After Siri told us practically anything we wanted to know on the iPhone, voice assistant functions have exploded in popularity. They are slowly popping up everywhere. And it's not just smartphones that will have them. Sales numbers of Amazon Echo demonstrates that the demand for voice assistants is growing. With the increasing popularity of IoT devices, voice assistants across a range of domains will be an interesting trend to follow in 2017.
Autonomous cars have gained a lot of attention but so far no fully autonomous vehicle has been sold to a customer. Despite the large car companies jumping on the self-driving car bandwagon, the trend to look out for is the auto-pilot technology for cars. American company Tesla is constantly updating and improving the quality of its auto-pilot software. In 2017, we will be witnessing the next stage of fully autonomous cars as more automakers incorporate this technology in their latest fleets.
It was an exciting year for VR and Augmented Reality (AR) devices with a lot of consumer expectations. But they couldn't live up the hype due to hefty prices and a lack of content. The VR realm is going to be interesting to watch as a medium. It is difficult to say with certainty that VR will be mainstream in 2017. But as more players come into the market with cheaper products and more native content, we will see more an increased adoption of VR. AR on the other hand is a different story. AR devices are too expensive for the average consumer. Unless that changes, AR won't break into the mainstream in 2017.
Amazon Go recently launched an innovative grocery store which has no cashiers. The move demonstrates the creative potential when sensors and computer vision technologies are integrated. Time will tell whether it will be successful or not but nonetheless it was a big step towards a shopping future with less human involvement. One thing is certain: the jobs that can be automated will be ultimately automated. The only way to survive this rapid readjustment is more education.
With the advancement in machine learning and vision technologies, lethal autonomous weapons are becoming a reality. Currently, several countries are developing unmanned weapon systems operated by humans. Technically speaking, it is technologically possible to develop these weapons and let machines make decisions to take life. Human rights groups are already warning against a robotic arms race. We might need John Connor after all. These robots are a killer trend (literally) to stay abreast of in 2017.
As demand for electric cars increases, automakers will need a lot more battery cells at a cheaper cost. In light of this, Tesla announced plans to build a Gigafactory to mass produce battery cells. The factory is expected to reach full capacity by 2018. It's a major step. These gigafactories are on the up. Whether more companies follow suit is the real question. Greater competition in the market will ultimately reduce prices on battery cells and help propel electric cars to wider markets.