Technology influences our lives in all manner of ways, some helpful, some out of habit, and some we may prefer not to admit to. Each year, it becomes a race to see who can “win” the technology race which consequently means we have to sift through hundreds of benefit-less “innovations” to get to the genuinely useful creations. We’ve picked out a few themes we expect to gain high profile in 2016.
VR has been humming for a few years now since Facebook bought Oculus Rift for around $2bn in 2014. 2016 looks set to unleash numerous VR devices all offering different experiences and technological profiles. Keep an eye out for the public release of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony Playstation VR, Microsoft Hololens, and the Samsung Gear VR.
Verily is the name given to Google’s Life Science division. Verily aims to combine hardware, software, cross-industry expertise, science, clinical trials, and human feedback to create the ability to map human-being health and wellness. It is early days for Verily and 2016 may be too soon to get too excited, but expect to hear more from Verily next year.
This is something of a band-aid solution, but a solution none-the-less.
In response to a number of mass shootings in the USA (of which there have been more than 350 this year), one suggestion has been the development of “smart guns” that utilise technologies that only allow the registered user from engaging the weapon. Technologies such as fingerprint readers and radio frequency ID have been suggested to limit the use and access to firearms.
Whilst this precaution may not dramatically reduce the number of incidents in the USA, at least the conversations have commenced in order to find a solution, and will surely be a hot topic in 2016.
We already have those little robot vacuum disk units that work their way around a room vacuuming around the clock so that we don’t have to. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
2016 is set to be the launch pad for a host of autonomous technologies that aim to make life easier (or more so, remove some of the things we don’t like doing). Automated vehicles have already been in circulation and discussion for a number of years, whilst mobile phone controlled devices like air conditioners, door locks and security items, and kitchen gadgets are already available to the general public. Expect significant growth in this area in 2016.
Blockchain and digital currency
Got a few hours?
Blockchain has largely gained publicity through the development and controversy surrounding the rise of Bitcoin, the digital currency that became synonymous with illegal online market place, Silk Road. Bitcoin and Silk Road are a story in themselves, but ‘Blockchain’ remains a technology with great promise.
Blockchain is basically a public database of digital activity that is both secure and anonymous, but undeniable. In other words, in using Blockchain technology, online transactions from purchases to sending and receiving documents can be actioned anonymously and securely via Blockchain whilst leaving digital confirmation that the engagement occurred in the first place.
It is quite a complex system, but it has a lot of potential for providing unmatched security and ease-of-transaction for all number of online engagements. There’s a two minute video here which explains the concept further.
Budget smart phones
Possibly the most unglamorous of technologies for 2016 is the devolution of mobile phones.
Despite the battle between Apple and Samsung (and various other players) to create the most outrageously featured and unnecessary cell phone on the planet, the trend amongst cell phone consumers is moving towards outright purchases with a sensible benefit list. In the USA, subsidised phone plans and contracts have deteriorated stunningly with a shift towards “good-enough” phones. Accordingly, the likes of Asus and Motorola have started releasing handsets that come in at less than $300 such as the Zenfone 2 which have received high praise within the technology media.
There are any number of technologies that will enter the mainstream next year and no doubt cause a ruckus. Apple will release new devices, and 3D printing is sure to establish itself as a consumer-grade commodity. More user-powered utilities will arise such as Uber and Airbnb, and our motor vehicles will continue the evolution towards becoming end-user computers with wheels. But if the technology saturation becomes too much for you, there’s an out: save your dollars and head over to Vermont in the USA for a nine month Stone Age experience. By the time you make it home, there will be a robot mowing your lawn, a 3D printer making light work of those kitchen renovations, and the kids will be whisked off to school in their own driverless buggy, allowing you the time to reload all of your favourite apps onto the latest iPhone. Ah the serenity.