With all the technological developments from the last year IamWIRE says that if 2015 was the year of the sensors (products), 2016 will be the year of user experiences due to the release of high tech devices in the consumer market. They are referring to three of the most important technological developments that will emerge as trends for this year: Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

  • Looking back at the last year’s developments in Virtual Reality, we saw in 2015 the headsets Gear VR, Oculus VR and Google Jump platform appear, the last one with the 16 GoPro camera’s that can create 360 degrees videos, a new type of content, now already popular on YouTube.

    All of them open new possibilities for Virtual Reality new experiences in gaming, training, and simulations. In the beginning of this year is scheduled the launch of Oculus Rift (already here for a price of $599), Sony’s PlayStation VR and HTC – Vive headset with VR technology. According to TrendForce, the expectations are as far as 43mil. users this year with 14 mil. VR devices to be sold, most of them to be used in gaming. Quirk’s is talking about Virtual Reality as of a democratising technology, but warns that its adoption by the industries and consumers will go far beyond 2016. It predicts that the economical sectors that are mostly based on experience – like tourism and health care – will adopt this technology faster than others.

  • In 2015 the investments in Augmented Reality went up to $700mil. (1). Its timeline didn’t begin with Google Glass (launched in 2013 and stopped in 2015), but it was surely considered well ahead of its time. The next generation, Google Glass 2 is expected in May 2016 (2). What else did Google do in 2015? They backed-up a startup company, Magic Leap, that raised a huge amount of investments for its 3D mapping system integrating real objects with interactive graphical “objects” (3). Let the race begin!

    In the spring of 2016 are announced as well the Microsoft’s HoloLens and ASUS’s AR headset.
    There is no promise yet for the consumer market, but everyone expects a serious name taking a stand in AR: Apple. Its interest in AR became visible through its moves (in acquiring in 2015 three AR companies) that suggest a long term goal. Latest news: Apple just hired beginning 2016 a top tech specialist in AR/VR (4).

  • The most obvious presence of Artificial Intelligence in 2015 is in the improved Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana or X.ai’s Amy, a Personal Assistant for business customers for scheduling meetings, all powered by AI. Beginning of the year, Mark Zuckerberg announced his goal for 2016: to code his own AI butler (like Jarvis in Iron Man) to help him run his life at home and at work (5). He is not far from reality, if one thinks at Nadine, the chatty receptionist built at the University of Singapore, a human-like robot that calls herself “a social companion that can speak of emotions and recognise people”.
    Another obvious presence of AI in 2015 is in the self-driving cars and they will probably continue to develop – the concept and prototypes are here but their entrance in the consumer’s market will probably take some more time than one year.
    Deep Learning technologies: IBM’s Watson power of diagnose in medicine, or the decisions making in finance matters or matching ingredients for culinary recipes is based on large amounts of data and neural networks algorithms. Google and Facebook are using Deep Learning in image and speech recognition technologies. All three tech giants have opened their doors to developers around the world to their AI software: IBM made Watson API’s public in 2013 (6) and late in 2015 Google (7) and Facebook (8) open-sourced their AI software, moves that create huge opportunities for developments in 2016.
    The next direct application, the robotics, is a too wide topic and too important to be squeezed in one line and deserves a separate discussion.
    Last but not least, Harvard University just got an award from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) for the investigation of the way the brain is processing information in order to build algorithms that push the limits in Artificial Intelligence (9).
    At home and at work, first through our phones, then in our cars, in (next autonomous) drones, more and more among us as social companions (already a trend in 2015 in Japan), in robots learning to do specific tasks or by sharing knowledge (10) and in the interconnected things around us – the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence becomes slowly omnipresent in our life.

Sources: (1) TechCrunch; (2) TechRadar; (3) Fortune; (4) Engadget; (5) CNN Money; (6) TechCrunch; (7) Wired; (8) Wired; ; (9) Wired; (10) MIT TechnologyReview

(inspired from the article 2016: The Year of AR, VR and AI by Nivedit Majumdar appeared on January 18, 2016 @ iamwire)