Though 2016 has been a rocky year, it's ushered in a lot of new technology that is quickly paving the roadway to new inventions. Tech booms from the past have since assimilated into our daily lives, and the developments taken underway in 2016 are expected to do the same as we inch closer to the new year — some being explosively good while others, not so much.
1. Pokémon Go — 3/5
With about a 100 million downloads with the first month of its debut, Pokémon Go quickly became a sensation all around the globe. It fulfilled the childhood dreams of young adults and fueled the long lasting succession of its brand through the younger generations. Although the game has crossed bounds by crossing virtual reality with actual reality, it has a number of limitations that drain the hype as quickly as the game drains the battery life of your phone. Bugs result in wiped progress and system crashes that have frustrated players who are glued to it over a long period of time, but this craze in itself has lead to car crashes, accidents and other safety hazards. And according to Forbes, there are also "mixed feelings about In-App Purchases in games."
Needless to say, overall, Pokémon Go is a major success, and its release has been met with an enthusiasm unparalleled by other games.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note 7 — Flop
Things took an explosive turn in August with the release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 which was recalled almost immediately after when several of them caught on fire with a few detonating — all because of the flammable lithium ion batteries (which, fun fact, also caught fire in hover-boards). The U.S. authorities announced a second recall in October, banning all Galaxy Note 7 phones from being taken inside airplanes after another close call with the triggered smartphone that began to emit smoke from within a passenger's laptop bag. Now, it is officially illegal to sell a Galaxy Note 7.
Samsung is hoping to rebuild consumer trust with the Galaxy 8 which may be introduced in 2017.
3. Fingerprint Sensor Guns — Prototype, 4/5
Although this isn't exactly a new concept, it's the first to actually work. A Utah company tried out the idea by manufacturing a fingerprint trigger lock, but this weighed the gun down and other issues soon made the weapon an unpopular pick for most gun owners. Then in comes 19-year old Kai Kloepfer, the first to design a fingerprint reader handgun with the fingerprint sensor built into the grip. After winning a grant from Smart Tech Challenges Foundation in 2014 for his design, Kloepfer has dedicated his time and efforts to perfecting his prototype, Biofire.
“Congratulations,” said Ron Conway, founder of Smart Tech Challenges Foundation, to Kloepfer. “You are going to save America. You are going to save lives. The gun companies won’t tell you, but the tech industry will.”
To support the finalization of the Biofire gun, check out Kai Kloepfer's website to help fund the project!
4. Virtual Reality Headsets — 5/5
March and April of 2016, respectively, marked the release of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality (VR) headsets. Both were sold out in a matter of 20 minutes once the first batch was released, and they are still at the top of the holiday gift list this season. There have been very few technical problems found in both VR sets, besides complaints of motion sickness when the sensor is too slow to match human reflexes. Besides that, the headsets have opened the doorway to VR simulator experience in educational training, such as learning how to drive a car or test surgical equipment without endangering others' lives in the process. It also expands the realm of gaming and entertainment to new (almost frightening) bounds, like the option to watch a horror movie with a VR headset, which sounds like a thrilling idea to horror fans but may send others into cardiac arrest. As with every other technology that's come before it, VR headsets raise ethical questions, like:
Could this desensitize people to certain feelings and/or sensations, like violence?
Can it negatively impact health treatments and/or disrupt our perception of reality?
Should anything be done about the people who choose a sedentary life of virtual reality over actual reality?
Despite these reservations, VR headsets, Biofire guns, the Galaxy Note 7, Pokémon Go and an array of other technologies have all made 2016 a year of experimentation.
Who knows what we'll see next year — maybe the whole flying cars concept will finally take off!