other hand, continues to copy itself, with new flavors of its ThinkPad Windows laptops. This year’s models follow the same design style set by IBM’s 1990s ThinkPad machines, with obvious injections of sleekness and up-to-date PC innards.

Wearing on and on

Based on what we’ve seen ahead of this year’s CES, looks like we’ll be wearing even more tech soon.

In 2016, HTC has already announced a glitzy partnership with UnderArmour to bring a suite of UA-branded fitness-tracking wearables to the market. There’s the UA Band for tracking your steps and calories burned, the UA Heart Rate for precise pulse measurements, a UA body scale, and connected shoes called the SpeedForm Gemini 2. All devices hook into the UA Record app to measure your progress against your resolved New Year’s fitness goals.

Fitbit has also pulled the curtain back on its first smartwatch, the Fitbit Blaze. Based on the precipitous fall in Fitbit stock that met the announcements, investors were not impressed with the gadget’s awkward design. The new Ray fitness and sleep tracker by connected device company Misfit, on the flip side, is being lauded for its fine looks.

In the field of linguistics wearables, real-time translation necklace ili looks to help you get by in foreign-language countries by speaking out translated versions of whatever you say into it. The first model will support Japanese, English, and Chinese languages, with future iterations to include more. Availability will be announced in the spring.

Stay tuned to Yahoo Tech for more CES 2016 coverage to come.

Email me at danbean@yahoo-inc.com. Follow me on Twitter at danielwbean.