December 31, 2016

Year in Review: Take a look at 2016 technology milestones

The year 2016 is about to end. It may not be a good year but it’s unfair to say that this year isn’t productive on its own. Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate the great things it gave us? As a matter of fact, technology made some significant advances this year that’s sure to influence how our tech would go in the next few years.

Let’s look back at the top five technological milestones of the year!

1. Conversational Interface

This year, Google initiated their Google Assistant project as an improvement of AI assistants in mobile devices starting with the Google Pixel. From then on, they intend to integrate their vastly improved Google Assistant with their wide array of Google products.

Not to be left behind is China’s own AI, Duer. As noted from the MIT Technology Review, this powerful speech technology from China’s most popular search engine, Baidu, makes smartphone use easier. With this, more and more Chinese are doing away with swiping and tapping on their smartphone’s touchscreens and tiny keypads, which is especially helpful since the Chinese language has a vast number of complicated characters. All they have to do is talk to their smartphones. With the development of this interface in China, more and more companies would incorporate this technology in their products and/or services and the technology will be more accessible to the rest of the world.

2. DNA App Store

We can now know more about our DNA through Helix, an application designed by Justin Kao. According to MIT Tech Review, this “uses spit samples from anyone who buys the DNA app, sequences and analyzes the customer’s genes, and then digitizes the findings so they can be accessed by software developers who want to sell other apps.” With this technology, people can now know what their genes are disposed to. Are they likely to have a certain disease? Do they have a gene for sweet tooth (as thought by Kao)? While Helix appears to be complete, it won’t be sold until next year.

3. Tesla Autopilot

A very common item among ethical debates, Elon Musk’s groundbreaking tech this 2016 continues to show how he is a man of science and innovation. What started in 2014 as mere ultrasonic sensors in sedans have grown so big in just two years. In August of this year, Musk announced Autopilot Firmware 8.0. This processes radar signals to create a course point cloud that is the same with Lidar (a detection system that works on the principle of radar but uses lasers), helping navigate in low visibility conditions. Then, in October, all new Tesla vehicles offer the necessary computing hardware for fully autonomous operation. Finally, in November, the autopilot system had operated actively for 300 million miles (500 million km) and 1.3 billion miles (2 billion km) in shadow mode. All of these have allowed cars to manage its speed, steer within and also change lanes, and park all by itself.

4. Virtual Reality (VR)

We’ve seen VR in past years’ tech fairs and 2016 was the year they finally and officially made it happen. Launched in March, the Oculus Rift gave us the first taste of VR, which was immediately followed by HTC Vive in April. A few months after, Sony released its Playstation VR in October, too. For developers who are aiming at a more sophisticated VR set, there is Microsoft’s HoloLens. As if these weren’t enough, this year also brought us the Virtuix Omni walking platform that adds to the immersive experience of VR by letting you walk (stationary) within the VR environment.

5. Apple’s 1 Billion Sales Mark

Trailblazing tech giant Apple has reached a milestone this year by reaching the 1 billion mark in iPhone sales. From its first iPhone to its latest offering, the iPhone 7, Apple sealed its position in this era of smartphones as a leader in the field.