Let’s come right out and say it: 2016 was a mixed bag in the world of technology. We were surprised by what didn’t happen as much as what did, from exploding phones and fake news on Facebook to the collapse of Theranos and the absence of any viral hits to make VR the popular thing that it promises to be.
Creative disruption is the name of the game with technology, with new and better ways of doing things always coming to the fore, so some technologies are going to fail just because their time has passed. Some things, though, should not be disrupted- like the flesh of your leg, which Samsung’s Note 7 threatens to disrupt by exploding and bursting into flame right there in your pocket. Samsung could be on the hook for as much as $10 billion in lost sales and recall charges and pulled the Note 7 completely, and we all are waiting to see what they do next.
Creative disruption also occurred on the Apple side of the mobile market, with the technology giant making the decision to completely remove headphone ports from their upcoming iPhone lines. Whether it was courageous or imperious or both, the move will definitely be a big step towards a more wireless world. It is also a big step towards a world in which grown adults have to say the word ‘dongle’ every day, like it or not.
The 2016 election was one of the most surprising political events in modern political history, but even President-Elect Trump’s nonstop usage of Twitter couldn’t put the stuttering company on sounder footing. Since returning to Twitter in 2015 CEO Jack Dorsey has only added 10 million users to the service, having to fire hundreds of employees and even shutter the viral looping-video platform Vine in an attempt to put the company on the path to profitability.
No company had greater woes in 2016 than Theranos, the much-hyped startup that seemed to have it all. A stratospherically-high evaluation, funders with pockets as deep as the Marianas Trench, a charismatic leader and a core technology ready to change the world forever, Theranos fell flat on its face when a series of investigations from the Washington Post revealed that there was absolutely nothing to what the company claimed it could do.
An old saying says “no news is good news”, but that wasn’t true for the VR industry; Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR all made their official debuts to medium fanfare, but the content simply wasn’t there for the platforms to take a serious hold in the market. 2017 will show whether or not the VR ecosystem has set the stage for greater success or if the whole market will go the way of Google Glass.
It was a mixed bag for Facebook this year as well. The 2016 election took online political engagement to new heights, opening up a big space for unethical people to game Facebook’s ‘Trending Stories’ algorithm to promote whatever fake news they saw fit. If you came away from 2016 thinking that Hillary Clinton was involved in ritual satanic blood sacrifice, you might have been duped by just such a story. It wasn’t all bad for Facebook, though, as the company rolled out their Facebook Live feature to a fair degree of success. If you want proof of its ability to generate viral hits, look no farther than Chewbacca mom.
Not all of the news was bad; some technology that was causing headaches and struggling to find its feet made great headway in 2016. WiFi technology got a big boost thanks to Google, who worked in partnership with the startup ‘eero’ to make WiFi simpler and easier to use for less tech-savvy customers. The new systems establish multiple wifi hubs throughout the customer’s space, enabling devices to switch from one hub to another to maintain maximum connectivity as the user moves and connectivity conditions change. This, on top of the release of new and well-reviewed routers from such companies as TP-Link, Asus, and Netgear made 2016 an excellent year for the service that almost all of us depend on.
Some exciting things are undeniably on the horizon- Amazon delivered its first package by drone in 2016, three years after CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company was exploring such delivery methods. Pokemon Go, an Augmented Reality game, set a tremendous precedent for AR games with its over 100 million downloads, providing tremendous incentive for more exploration and development in that space. The release of Amazon Dash, combined with the opening deployment of Uber’s self-driving cars, opened up the on-demand economy in ways that will make 2017 an exciting year indeed.
Will new technologies emerge from the ashes of what fell in 2016? Where will the progress and renewal that we saw in 2016 take us in the coming year? Whatever its ups and downs may be, 2017 promises us development and excitement that will make it a thrilling year to be alive.