Now that 2015 is over, tech giants and entrepreneurs everywhere are on the lookout for what’s going to be the next big thing in 2016. As is the case with many new innovations that get turned into consumer products, the initial cost of most of these modernizations will likely be very expensive. So to help you figure out what you might want to start saving your money for in the new year, we’ve compiled this collection of 11 incredible inventions that might be coming soon to a store near you.
11. Autonomous Vehicles
Automotive manufacturers are gearing up for the age of the driverless car. Google has already demonstrated its self-driving car technology and now Ford is investing heavily in autonomous systems as well. According to CEO Mark Fields, Ford is gathering top talent from tech companies and universities around Silicon Valley in an effort to get its autonomous cars ready for the road in 2016.
Autonomous vehicles sense their surroundings using techniques such as radar, image sensing, GPS and computer vision. Advanced Control Systems (ACS) then interpret this sensory information and identify appropriate navigation paths, avoiding any obstacles and obeying all road signs along the way. Some autonomous vehicles will also update their maps based on sensory input, allowing the vehicles to keep track of their position even when conditions change or when exploring uncharted territory.
10. Drone Security
This might sound a little like the beginnings of a robot apocalypse, but Secom—a Tokyo-based security company—is in the process of finalizing a drone that is capable of targeting intruders, following them, and taking pictures for future use. The drone is expected to be utilized as a quick response to security threats, but it can also be programmed to patrol specific areas of a neighborhood that might not be covered by stationary cameras.
Not to worry. We can all put our “Judgement Day” fears to rest for the moment. The security drone can only travel about six miles per hour and doesn’t come equipped with any defensive or offensive weaponry. It just snaps a few pictures that homeowners can use as evidence in the event of any break-ins or trespassing violations.
9. Quantum Dot Displays
Most TVs and monitors currently available aren’t capable of displaying colors without a certain degree of tinting. Quantum dot televisions are a new type of LED-backlit TV. The image is created exactly the same as it is on an LCD screen, but quantum dot greatly improves color. Quantum dot displays will be capable of showing colors much more accurately, which will enhance the viewing experience and provide a richer palette for digital photo and video editors to work with.
8. Completely Wireless Laptops
In April 2015, Intel unveiled what it’s calling the world’s first laptop with no wires. The computer is able to connect to peripherals without cords and utilizes wireless charging technology. It also connects wirelessly to external displays via Wireless Display (Wi-Di) technology, eliminating the need for HDMI and other display ports (as long as the display you’re connecting to supports Wi-Di technology).
A number of other laptop makers including Lenovo are supporting Intel’s vision of wire-free computers. Furthermore, Intel has stated that it hopes to start introducing wireless charging stations to public places like airports and restaurants so people can easily power their devices whenever they’re on the go.
7. Ultra-Fast Charging Batteries
As smartphones, tablets and laptops continue to grow increasingly advanced and power hungry, they’re still limited by battery life. Batteries haven’t seemed to progress much in decades, which is why we’re always scrambling to find chargers and outlets to keep our devices juiced. Fortunately, with the introduction of ultra-fast charging batteries, instead of waiting a few hours to get a full charge you could have your device replenished in mere seconds.
In 2014, a company called StoreDot demonstrated the ability to completely charge a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone in only 26 seconds. The company also made the claim that these new batteries could become commercially available sometime in 2016, though they will likely only be found in newly released, high-end devices.
6. Foldable Smartphones and Tablets
Samsung already released the first smartphone with a curved screen in 2015, so it’s expected that devices with thin, flexible, even foldable screens are coming in 2016. Foldable screens could open the door to a new generation of smartphones and tablets that feature large displays but can be easily folded or rolled up for transportation convenience. Patently Mobile has reported that Samsung has already filed a patent which proposes “a foldout design that offers an exposed tab allowing users to quickly choose a favourite app as they unfold/open their device.” This could allow you to do things like hold down an app icon on the spine of the device and then launch the app automatically by pulling out the main screen. Based on the patents that Samsung has been filing, it seems likely that this type of technology will be utilized in upcoming versions of their devices.
5. Sunburn Prevention Pills
After discovering the interesting way coral is able to shield itself against harmful ultraviolet light, British researchers believe it could pave the way for a revolution in human skin protection that will see those milky creams and lotions replaced with a consumable pill.
