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5 Hype or Heck Yes! Tech Trends for 2016 & Beyond

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Each year, the ever-expanding world of technology ebbs and flows between brilliant to 'meh' reactions from consumers. Sometimes the latest technology becomes more flash than functional with a hefty price tag attached. While it may be too early to know which 2016 tech trends will stick for years to come, 2016 will undoubtedly provide the foundation for technology to evolve into an exciting and connected lifestyle between man and machine. But like all trends, until these new gadgets reach the market, it can be difficult to know what's hype and what's in our more immediate (or likely) future.

Here are 5 tech trends we're sure you'll hear about throughout 2016.

1. Automated Cars & ADAS

The idea of automated cars is moving further away from science fiction and into a commuter's dream come true. While the technological advancements of automated cars is impressive, don't hold your breath for an automated car in 2016. With the number of major legislative and technology challenges ahead, it could still be a few years before we see fully autonomous vehicles on the road.

Instead of self-driving cars, 2016 will more than likely make way for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), with automatic braking, lane-departure warnings, and other beneficial safety perks. Even though ADAS doesn't sound nearly as cool as an automated car, there are bigger and more immediate improvements happening on the ADAS front — advancing the automotive industry to a new and exciting level for drivers everywhere.

2. Wearable Technology

Wearable Technology, such as the Fitbit, was a popular accessory for 2015 with its fitness and technology combo but other wearables, such as the Apple Watch, weren't so readily accepted by the public. What was the problem? Well, for one, the Apple Watch has a price tag that lead most consumers to shake their heads and move on. Functionally speaking, the Apple Watch failed to do things differently from any smartphone or step tracker. Basically, it was a overpriced wristwatch that could send notifications just like any smartphone.

For 2016, you can expect Apple to unveil a new watch with hopefully more inspiring updates. You can also expect more enterprises getting in the wearable technology game. Think tech tats which can attach to the skin like a temporary tattoo and fashionable fitness trackers, identification and smart home controls wearables. So, even if you're not a health nut, 2016 will likely reveal wearables to the workplace, home security and identification that just might pique your interest.

3. Virtual & Augmented Reality

As discussed in a previous blog post about Virtual Reality for Less Than 20 Bucks, VR is starting to saturate the world for gaming, entertainment and mobile apps. 2016 will be the year the Oculus Rift, the first consumer-level VR headset that doesn't require a smartphone, makes its debut but the bigger question to consider is, will it be worth the hype? Or better yet, will it be worth the price? Awesome as the VR headset may be, the price and gaming focus could leave VR as a niche, fun-to-use gaming device but not much more.

Augmented reality on the other hand, could have a significant impact in 2016 — appealing to a much wider audience as a new display method. Even though it can be argued that VR technology offers the same case, AR technology differs in that it uses your surroundings to interpose digital images like a map or instructions instead of a fully immersive display like VR.

Companies such as Ikea and Home Depot are already using AR for their mobile apps by allowing customers to try and take the guess work out of choosing from different furniture and home appliances. Essentially, AR is the next likely (and more affordable) step in the evolution of VR for the majority of people.

4. Drones & Anti-Drone Devices

2016 will be the year to choose (or affirm) your stance on whether you are in favor of drones or not. No matter where you stand, drones are sure to take flight for business and recreational use. The Federal Aviation Administrations is expected to introduce final rules for commercial drone flight in 2016, and this will directly affect bigger enterprises. Amazon.com, for instance, plans to launch a drone delivery service called Prime Air over the new several years.

Along with ambitious company initiatives, drones are expected to get smarter with tracking technologies and additional sensors to read their environment.

With an increase use of drones for recreational use, 2016 is also likely to see a rise in anti-drone technology as more people search for ways to make their property a no-fly zone. The Ohio-based nonprofit research and development firm Battelle unveiled the DroneDefender (pictured above). This device uses targeted radio waves to force drones out of the sky — stopping drones without firing a single shot.

5. Artificial Intelligence

We know what you’re thinking. Artificial Intelligence have been teased as a way of the future for years now, and while we agree that a lot of these end up being hype, 2016 will at least be the year we hear about AI in the headlines when it comes to tech products, home companions, and services.

Most everyone is familiar with AI that powers technology products like Windows’ Cortana and iOS’s Siri, but this year AI will continue to make advances in robotics — with everything from home cleaners, companions to retail assistants. French company Blue Frog Robotics is expected to start selling their social robot called Buddy in 2016 — already promoting the cute and emotive robot as a member of your family. At the moment, robots like Buddy and the Japanese robot, Pepper, are more about giving robots a personal, human-like touch, which is always easier said than done.

The more significant effect of AI in 2016, however, is the fact that AIs are learning new techniques and algorithms which allow them to learn much more quickly and effectively — and not just cute things like this robot that learns to make pancakes from WikiHow articles. The smarter AIs become, the less need for human intervention.

Last year, Fortune published an article about the 5 White-Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken, with jobs ranging from Sports Reporters to Law Firm Associates and Financial Advisors. In 2016, you can expect to hear more about companies being built around self-running AI programs. That being said, it’s too early to freak out and expect a Terminator-like outcome. AIs, computers, and robots will continue to challenge our day-to-day experience along with what jobs are exclusive to humans for years to come.

Could any of these be hype for 2016? The simple answer is, of course! What do all of these trending tech topics have in common — or any technology device for that matter? They must adapt. Whether its technology that comes with a high price, clunky performance, or a device that just doesn’t penetrate past a niche market and into mainstream culture, 2016 is sure to push past those boundaries a little more and continue to leave us in awe…or yawing.