Upcoming Technology of the Future – Top 20 Trends in 2016
If you have been following the upcoming technology trends in the wearable, virtual reality, augmented reality and internet of things (IoT) spaces over the past 12 months, you would not question the prospect of a surprise breakthrough in the next couple of months and during 2016 in general. And by surprise, I mean something we’ve not experienced before; something we may have not even come to us as an imagination, let alone a viable idea. To be short and snappy – a “technology of the future”, that’s what 2015 has taught us.
So now that 2016 is here, what should really count as technology of the future and be a gamechanger? Here are a few upcoming technologies, both new and maturing, that you should hold your breath for.
1. 3-D Printing
Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is an upcoming technology that is rapidly gaining momentum – it is the process of making solid objects of three dimensional nature from digital files. Designers begin by building virtual models of the desired objects in Computer Aided Design (CAD) files with the help of a 3D scanner – to copy an existing item OR a 3D modelling program object – and to create a 1:1 or a scaled up/down model of that object.
The idea of 3D printing has existed for decades but not until recently have renowned companies like Google and Microsoft made a step into the space. 3D scanning has particularly taken centre stage, and a good example of hardware that can perform 3D scanning is Microsoft Kinect Fusion., as well as Scanify by Fuel 3d.
A lot more PC hardware brands have followed suit, and signs are that high-end mobile devices will soon have built-in 3D scanners. Currently, there are a variety of 3D scanners ranging from expensive large scale industrial machines to $30 DIY devices that can be used by anyone at home.
2. Emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) Trends
Undeniable, robots are miles away from matching the natural human intelligence level but what we’ve seen in recent years shows that soon we may be having artificial people. It’s not going to happen in 2016 of course but with this rate of advancement, where we may find ourselves at the end of the year as far as robotics and artificial intelligence are concerned remains anyone’s guess.
In countries like Japan, robots have offered a significant proportion of reliable labour force and are used in elderly care. We’ve seen self-driving cars in 2015, and who knows, maybe soon human chefs are going to be a thing of the past.
According to experts, the next generation of robots will be extremely close to humans in terms of the thought process: they will be able to hear and speak, express emotions and, well, formulate original ideas.
While our usefulness as humans continues to lose value with advancement of this technology, the thought of having a metal version of the human species remains a very exciting one.
Recommeded Reading on AI and its consequences: The AI Revolution
3. Upcoming Technology – Virtual Reality
Since modern virtual reality hit the market some time back in 2014, 2D video officially became a thing of the past with many gamers craving towards the real 3d experience. With this upcoming technology, users are provided with a 360-degree video environment and are able to view video and gaming content like they were a “part of it”.
For this to happen, a VR headset is mounted on to a digital device such as a smartphone, and then strapped around the head to cover the eyes. Some of the few market successful virtual reality headsets so far include Samsung’s Gear VR, the pocket friendly Google Cardboard and of course the highly anticipated Oculus Rift that is available for pre-order now and will ship starting March 28th.
VR technology has not yet found its peak in mass market appeal mainly due to little awareness and its dispensable utility, but if the popularity growth in the last quarter of 2015 extends to 2016, the upcoming technology could go mainstream with a tremendous potential to be THE technology of the future.
4. Augmented Reality
Often muddled up with virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) is pretty much different and oftentimes more practical upcoming technology when compared to VR. AR enhances what the user sees via 3D smartglasses (like Microsoft’s Hololens) by embedding digital information into real world contexts while virtual reality creates immersive digital worlds in front of our eyes that behave in ways that mimic real world analogues.
2015 looked like the breakthrough year for AR but there were no serious signs that the technology would make it to the mainstream. Not until the last quarter of the year, at least, when many IT companies announced their involvement in this upcoming technology field. Apple Inc. in particular made their intent of venturing into the AR market when they came up with an AR projector prototype back in September for which they were granted patent. They have since not developed a final consumer product but the sheer move to file for patent should be enough a signal that augmented reality is going to be real very soon.
5. Internet of Things
Internet of things is an environment in which physical objects are provided with the ability to connect and transfer data between each other over a network without necessarily utilising human to computer or human to human interaction.
For the past five or so years, the internet of things has been a vital part of the technology world and is now firmly embedded in our lives. That said, we’re far from fully exploiting this beautiful technology, according to experts, and hopefully 2016 is going to be the breakthrough year.
A number of developments are expected to take place in the next 12 months in this upcoming technology field as gadget manufacturers continue to increase the production of wireless IP-based devices. Also the emergence of more natural people-to-“thing” interaction is expected to take place, and this way devices will be more usable through semantic modelling and voice control and social interplay. This way, device interactions with less friction between technology and people will emerge, and this will be seen as a step towards the internet of things ubiquity.
Microdrones are also expected to emerge in 2016. This will be tiny personal drones, equipped with high-quality cameras and other smartphone capabilities, with which people will be able to record, store and share memorable moments of their lives. Other people’s privacies may face jeopardy, but that may be too tiny a setback to stop the spread.
