My biggest tech predictions for 2016

Tesla Model S
Consumer Reports

We are about to cross a chasm in a few days, both in a virtual sense and on the calendar. We’ll switch over to 2016, but we’ll also see some major advancements in technology next year -- some of which might debut as early as Q1 or even right away in January. Here are the innovations I’m expecting will happen in 2016.

1. The Hyperloop will become fully operational

There’s a good chance the first Hyperloop train, which uses air to speed you along in a tube at 600-mph, could become operational by the end of 2016. One company is already starting to build a test track and plan to make it work in a small section by March. It’s amazing to think that Elon Musk’s original vision for the next mode of transportation, speeding you from LA to Vegas in 20 minutes, could happen. I plan to be one of the first passengers.

2. Google will own the Wi-Fi market

This is a bit of a bold prediction, but the Google OnHub routers were my top gadget picks of 2015 (both the Asus and the TP-Link models). There’s some serious engineering inside those hubs, helping to reduce interference. In my tests, they maintained close to a 200-Mbps Internet signal when other routers barely maintained half the speed. And, I use Google Fiber over Wi-Fi at Starbucks on a routine basis. In 2016, I expect Google to go even further.

3. Oculus will become a household word

There’s already a product on the market that uses Oculus tech called the Samsung Gear VR headset, and virtual reality is poised to become a major hit (this time). But the computer version of Oculus Rift will finally see the light of day in 2016. It will power much more advanced games and make your Xbox One and PlayStation 4 look like old-school consoles. In fact, I’ve already seen a major rebound in PC gaming with titles like Fallout 4 and Just Cause 3, both of which run in 4K only on a computer. (And, by the way, were my top picks for innovative games.)

4. Robot-controlled messaging apps become commonplace

We’re already seeing an influx of messaging apps manned (excuse the term) by a robot. The Facebook M robot does this in Messenger, and a shopping app called Mezi does some automation when you ask it to find you a new sweater. In 2016, I’m expecting automated messaging to go much further, likely in a new version of Siri and the Google app. These “smart apps” will know your schedule, your email threads, and even which flight you will be taking and answer questions in an ongoing dialog, spoken or by text message.

5. Cars will drive themselves

We already know Tesla has an Autopilot mode for the Model S sedan -- it’s available for purchase as a software patch. However, it is not for fully autonomous driving and only works in certain conditions on the highway, not in urban areas. Volvo has a similar tech at lower speeds in traffic jams. And, Ford is planning to work with Google to make an autonomous car. I’m predicting that we’ll see the first fully autonomous car, probably debuting as a limited test in a city like Las Vegas but still capable of full control.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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