Coral samples taken from the Great Barrier Reef were found to contain Algae that produce a special compound. That compound then gets transferred to the coral where it undergoes a modification and becomes a UV shield for both coral and the algae. Researchers also learned that fish who fed on the coral were benefiting from the increased UV protection as well, meaning it got passed up the food chain.
There has been mounting pressure to find alternatives for sunscreen after a study revealed that oxybenzone—a common ingredient found in many suncreams—actually kills coral by breaking it down and removing the nutrients present. This could mean a push for new research that might very well result in a sunblock pill hitting drug stores in 2016.
4. Microsoft’s HoloLens
The HoloLens is an augmented reality headset created to be used in combination with Windows 10. The applications for this device seem almost limitless. We’ve seen it’s able to pin apps in the real world and let you interact with them. And on the entertainment side, it could eliminate the need for a TV because users could sit in their living room and pin a screen on their wall to watch whatever they want. The pinned screen will even move with you and keep playing if you decide to get up and do some work around the house.
This technology has huge potential to be built on in the future, especially for applications in the realm of video games and design software.
3. Modular Smartphones
A few tech companies are in the process of developing modular smartphones that feature removable parts that can be easily upgraded or replaced if damaged. Google’s Project Ara is currently leading the pack. By making a phone that can have each component swapped out, Google believes it will drive down hardware pricing while at the same time giving users the opportunity to tailor-make a phone suited to their needs. Maybe you’re someone who wants to spend more money on a higher quality camera; someone else might want to invest more heavily in storage or extra memory. Whatever the intention, users will be able to modify their device to suit their specific needs.
It’s expected that the Project Ara team will sell the exoskeleton for a set price and then make a module store, similar to the Google Play app marketplace, where you can buy modules to upgrade your phone. Many third-party developers are working with the Project Ara team, including Sennheisser who is developing special audio modules and Toshiba who has already announced the first camera module. But since the device uses industry standard power and connectivity hardware, anyone will be able to build useable modules. So if you’ve got a great idea for something you’ve always wanted on your phone, now’s the time to get that Kickstarter project going.
2. Virtual Reality Headsets
Companies have been experimenting with the idea of virtual reality for years, but it wasn’t until last year that people really started to see the potential of some devices. Facebook has already spent billions acquiring Oculus, and now a number of other contenders are emerging with their own VR headset designs. Most notably, Sony’s Playstation VR and the Steam VR which are both preparing for 2016 launch dates. However, according to technology and business analyst Brian Blau, the real difficulty in the adoption of VR comes down to the software developers: “The VR experience is completely dependent on the device and the quality of the content. I’m convinced that the initial devices being released in 2016 are good enough, but it’s the content that must keep users coming back. Is there enough good VR content in the pipeline to keep users engaged with the devices over time? From early indications there are some great VR games and video experiences so I’m not worried, but ultimately this is a question that we can’t answer until we see how the general public reacts to these new types of personal computing devices and content.”
Regardless of what the app and game designers have in store for the future, it seems there are lots of people that can’t wait to get their hands on a VR device. Research firm Juniper estimates that over three million headsets have already been ordered with projected sales of $1.1 billion.
1. Space Hotels
Space tourism could finally become a reality in 2016. Russian space organization Energiya is partnering with U.S. group Orbital Technologies to make the world’s first hotel in space. Known as The Commercial Space Station, the abode will be approximately 220 miles above the earth and supplied to accommodate up to seven people. To make the trip, visitors will need to spend two days travelling on board a Soyuz rocket to get into low Earth orbit where the hotel is stationed. And if you’re wondering if you have to spend the whole time living like astronauts crammed into tight quarters eating weird space food, you can rest assured. According to those behind the project, The Commercial Space Station will be “far more comfortable” than the International Space Station used by astronauts. Guests can choose between a horizontal or vertical bed in the zero-gravity environment and they’ll be able to dine on dishes specially crafted by celebrity chefs as they soak in the astonishing view overlooking the planet.
If you think this all sounds nice you should keep it in mind that a stay at the first space hotel certainly won’t come cheap. It’s estimated that the total cost of transportation and a room will be close to a million dollars.