6. Wearable Technology of the Future
If 2015 was good for wearable tech enthusiasts, 2016 will be better. It all started back in 2014 with wristbands mounted with multiple sensors for measuring and recording body temperatures, heart rate, speed, distance covered etc.
Then came a more advanced generation of devices designed to be worn around the wrist, the neck, the waist, the ears and other parts of the body equipped with additional sensors and functionalities such as GPS connection and some smartwatch capabilities.
2015 provided the platform for all these developments phases and thanks to market demand upsurge, more reliable major IT companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft have entered the market, only to increase its already overwhelming popularity. Currently the Apple Watch – a smartwatch-cum-fitness tracker, Fitbit fitness tracker, Jawbone, Microsoft Band and the Misfit Shine are reigning supreme on the fitness tracker market.
According to experts, another generation of fitness trackers that can record bodily phenomena from under the skin might hit the market in 2016. That means, the hassle of having to strap devices on the body will be done away with, consequently increasing the ease of use.
7. Upcoming Technology – Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), also called “smart matter” is a technology that connects small mechanical devices such as mirrors, gears, valves, actuators and sensors embedded in semiconductor chips to computers to perform different mechanical functions.
Currently, MEMS are being used in automobile airbags as accelerometers where they’ve replaced less reliable yet expensive devices. An airbag that utilises MEMS can inflate on the basis of detected deceleration as well as the physical size of the person being protected.
MEMS devices feature micro-circuitries contained in small silicon chips into which mechanical devices such as a sensor or a mirror have been manufactured. Such chips are typically manufactured in large quantities at relatively low cost, making them a cost effective alternative for multiple purposes.
Other uses of MEMS include heating and cooling in sensor-driven systems that are known to be highly energy efficient. They are also used in global position system sensors which are mounted on to courier parcels for tracking and sensing of parcel treatment along the way. In airplanes, MEMS are included in sensors contained in the fabric of the wings to facilitate detection and reaction of the plane to airflow by changing wing surface resistance, consequently creating an array of diminutive wing flaps.
Lastly, smart matter is used in optical switching devices to enable switching of light signals through different paths at a 20 nanosecond switching speed.
8. Smart Drones
Although the use of drones for commercial purposes is yet to be legalised in many countries across the world, the number of drone vendors and the general use of these kits has been seeing an accelerating upsurge over the past few years.
According to a report, drones will have little under 30 exhibitors at CES 2016, more than four times the 2015 number of vendors. Specifically what 2016 has in store for us as far as drones are concerned, are kits more like cameras than planes, as the upcoming technology evolves to make up for foolhardy fliers and novice mistakes.
Lily, for example, are planning to release a waterproof drone that launches when tossed into the air and follows the user around as they ski, skate or even kayak. GoPro, an helmet camera manufacturing giant, is set to deliver a model called Karma that sports special functionalities that the company has been hesitant to reveal.
Late in Q3 2015, Amazon released a short video of a prototype of its upcoming delivery drone, as the demand for a more efficient mode of package delivery continues to grow. All these could be realities in 2016.
9. Wireless Charging Technology
Wireless electricity has been the world’s long term dream; often discussed but never quite delivered.
In 2016 though, the use of wall sockets to juice up smartphone and smartwatch batteries may be run down and replaced with wireless charging docks that use magnetism to transmit electricity. Wireless chargers, also known as inductive chargers, use a transmitter coil to produce an alternating current, which in turn generates a voltage in the device at the receiver coil. Wireless charging pads for example, can be used to charge smartphones, Bluetooth headsets, tablets, portable power banks and cameras.
Some high end devices such as the Samsung Galaxy series, Apple iPhones and some smartwatches are already supporting this upcoming technology. More and more companies are designing their devices in favour of this trend, which facilitates efficiency, portability and faster charging, and soon corded chargers could be rendered useless.
10. Terahertz Imaging
Terahertz imaging is a new nondestructive evaluation (NDE) method of dielectric material analysis and quality control used in a number of applications ranging from security, pharmaceutical, biomedical, aerospace and material characterisation industries.
Not so much a technology of the future as it is already being used at various airport security checkpoints around the world mainly for explosive detection. Cars that feature automatic collision sensing and avoidance capabilities also use Terahertz imaging.
Like sonar or radar, terahertz imaging relays images by comparing measurements across a number of sensors. The arrays have to be of high density as the distance between the different sensors is directly proportional to wavelength.
In a camera, the lens directs the incoming light in such a way that what is reflected by a portion of the visual scene brings about an equal patch of the sensor display. In imaging systems with relatively low frequencies, an incoming beam, whether acoustic or electromagnetic, strikes each and every sensor in the array.
The distance between different sensors, as stated earlier, should not be more than half the incoming wave’s wavelength, and as long as this is kept to, the calculation is simple and straightforward as it only requires inversion of the sensors’ readings. Two or more possible solutions will be yielded if the sensors are located more than half a wavelength away from each other.
