Predicting the future is always a little dicey, particularly in the realm of technology. Things tend to move fast. But with this year's Consumer Electronics Show underway, a kind of rough consensus is emerging on what to watch for in 2016. We take a look at 10 cresting trends for the year.
With the long-awaited arrival of the Oculus Rift and its competitors, 2016 is expected to be the year when virtual reality finally becomes actual reality. Oculus announced new details at CES: The $599 Rift will debut in March, with more than 100 compatible titles released by the end of the year.
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Our seemingly inevitable future of self-driving smart cars will roll a bit closer in 2016. Ford has announced it will triple the size of its autonomous test car fleet, and you can expect more dialogue between your car, your phone and even your fitness device.
With Netflix and YouTube leading the way, expect purveyors of online streaming media to continue their all-out assault on Hollywood, network television, cable, satellite and other quaint little entertainment institutions. Watch for improved buffet-style TV channel subscription packages for dedicated cord cutters.
As sci-fi as it sounds, the era of companion robots has officially dawned. We should see several consumer models finally hit shelves in 2016, like the home personal assistant Jibo, pictured above, or the mobile humanoid 'bot known as Pepper.
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When the FAA announced mandatory registration of drones in late 2015, the agency was clearly preparing for 2016. Expect an aerial armada of lighter, faster, nimbler drones with improved camera technology and earnest user-friendliness. Some, like the Lily pictured here, will follow you around on their own. Others might eventually deliver your packages.
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Artificial intelligence will continue to be a white-hot area of research in the labs, as it has been for several years. But watch for more curveball applications to leak out to the real world as neural networks start tackling activities like writing, translating and even dreaming.
With crowdfunding hitting its stride as an entrepreneurial superhighway, expect plenty of small-scale eco-friendly innovations in 2016. For instance, the Fontus water bottle system pictured here fills itself by condensing moisture from the air.
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The year started out with a scary bang when Ukraine officials confirmed that hackers had caused a massive blackout by targeting power grids. It's believed to be the first attack of its kind, and you can expect cybersecurity issues to be on the front burner in 2016 across the board.
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Wearable computing devices continue to be a slowly percolating trend, and we'll likely see iterative improvements on popular fitness bands and smart watches. Also keep an eye peeled for innovative variations on the theme, like the smart bra.
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One of the year's quieter anticipated trends may actually prove to be the most useful for us civilians, on a day-to-day basis. At this year's CES, several companies showcased promising new products for charging up your phone quickly, or wirelessly, or both at the same time. Stealthy little items like the FurniQi side table, pictured here, take advantage of emerging smart phone standards for wireless charging.