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The tech trends and innovations that will dominate this year

By Michael Crump | 11 January 2016

This year may represent the start of an explosion in the world of innovation. For years we’ve had to make do with larger, skinnier I-gadgets soaking up the spotlight, but this year is shaping up to represent a far more exciting (and perhaps scarier) period for technology.

Many of these breakthroughs, if not all, will have a significant impact on education and the labour market in the coming years. To make sure you’re abreast of the latest trends set to remodel our world, we’ve listed our tech predictions for this year below.

How do you feel about the latest wave of technology and science? Is it intimidating or exciting?

Prediction: Virtual Reality will Arrive with a Boom

It is only months away. For the last few years, legions of tech boffins from competing companies have worked towards the first consumer-ready virtual reality headset. We can expect the technology to be strapped around our heads in a few short months with high-profile company Oculus VR (owned by Facebook) expected to ship their Oculus Rift in the first quarter of 2016.

But here’s why it matters. While the technology has been created primarily with videogames in mind, consensus suggests the hardware will grow to spearhead huge shifts in the way we do, well, almost everything. CNET Senior Editor Scott Stein, for instance, has gone on record saying that virtual reality will “be a tough sell at first” but will inevitably become a “ubiquitous aspect of daily life.”

And one of the biggest fields to be influenced by VR will be education. With the need for students to be more educated than ever and with existing employees under pressure to constantly develop their knowledge, we believe VR will free many from the confines of the classroom through the power of the headset.

Prediction: 2016 will see the world take notice of advances in AI and the increased use of content-producing algorithms

Before you dive headfirst into a career in copywriting or hospitality, make sure you’re aware of the progress being made with artificial intelligence and robotics.

US consulting firm Webbmedia Group recently published their annual 2016 Tech Trends reportand patterns suggest a number of jobs may rapidly go the way of bell bottom jeans thanks to increasingly powerful computer systems and advances in robotics.

Natural Language Generation (NGL), for instance, is the process of transforming a large amount of data into readable content. When adopted it may signal the end for online copywriters. Last year Yahoo!, Comcast and Associated Press started dabbling with Automated Insights, a NGL program which has the capacity to mine the internet for data and churn out 2,000 stories per second.

Meanwhile powerful computing systems, such as IBM’s Watson supercomputer, are not only getting more proficient at processing enormous amounts of data, they’re developing the means to understand human emotions through a person’s tone of voice or syntax. Along with advancements in robotics, this Cognitive Computing intelligence could be used to create the first-generation of useful robots. The implications for the hospitality and customer service industries are gargantuan over the long-term.

Is this all too far off? While you shouldn’t expect C-3PO to serve you up a Long Island Iced Tea any time soon, Chief Technology Officer at IBM Watson, Rob High, believes AI will witness “a pivot-point marketplace in 2016.”

Prediction: the Internet of Things (IoT) will move into your house

What is the Internet of Things? It’s the trend towards every computer, device, appliance, gadget and gizmo you own being digitally interconnected. Those of you with a smart watch, a security system you can access via your mobile phone or a scale that records your weight then uploads it to the cloud have already logged on.

2016 will see an even greater expansion of this interconnectivity as digital door locks, smart thermostats and other devices hit the market. Leading the charge will be none other than Apple with HomeKit. The Cupertino goliath’s new bit of wizardry can turn off your lights, lock your door and reduce your thermostat with a single button press on your mobile phone.

This push towards interconnectivity may also have a sizeable effect on task management. It’s feasible your alarm clock will be able to wake you earlier if trains are running late, and your fridge touchscreen will alert you to urgent emails that arrived overnight (after automatically ordering another carton of eggs and a tub of ice-cream). From schedule to grocery management, the IoT may signal the end of excuses. It may also be a wise investment to get ahead of the rest and gain a qualification in this new field.

Prediction: More people than ever will flock online for education

As an educational institution, it’s always exciting to see new opportunities for people to improve their knowledge. And the barriers to entry have been breaking down for some time.

For instance, Google has offered anyone with an Internet connection a variety of lessons through their Analytics Academy for some time. Websites such as, meanwhile, already offer free subjects provided by US universities.

While the variety of these available courses are diverse, ranging from Grammar and Punctuation to Machine Learning, it’s indicative of education migrating online and being self-directed.

We’re expecting the trend to grow further in 2016, allowing more students to get a taste for study before committing to a certificate or diploma.

Prediction: 2016 is the year you will appreciate bots

With all this talk about AI and technology threatening to make jobs redundant, it’s about time we humans pulled one back. According to Webbmedia Group’s aforementioned 2016 Tech Trend report, bots are about to proliferate across the digital landscape, helping us get more done.

But what exactly is a bot? Simply put, they’re software applications that are entirely automated. Bots can be as simple as forum monitors that remove coarse language from an online post and issue a warning to the associated potty-fingered author, or as complex as Microsoft’s Mandarin-language bot, Xiaolce, which attempts to have romantic conversations with smartphone users (it remembers previous discussions and mines online chat logs to recreate authentic conversational syntax).

Not only will bots be able to help with task management and efficiency, they’ll start to thrive as training and task management tools. Why work when you can assign it to a bot?

Can’t stop the future

There’s always hype and hot air around new products and innovation. That needs to be discounted. But the fact is, the speed of change and disruption is increasing as clever companies stretch to create increasingly clever things. With so many unprecedented changes headed our way in 2016, our best advice is to avoid being tied to the old tracks when the innovation train speeds through. You’ll stay in one piece – and may even have a chance to jump aboard.

What innovations are you most excited about and why? Are there any you are apprehensive about?

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