What’s in store for consumer technology next year? Here are some predictions for 2017.
1. Virtual reality
2017 will be the breakout year for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), the merging of real and computer-generated objects, as seen in the hugely popular Pokémon Go game. We’ll see many more games like this, and we’ll see VR and AR used in shopping, entertainment, and on our phones. There will be new goggles to wear for game playing and new content developed to place us into these artificial environments. Augmented reality will get a huge boost with new phones coming out next year from Samsung, Google, and Apple that will make it part of our daily routine.
We’ve heard all of the hype about self-driving cars this past year, but much of it is still in early development and all of the test cars on public roads have a driver behind the wheel. There still needs to be regulations created and lots more testing under adverse conditions before these cars are safely commercialized. But we will see more cars come standard with technology to help us drive better, something that became available this year on several brands: cars that follow at a safe distance, brake as needed, and prevent us from drifting out of our lane.
The growth of electric cars will continue, and 2017 will be a record year for their sales, due to the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla 3, the first affordable cars that get over 200 miles on a single charge. Currently, just about every car company is working on their own electric cars, as this category moves from curiosity to mainstream.
Drones have been one of this year’s hottest products, but by this time next year, they’re likely to become a glut on the consumer market. While buyers get excited about what a drone can do, the novelty seems to wear off quickly.
We’ll be watching more TV programs on our smartphones at the time we choose, making it easier to reduce our dependency on cable services. That will pressure cable providers to offer better deals and unbundle their expensive services. 2017 will see cable providers struggling and receiving little sympathy from us.
5. Network neutrality
We’ll see the end to network neutrality, the regulation that prevents the cable and cellular providers from playing favorites with the rates and speeds they offer to the large online entertainment companies. That’s because some of the entertainment companies and cellular companies will merge. Once that occurs, we’ll be choosing a carrier company based on the type of programming they offer.
6. More cyber attacks
Expect to see a major power outage or an Internet blockage as a result of a cyber terrorism attack. Technology and the poor security of our Internet are making it easier to do each day.
7. Manufacturing in the U.S.
We’ll see lots of discussion about building more tech products in the U.S., particularly cell phones, even though most of their components are made in China. But it will be mostly talk with little action.
8. Artificial Intelligence
The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning has captivated much of Google’s attention and its huge resources. The technology enables our devices to become more intelligent and better predict what we need and when we need it, and then learn from our interactions. We’ll see benefits of AI in our use of voice-recognition devices such as Siri and Google Assistant, as well in many of the other Google products.
Next year will bring Apple’s version of the Amazon Echo, with Siri embedded in a stand-alone device. At the same time, expect Amazon’s Echo to be embedded in all sorts of products, from headphones to TVs to desk lamps to home appliances.
This was last year’s hot product category, but it fizzled in 2016 and will barely recover in 2017. The Apple Watch will drop in price to below $200 and Fitbit will struggle to recover from their dismal year.
The Internet of Things concept will continue to grow, with more products having built-in wireless connectivity. Why? Because it’s easy and inexpensive to do, even if it’s not needed. We’ll see many new connected kitchen appliances, light bulbs, and other devices. But this category will continue to have some of the most ludicrous products such as the connected fork, connected bookmark, and connected egg tray. Yes, if something can be thought of, somebody will build it.
Last January 4K TV sets were one of the big attractions at the huge CES electronics show, offering TV manufacturers a way to charge more. Now 4K is everywhere, but there will be 8K TV in 2017. Don’t be misled, 4K is more than enough, and we’ll see many 50-inch 4K sets for as little as $299 in 2017.
Looking back, 2016 was a disappointing year for consumer technology. There were few new innovations in the popular smartphone, tablet, and computer categories. In fact, there was more excitement about the loss of ports in Apple products than any of their new products. But even worse, it was the year of the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Let’s hope 2017 is a better year for technology that’s truly useful.