Self-driving cars has been a topic that has slowly risen to prominence over the last couple years, and more than ever before, it’s looking like a reality. Big tech companies like Google and Apple pioneered the idea with solid investment and development, and now big automakers are following - using their century old knowledge of automobiles to refine the experience.
However, it has become clear that the tech companies and automakers are at a disadvantage by trying to accomplish this task on their own, and that is why 2016 will likely be a year of massive partnerships and trading. The technology companies are by and large leading the crowd on safety and reliability of the self-driving software. The automotive companies are leagues ahead on actual design, comfort and driver ergonomics. A partnership is a natural conclusion, and should put self driving cars in consumer hands even faster. One such partnership has already surfaced: Google and Ford.
Whatever the future holds for self-driving cars, this is the year to watch them in action, and likely in the hands of consumers.
3. Wearable tech
Wearable technology got off to a shaky start. While some have been successful, like Beats by Dre headphones, others, such as fitness bands, Google’s currently defunct Google Glass headset and smartwatches have seen less adoption. But that is not to say that these devices are currently unpopular. They are, and will only get more popular in 2016.
But the wearable category is growing and changing. Watches are what most people think when hearing the word “wearable” but this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) showcased a number of new and innovative ideas for technology that you wear.
Imagine shoes that act as a pedometer, but also track your location, warm your feet, connect via bluetooth and even “self tie” your shoelaces. What about a shirt that can measure your heart rate and calories burned? Fitness is still the key market for wearables, but new and exciting breakthroughs are on the horizon for medical and health implementations.
A company called Chaotic Moon is working on a biometric tattoo - a temporary tattoo with technology implants - that can, among other things, read vital information about the wearer to transmit back to a caretaker or parent. Some of the proposed uses include being able to detect poisons in the air or body, identify stress levels, track activity and study sleep patterns. For other practical purposes, Chaotic Moon says that this technology could see use as a financial implement to pay for goods without an easily stealable wallet or credit card. The uses for patients that need consistent monitoring are many, and it’s all found in a tattoo that can wash off with average water.
Wearables companies are clearly aiming at the healthy and the fitness enthusiasts, but data collection is at the heart of their trade. Many exciting innovations are expected this year.
Artificial Intelligence is already a part of your life, whether you know it or not. Google uses a learning technology to refine its search engine, and Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are already in your pocket, ready for the next request. But AI may be moving to a more human form this year, in the form of robots.
Robots have already been cleaning our floors and 3D printing, but these next few years will see robots begin to be accepted as normal parts of our society rather than a curiosity or luxury. Already robots have been sold in Japan as nothing more than a companion, and more companies expect to release friendly AI’s to help with everyday life in the coming years.
Once the public begins to accept AI and robots as something that can help in everyday life, a stigma will be lifted. From there, the possibilities of intelligent devices grow even further.
Improvements like longer battery life, tracking technology, and additional sensors are rumored to appear this year. Amazon has successfully tested their PrimeAir service - a program that will deliver items same day via drone - for nearly a year. On the more unorthodox side, Google’s Skybender project was revealed. Working from a spaceport in New Mexico, Google has been building and testing self-sustaining, solar powered drones to deliver the yet undeveloped 5G network standard to everyone.
Drone technology is still innovating as fast as ever, and now may even serve to further other technologies with services like Skybender and PrimeAir. Simply thinking outside the box on what a remote controlled aircraft can do has led to exciting innovations, and it is likely drones have not fully reached their full utility.
Finally, this may be the year of battery sustainability. This may be the year your little friend will have a harder time dying. This year companies begin focusing on a longer lasting smartphone.
Because battery technology seems to be stretched to it’s current limits, companies have instead focused on ways to charge your smartphone faster, wirelessly and without you knowing it’s even happening. One such technology comes from Ossia and their product Cota. Cota is a kind of wireless charging hub, that sits in your home. It uses targeted energy to wirelessly charge your devices without ever having to plug them in.
For more practical applications, NFC (Near Field Communication) Technology has become more accepted as a way to charge your smartphone. The principal is essentially this: NFC capable phone (most Androids and some iPhones) can be set on a charging pad that charges your phone without the use of a cable. Even Swedish furniture company IKEA has gotten onboard with this standard, and has started to sell tables with a built in pad, so charging your device is as easy as setting it down.