5 tech trends that will dominate 2016

2016 will be filled with incremental tech developments that will serve as a foundation for a much smarter future.

At CES, the world’s largest annual tech convention to be held in Las Vegas Jan 6-9, there will be more square-footage and vendors dedicated to cars, wearables, robots and drones than ever before — a whopping three-and-a-half football fields’ worth of space for smart-car technologies alone.

This will set the stage for a 2016 of technology companies expanding into new niche markets, such as healthcare and auto, as their software products and services become increasingly ubiquitous.

1.Virtual and augmented reality

In 2016, virtual reality will finally get its chance to shine on a consumer level, while augmented reality will continue to prove itself in the workplace. There will be 46 gaming and virtual reality exhibitors at CES this year, up 68% from last year.

In what Juniper Research predicts will be a “watershed year for VR,” 2016 will see the launch of Facebook Inc.’s Oculus Rift, the first consumer-level virtual-reality headset that doesn’t require a smartphone like Alphabet Inc.’s  Cardboard and Samsung Electronics’ Gear VR.

HTC Corp. and Valve’s Vive VR headset will also hit the market next year, after the launch was postponed in December when developers experienced a “very, very big technological breakthrough” that made the initial version obsolete, according to Engadget.

In addition to the new hardware, 2016 will also see an increased focus on VR content in gaming and entertainment, as well as the development of consumer-level 360-degree cameras for amateur virtual-reality shooting from the likes of GoPro Inc.

Meanwhile, augmented reality, which became a larger topic of discussion this year after Microsoft Corp.   showed off its not-yet-released Hololens headset at a product event, will push its way into the workplace.

At CES, vendors are expected to showcase real-world applications for these augmented-reality headsets, such as enhancing a person’s task on the job by interposing digital images like a map or instructions on top of objects in their surrounding environment.

2. Wearables

Apple Inc. helped make people comfortable with the idea of wearing tiny data-collecting computer screens on their bodies with the April 2015 launch of Apple Watch. In 2016, expect more players to hop on this trend, and expect newer devices to be more capable.

At CES, there will be 33 exhibitors showing off wearable technology, nearly triple the 12 in 2015. These devices are expected to be outfitted with sensors and showcased in ways that prove their applications in health, fitness and the enterprise market.

Soon, these devices will be able to connect directly to the Internet, without needing to tether to a third-party mobile device. This will help set the stage for embeddable wearables, such as Chaotic Moon’s biometric tattoo, or tech tats, which attach to the skin much like a temporary tattoo.


3. Smart cars

At 200,000 square feet, up 25% from 150,000 last year, automotive technology will take up a record three-and-a-half football fields’ worth of space at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

While it still may be a few years until we see fully autonomous vehicles, there has been recent movement from both a technological and regulatory standpoint that might help make 2016 a stand-out year for smart-car tech.

In December, reports suggested Google and Ford Motor Co.  could join forces to create a joint venture that will develop self-driving vehicles with Google’s technology, while in California, regulators unveiled a proposal that would require licensed drivers to be present to operate an autonomous vehicle.

Driverless driving is “almost ready for prime time,” said mobile app developer Appetizer Mobile’s CEO Jordan Edelson.

It will take a few more years for cars to become fully autonomous, but 2016 will likely be a year of partnerships between tech companies and auto manufacturers as they work toward the development of fully-autonomous vehicles, Edelson said.


4. Artificial intelligence


Artificial intelligence, similar to the tech that powers Windows’ Cortana and iOS’s Siri, and machine learning technology, which powers Google’s search engine, will continue to be incorporated into technology products, services and software in 2016 as mobility remains front and center.

But AI will continue to find its way into robots as well.

At CES, there will be 23 robotics exhibitors spanning 10,000 square feet, an increase of 71% from last year. Their robots will span everything from at-home cleaners and companions to retail assistants similar to SoftBank Group Corp’s   Pepper robot, which rolled out across stores in Japan earlier this year.

French company Blue Frog Robotics is expected to begin selling a social robot called Buddy in 2016 that it claims will interact with “each member of your family,” though Edelson suspects it will take another few years until robots begin filling personal roles, such as child care or nannying.

“People will start to slowly accept robots once they see their usefulness,” he said.

In addition to robots, 3D printers will be in force at CES this year. There will be 58 exhibitors across 24,050 square feet, an increase of 31% from last year.

5. Self-charging phones

New technologies – some of which will be showcased at CES – are enabling phones to charge through wavelengths. At CES, Ossia Inc. and Japanese telecom company KDDI Corp. will showcase a product, called Cota, that will automatically recharge mobile phones at a distance, similar to how WiFi transmitters deliver data from routers to devices.

Cota serves as a central hub, sort of like a wireless router, that pushes out targeted energy through wavelengths to charge devices without having to plug them in or place them on a pad.

This follows existing technologies that take advantage of smartphones’ wireless charging standard, known as Qi. The company Qi Wireless, for example, produces pads that charge phones when placed on them. Earlier this year, the home furnishing giant Ikea began selling tables that wirelessly charge phones when the mobile device is placed on the table top.

Other companies, such as Israeli startup StoreDot, are looking to introduce instant charging and longer-lasting batteries. The company is pledging to introduce a battery next year that would charge a smartphone in 60 seconds or less.

“These batteries are due for a major overhaul,” Edelson said.

Curated for the DI from the original list here on Marketwatch