From fashion to life-saving surgery: Biggest tech breakthroughs of 2016

Decades ago, innovations such as drones, wearable tech, hoverboards and driverless cars were merely figments of our imagination

Jenny Hewett
Jenny Hewett - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Lately it’s becoming clear that the world is divided into two groups. Those who have binged on trending British TV series Black Mirror, and those who haven’t. For those belonging to the former, there’s a reason why the troubling tech-oriented storylines resonate so deeply with us. Decades ago, innovations such as drones, wearable tech, hoverboards and driverless cars were merely figments of our imagination, something we only saw in films. Now, we’d be lucky to flinch if one passed us on the street. So far, the “twenties” has been one of the most exciting decades for technology and progress is developing at a rapid rate. Here, we countdown the top five emerging technologies of 2016.

Autonomous vehicles

Predicted to reduce congestion and road trauma, self-driving cars made their official debut this year, with Tesla, Volvo and Google’s Waymo leading the convoy. Ride-hailing app Uber rolled out a range of self-driving cars in San Francisco, while Telsa announced that all new cars would be fitted with full autonomous driving technology. Still in the early stages (there are a number of legality issues and controversies following two fatalities), driverless cars are set to be the way of the future.

#selfdrivingcar #waymo #nextgeneration #mountainview

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Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) made its debut in 2016, with Sony, Oculus and HTC among the first big tech companies to release headsets to consumers. While the Oculus Rift may set you back $650, gamers can now completely immerse themselves in alternate worlds, from a unique first-person perspective never experienced before. VR goggles are also currently being used as a way to train surgeons for surgery.

Self-lacing shoes

Gaming and transport haven’t been the only sectors to benefit from innovations in 2016. We also need to tip our hat to smart fashion and wearable tech. Got $720 to spare? This year, Nike unveiled its first ever self-lacing shoes, the Nike Mag (an exact replica of Marty McFly’s kicks in Back To The Future and a limited edition) and the HyperAdapt 1.0, a rechargeable sneaker, whose laces tighten on the activation of a sensor as you step in.

3D printing

The world of 3D printing technology took an impressive turn this year, when Dubai unveiled the world’s first 3D printed office building in DIFC and a company in Beijing printed the world’s first two-story house made of earthquake-proof materials. Breakthroughs were also made in the medical field, with scientists developing a printer that can to produce tissue, bone and cartilage to be used for human transplants.

Next generation batteries

Storage of excess energy has been one of the emerging developments of 2016, with the focus shifting to sodium, aluminium and zinc-based batteries rather than lead-acid and lithium. These new batteries have enough capacity to power mini-grids and villages regardless of the weather. They also complement renewable energies such as solar and wind power and are pegged to help the emissions-free industry grow faster.





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