Researchers at the Research Laboratory for Electronics at MIT, in an issue of IEEE Transactions on Antenna Propagation, describe a new method of reducing the necessary number of sensors for millimetre-wave or terahertz imaging by a factor of up to 100, making the whole upcoming technology more realistic and viable in the future.
11. 5G Network
If 4G was fast, 5G will be faster, and that’s one more reason to relish 2016 as it unfolds. According to researches, the new 5G network, which is already being tested by Ericsson, Huawei and other renowned IT companies, will be more than 100 times faster than the current 3G and 4G networks. Verizon is among the few companies who have confirmed they will avail the new network later in 2017, but smaller mobile service providers are expected to capitalise on the opportunity and bring the service to their customers as early as Q2 this year.
12. Bitcoin Technology
History may highlight the instability and unreliability of Bitcoin, but a future takeover of the digital cryptocurrency can never be ruled out. Sure, Bitcoin has been in the middle of some serious controversies such as the Silk Road saga, for instance, and legalising it has been met with a lot of dilemma and opposition, but big financial institutions all across the world seem to be in support of this Blockchain technology thanks to its transparent and instant nature as a medium of international money transfer.
13. The Device Mesh
There is a variety of trends that have led to an increase in the number of sensors found in devices and technologies that we use in our daily lives, which become smarter as they collect and record more personal data for health, security, etc..
According to Gartner, these sensors, which are currently being used in silos, will have their utility even exploited more in 2016, leading to better insights on more and more patterns in our daily lives.
14. Digital Personal Assistants
From smart cars to robots, everything is going smarter with machine learning. However, software based intelligence is bringing about an even greater impact and it’s thus becoming a more viable option.
Currently, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now and other Digital Personal Assistants are becoming smarter each day and are the leading autonomous agents of today’s technology. It’s only a matter of time till voice control and app conversations replace the old school menus and forms.
15. Adaptive-Build Security Systems
The “hacker industry” is growing more and more advanced and (IoT) security will be more in demand in 2016 than ever. With this rate of online risk upsurge, classical techniques of protection are no longer sufficient.
Any upcoming technology or application in this field needs to have a self-protecting system while organisations and businesses follow the behaviour of their devices and the users alike, forming a security system that can undergo adaptive adjustment.
16. Bluetooth Powered Beacons
Also known as lighthouses, Bluetooth beacons are being installed in utility locations such as hotels, shopping malls, offices, hospitals and recreational points to detect nearby smartwatch and smartphone users and send them real time notifications about their services in a bid to attract passing by potential customers.
So far, only established hotels and shopping malls have been able to afford this technology mainly due to the high cost of purchasing and installing 4.2 Bluetooth beacon hardware, but with a projected increase in the number of vendors in 2016, cheaper alternatives may be more accessible.
17. Cloud-Based Services for Video Gaming
According to a senior analyst at Jupiter Research – a UK-based market research firm – powerful video games of 2016 will not solely rely on console like it presently is, but also on cloud for power. Cloud is believed to be a more powerful and reliable power centre than console but 2016 would be “too early” to completely switch to cloud. In cloud-powered games, according to the analyst, trigger response for action-packed games, fighting games, for instance, won’t be fast enough.
For now, gamers can only anticipate Nintendo’s hyped “Nintendo NX” as the next upcoming cloud-powered video game platform.
18. Broadband Development
The gaming and music industries are becoming dependent on streaming services each day, and that calls for a wider bandwidth limit and technology.
Statistics show an incredible increase in the number of music streaming service providers in 2015, and 2016 has more to promise. A rumour has been making rounds that Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are planning to extend their services to more than 10 other countries in the Americas and Africa. What’s more, Nvidia and Sony both announced their intent to start offering video game streaming services to every smart device there is in 2016.
Almost every video game these days comes in an unfinished form such that you have to download updates before you start playing, not to mention digital distribution companies like Valve, which solely offer digital downloads. This means that you have to first upgrade your broadband connection before upgrading your gadgets, opening up space for upcoming technologies to address these issues.
19. Refined System Architecture
Gartner tipped the digital mesh to break into the mainstream in 2016. If that comes pass, explains David Cearley, Gartner vice president, another upcoming technology will be pulled along: the powerful neuromorphic architectures. Cearley believes that devices built on FPGAs and GPUs will be a lot more similar to the human brain in pattern recognition algorithms such as deep learning.
20. Ambient User Experience
Gartner refers to the above described sensors and devices’ capacity to collect and record more contextual data as Ambient UX. The snafu will revolve around application design, forestalling this level of gadget synchronicity and collaboration, for lack of reliable framing. This upcoming technology, as well as sensors and devices, according to Gartner, will be smart to an extent that they will be able to organise users’ lives without their even noticing that the devices are doing so.
Technology in the Future – Exciting Times
Some of the most exciting upcoming technologies in virtual and augmented reality, as well as wearable tech made their breakthrough into the mainstream somewhere in between the last 12 months, and 2015 provided a nice platform for that. 2016 should be better, at least judging from history, and the thousands of researchers and raw viable ideas all across the planet should merge to make our lives in the foreseeable future even simpler.