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Big Tech Trends of 2016 + A Review of Last Year’s Notables

2016 is shaping up to be another big year of buzz, product launches, and breakthroughs in tech. But before jumping on the predictions bandwagon, we here at knowmadic news are revisiting some of the biggest tech trends which have set the stage for further developments already in the works for this year.

ROBOT REVOLUTION
2015 was definitely a year that saw no shortage of stories on artificial intelligence (AI), including the impending robot revolution and its implications, especially when considering the global economy over the next few decades. Japan is often at the forefront of developments in robotics with stories on the launch of Softbank Corp.’s Pepper, as well as creepy prototypes for such jobs as receptionists and news announcers.

Giant robot display in Japan

What’s in store for 2016?
China is expected to invest more heavily in manufacturing robots—replacing millions of human factory workers in the process. Technology Review reports that two years ago China became the world’s largest importer of robots. Upgrades and the mass implementation of manufacturing robots is already being planned, especially in Guangdong Province.

Japan has similar plans with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s five-year plan to increase the use of robots in manufacturing, construction, and health care. This is particularly key for a country that has an increasing elderly population and shrinking workforce but seems set on keeping out immigrant workers who could potentially fill the gaps in a variety of industries.

Click here for a more in-depth recap of Robot Revolution stories for 2015.

DRONES
One of the hottest tech toys on the market, drones have been utilized for everything from product delivery to videography and even agriculture, to name but a few examples. With numerous stories of hobby drones and near-collisions with aircraft, there has been some controversy on how to regulate recreational drone use.

aerial drone

What’s in store for 2016?
As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicted that about a million drones would be sold during the U.S. holiday season, more regulations have followed. The most recent announcement requires owners to register their unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) by February 19, 2016, or potentially be handed a fine of as much as US$250,000 or even jail time.

As for countries such as China or Thailand, there are some general rules in place but as far as legalities or enforcement goes, there is quite a bit of gray area.

Here is a rundown of drone laws by country: ChinaThailandJapanMalaysia, and Singapore. For more reading on recent regulation issues in the United States, check out this story.

SELF-DRIVING CARS
Another headline among tech trends in 2015, Google didn’t waste any time testing out prototypes and Tesla introduced a major software upgrade allowing cars to operate with limited self-driving features.

After a year of tests, reports were widely shared revealing data summarizing safety incidents with Google’s prototype vehicles. Unsurprisingly, many of these required a software override, where the test driver would have to take over controls in order to prevent an accident.

What’s in store for 2016?
While it’s undeniable that big improvements have been made in the technology, encouraging future dependency on fully autonomous vehicle functionality seems like a, shall we say, “bad idea.”

Nonetheless, tech giants and automakers are going full bore to get closer to their goal of pushing commercially available self-driving cars onto the consumer masses. Tesla still seems like they are leading this charge with the more sensible approach—encouraging the use of semi-autonomous vehicles not just now but even over the next few years. In other words, incrementalism vs. full autonomy.

Uber, General Motors, and China’s Baidu are among the many who are jostling to get their fingers in this pie as well. Competition is certain to get heated over the next year or two.

APPLE WATCH
With the expected buildup of hype and anticipation, the Apple Watch launched in April of 2015 with somewhat tepid sales and feedback from consumers who, for the most part, were less than impressed. As an example, a select few electronics stores in Tokyo had the watch available for purchase but witnessed only small lines (as in, literally, dozens of people) versus the predictable madness of crowds queuing up early for a release of the latest version of the iPhone.

While sales of the Apple Watch over the past year have turned out to be decent, there are many who just don’t see the need for this purchase. Reasons were as expected—from the lack of enough popular third-party apps for the watch to the annoyance and redundancy of having yet another small screen to stare at.

The launch of the Apple Watch in India was delayed for these same reasons. Instead, people have been more interested in cheaply priced smartphones introduced to the Indian market from Chinese maker Xiaomi.

Apple Watch

What’s in store for 2016?
The Apple Watch 2 is expected to launch in the spring and would most likely be available for purchase in April. MacRumors states that among other anticipated features and software improvements, the second-generation watch could have health sensors (blood pressure, etc.) along with a thinner design.

Apple Watches aside, general consensus is that the market for wearable smart tech will grow by leaps and bounds in the coming year.

Here’s an extensive list of wearable tech gadgets that could prove popular in 2016.