4 Snazziest Trends from World's Biggest Tech Show

APTOPIX Gadget Show Autel
John Locher/APDrones fly at the Autel booth during the show.

It wouldn't be January if new tech didn't dazzle attendees at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show -- or CES, for short. With more than 3,500 exhibitors attempting to grab the attention of an estimated 150,000 attendees in Las Vegas, let's go over some of the tech and exhibitors that are turning heads this month at the world's largest technology show.

1. Bring in the Drones

This is the first year that drones have an official presence at CES, complete with their own netted area for folks to kick the tires on the high-tech playthings. The past year has been filled with dreams of drones delivering everything from burritos to Amazon shipments, but the more practical emphasis at the expo is on more reasonably priced drones that can be used for filming purposes.

GoPro (GPRO) is the biggest beneficiary here, as the gold standard for drones appear to be rugged enough to lift one of GoPro's wearable cameras and achieve smooth flight trajectories. With several exhibitors showcasing footage filmed from their drones, it's a safe bet that your video feeds will have even more aerial drone footage in the near future.

2. We're Not Giving Up on 3-D Printing

One of the hardest-hit industries on Wall Street last year was 3-D printing. Makers of 3-D printers that delivered big gains in 2012 and 2013 crashed in 2014 as sales slowed and the highly touted push for mainstream markets failed to reach the masses.

Well, CES featured its first 3-D printing pavilion, and the makers of these high-tech machines that crank out physical objects have heard the complaints that have been holding them back. The 3-D exhibitors are focusing on making modeling software easier, allowing for a wider variety of raw materials and making a bigger push in the classrooms so the new generation warms up to 3-D printing.

3. This Could Be the Year for Wearables

Wearable computing's bark has been more appealing than its bite. We're not buying smart watches, Google (GOOG) (GOOGL) Glass specs or anything beyond basic fitness bracelets. That should change this year. Apple (AAPL) should be a big driver when the Apple Watch hits retailers in a couple of months, but there were several companies big and small pumping up the prospects for their wearables.

GPS-tracking wristwatches for kids, Bluetooth-activated rings, and plenty of smart watches that aren't hailing from Cupertino were on display. Intel (INTC) even made waves by introducing a computer the size of a penny, inspiring what could be even more ambitious wearables in the future.

4. The Internet of Real Things

The term "Internet of Things" has been gaining steam over the past year, particularly in the home, where automation is being made easier as devices communicate with one another to simplify routine tasks around the kitchen and even man the thermostat.

Google validated the niche when it shelled out $3.2 billion for learning-thermostat darling Nest last year, and this year's CES had plenty of companies displaying ways that they will make appliances and gadgetry smarter inside and outside the home. Products like Belkin's WeMo with home sensors to automate several home appliances and Nest expanding its reach beyond its flagship remotely controlled home thermostat are paving the way for a Jetsons-like future that will be here sooner than you think -- except for the hover cars. Now where's Rosie the robotic maid?

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A and C shares), GoPro and Intel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A and C shares), and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool's free report for one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

Originally published