Despite the fact that 2016 is often described as “the worst”, there have been quite a few important technological and scientific advancements that have occurred. For instance, it is the first year where chat bots and AI have started to become commonplace and where driverless cars started truly capturing our imaginations. So, without getting bogged down, let’s get going through the top 10 tech trends of 2016.
This is a big one. For a long time now, several companies such as Google, Tesla and Uber have been each researching ways to successfully produce a car that safely drives itself. And Tesla, this year, has started itself putting semi-driverless cars on the road. Even legislators are backing it. Several states have already signed into law guidelines for these vehicles. Even Ford has pledged to create a driverless fleet by 2020.What’s big about this? Driverless cars are expected to be much safer than human driven cars. They don’t get fatigue and are less likely to make mistakes. It also means car ownership will be less important. You won’t necessarily need to own a car to use it. You can simply hail a car and it will simply drive to you and pick you up. However, this is expected to have a large impact on the economy as well and the full impacts of it aren’t fully known. For instance, transportation is one of the largest sectors of employment in the United States and driverless trucks are expected to take away many of those jobs.
Cars have become quite a place for innovation in 2016 and their source of fuel is no exception. With Tesla taking the lead on this, electric cars have been hugely popular and charging stations have been popping up everywhere. Hopefully in 2017 we’ll see even more car companies follow suit in this trend.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
While in development for many years by various tech companies, this year saw the emergence of many AIs that have predicted such things like the U.S. election and even cancer diagnosis’s with IBM’s Watson. A woman’s life was even saved when an AI was able to analyze her genome in 10 minutes to find a disease that no doctor could. Machine learning and AI is the gift that just keeps on giving and, of course, even more advancements are predicted in the coming years.
While seemingly related to AI, chat bots have not been available until now to due API restrictions from major chat providers. In 2016, however, many of California’s finest have opened up their chat services to external developers. iMessage and Facebook chat now allow for external services to connect and provide bots that can do things such has call an Uber or send money to your favourite friend. Chat bots have also been the scene of controversy. Microsoft even released their own AI bot on Twitter; however it quickly became quite racist. To learn how it should interact with others, it studied how to behave by reading other Twitter conversations, which, as we all know, is a bastion of respectful discussion. The whole debacle led Microsoft to shut the bot down in under 24 hours. Big mistake.
Once again Tesla is making the rounds by announcing their plans to quickly start a Mars colony in a very short time frame. However, they are not alone. Both Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson have their own plans to make space travel a profitable enterprise. In 2016, a lot of their plans became public, but we’ll have to wait a few years before we see them come to fruition.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Although IoT hasn’t truly yet lived up to its expectations, more and more technology is being devoted to making them a reality. For instance, Apple, this year, has forced all apps to comply and work with IPv6 networks and RFID tags are cheaper than ever. Furthermore, popular services such as IFTTT have opened up to connect all of our internet-connected with the web, and even other devices. However, one of the biggest impacts that IoT will have is in the sphere industry. IoT enabled supply chains and factories will allow businesses the ability to automate much of their operations. Thanks to the data collection enabled by IoT, Adidas this year has even announced the creation of a new factory that will make shoes using only robots.
The cost of solar energy has been rapidly decreasing for years and this year we owe a lot of this progress, once more, to Tesla. Tesla, pioneered by Elon Musk, has released several products to easily enable a viable personal solar power solution. Using the Power Wall and solar cell embedded shingles, consumers will be able to cheaply provide their own energy.
For years we’ve been waiting for a viable virtual reality environment to play games and consume other digital media, and, while not exclusive to 2016, this year we saw a huge increase in the amount of effort put into fleshing out the VR ecosystem. This year alone, plenty of companies are putting forth their version of Virtual Reality and competing in the hopes of being the #1 VR platform. The winner? Everyone else. Even if you are short on cash or aren’t completely sold on the idea, you can get a Google Cardboard kit for as little as $20 and use your phone to check out some VR demos or watch 3d Youtube videos in 360 degrees. This year also saw the increased support of Virtual Reality by game developers. Playing Truck Simulator has never been better.
Now while this list may look impressive, we expect each of these things to improve and grow to maturity into 2017 and we can’t wait to see what else is in store for us.
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