5 tech trends that could define 2017

VR3

It might not have been a classic, but I'd be lying if I said 2016 was a terrible year for tech.

We saw virtual reality finally make its way into the hands of consumers, Apple double down on the wireless future by ripping the headphone jack from the Phone, and Uber roll out its first self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh.

In fact, those are only a handful of last year's technological milestones, but in many ways the past 12 months have felt more like a testing ground for promising concepts than the revolutionary phase some likely envisioned. How many of those ideas will stick, how many will fade into obscurity, and what other shiny new gadgets might we be seeing more of over the next 365 days?

Allow me to stick my neck on the line and make an educated guess. Here's my take on the tech trends that could very well define 2017.

Augmented reality will arrive

Last year Niantic managed to embed the concept of real world, augmented reality (AR) gaming into the public consciousness with Pokemon Go. Players headed out in their millions and the game was (and still is) a huge success.

Yet one successful game doesn't mean augmented reality has 'arrived'. Fortunately, it's unlikely Pokemon Go will have to hold down the fort for much longer, as I'm absolutely sure that we'll soon see a steady stream of AR games and apps trickle onto smartphones and tablets.

When you consider that those will be followed by the arrival of Microsoft's HoloLens headset (which brings high definition holograms to life) and other powerful devices, I'd be willing to bet a hefty lump of cash that the AR industry is going to experience its own micro-boom in the months ahead.

The rise of virtual assistants

Virtual assistants aren't a new concept - Apple formally introduced the world to Siri all the way back in 2011 - but until now they've been more of a novelty plaything than a bona fide aide.

That looks set to change in the near future. Thanks to the popularisation of Amazon Echo - which houses the retail giant's own assistant, Alexa - more and more people are coming to rely on virtual sidekicks as household helpers. Apple also doubled down on the tech by bringing Siri to MacBooks, while Google debuted its very own digital deputy in the form of the imaginatively named Google Assistant.

It's a space that's getting busier by the second, so don’t be surprised if things only got more hectic over the next 12 months.

Drones, drones, drones

Drones have already cemented themselves as the toy of choice for tech hobbyists, photographers and adrenaline junkies with a spare wad of cash. But as prices plummet and the regulations surrounding their usage become clearer, the skies are only going to become busier.

I doubt we'll see online retailers roll out fully-fledged drone delivery platforms by the end of the year. Still, we've all become accustomed to instant gratification in everyday life thanks to on-demand services like Netflix, Uber, and Amazon Prime Now, so you can bet your bottom dollar that big businesses will be looking to bring drones into the consumer fold sooner rather than later.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Towards the end of last year you might've seen more than a few headlines mention something called "AlphaGo." Well, AlphaGo happens to be the name of an artificial intelligence (AI) designed to take on some of the best Go (an ancient Chinese board game) players in the world.

Developed by the folks over at Google Deepmind, the program made waves when it not only beat the world’s best, but absolutely obliterated them. That was just one instance of ‘machine learning’, and more tech innovators are keen to develop their own intelligent machines and stick them in everything from self-driving vehicles to tablets and phones. Let’s just hope they don't get too smart…

4K content for the masses

4K and ultra high-definition (UHD) are just a couple of the buzzwords that took hold in 2016, and were used to describe those TVs with displays capable of showing super-sharp, ultra-vibrant pictures that put your current high-definition box to shame.

The problem with owning a 4K TV as it stands is that, simply put, there's not much content in the wild. Naturally, the 4K switchover will take time, but I wouldn't be surprised if 2017 plays host to the first real content push.

Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video will likely begin to bolster and expand their modest 4K library with meaningful additions, while blockbuster UHD blu-rays should also start popping up on store shelves. It probably won't be cheap, but if you're desperate to start building out your very own 4K collection, 2017 might just be your year.

Chris Kerr is a blogger with an interest in all things tech. From gadgets to gaming, he is always on the look-out for the next big thing. When not testing the latest FPS or RPG, he can be found watching Sean Bean films and contributing to publications including Gamasutra, Stuff and IB Times. Find out more at www.chriskerrwriter.com.

 

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