The start of a new year also means a chance for the tech world to start afresh. And that also means the world’s largest consumer electronics show, CES 2016, which kicks off on 6 January and runs through 9 January in Las Vegas, US.

What makes this all-important is that the announcements and products shown off at this carnival for the geeks, will pretty much set the tone for the rest of the year—both in terms of what you will be able to buy, and the sort of prototype gadgets we will get to see. The interesting bit is that beyond the hyped products at the show, it is the more run-of-the-mill stuff that can actually indicate what the consumer really wants.

We take a look at what we can expect at CES 2016, beyond all the noisy marketing spiel.

Smart Homes: This could be the year when things take off

In 2015, the big guns got all excited about the smart homes concept. The likes of Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Brillo, as well as Samsung’s Tizen and LG’s Web OS, have been developed to turn our homes into smarter entities, where most appliances and safety systems can be controlled via a smartphone, and our lives become a lot easier. While 2015 was all about showing off the potential of these platforms along with some stuff such as Amazon’s Echo personal assistant, this year will be all about making this work in the real world. Expect more smart and genuinely practical gadgets and sensors that can simply plug into these platforms. But these will surely not come cheap, and turning your home “smart" could just require a bit of patience. And it is high time these services stop being “US centric", for it to truly succeed.

Streaming: the second coming?

While there have been a bunch of media streaming services in India, such as Hooq and Big Flix, big names such as Netflix and Spotify have stayed away so far. Reasons for that include largely poor broadband speeds, lack of Internet penetration and the fact that paid services don’t really work out well in a country where piracy is still rampant. However, going by reports, video streaming giant Netflix will most likely announce it is coming to India, as well as some other countries, this year. This could also force the likes of Hulu, HBO Now and Showtime to look towards India. Once that happens, it will be the genuine “cord-cutter" scenario in India, which could spell bad news for direct-to-home (DTH) platforms.

Virtual reality: the first view

Virtual reality (VR) will be the “cool" thing in 2016. First up, there are the headsets. The Oculus Rift will show off the latest of what it has at CES, while the likes of HTC’s Vive will also be available to consumers later in the year. Microsoft’s Holo Lens is also something that will allow Microsoft to show off what it is capable of. We already have the Google Cardboard spin-offs flooding the market. And even phone makers such as Samsung will have products that will work with their phones. Apps such as Facebook are ready to support 360-degree immersive experiences for media. But VR will remain a niche, an enthusiast’s playground, at least till the time the experience is refined and the hardware becomes affordable.

Truly smart cars: Self driving, safer and more

Last year, CES was big on self-driving cars, including the futuristic Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion autonomous concept car. This year, we can expect more of the same. Google and Ford may announce their partnership to develop self-driving cars. Mercedes, Volvo and the other big names will also have new products to show off.

Cleaner cars are also in focus, with growing concerns about our environment. Volkswagen, desperate to deflect attention from the diesel-gate scandal, will have the classic Microbus, in the electronic vehicle (EV) avatar.

German automotive components manufacturer Bosch has already said that it will unveil a haptic technology that allows a traditional touch screen to emulate physical textures and buttons, allowing drivers to operate it without having to look at it.

And we can expect some announcements around Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto platforms, as more manufacturers integrate them in vehicles being sold to consumers.