February 8, 2016

From Future to Reality: 2016 Will Be A Big Year for Drones, AI, VR, E-Sports, and Gaming

In the first post of our predictions series, Verizon Ventures Director Dave Famolari shares his thoughts on what’s in store in 2016 for some of today’s most cutting-edge technologies including drones, machine learning, quantum computing, virtual reality, and the world of gaming.

In 2015, once futuristic technologies made serious headway with consumers and the enterprise. From autonomous systems to artificial intelligence to drones to virtual reality and quantum computing, 2016 will see these technologies continue to make progress.

Autonomous vehicles have been garnering attention in the tech community over the last year, and 2016 will be the year we see initial steps toward large-scale autonomy. Fleets of autonomous systems will hit the streets, seas, and skies. From sophisticated ADAS systems and auto-pilots in automobiles to sense-and-avoid technologies for UAVs to self-coordinating factory robots, 2016 will see great leaps in the ability of all kinds of vehicles to safely and autonomously navigate their environments.

When it comes to drones, consumer fascination with the skies will continue. Growth in the consumer drone market will accelerate and consumer drones will catalyze widespread interest in flying cameras. Like the protagonist in Flatland, consumers who experience the freedom and power of a new Z-axis dimension will be awakened to a world of new possibilities and will never want to go back. As a result of increased drone interest and usage, we’ll see rulemaking from the FAA, further development of Unmanned Traffic Management solutions from NASA, progress toward beyond line of sight operations, and an explosion of innovations from industry players big and small that will help make safe, reliable, and managed commercial operation of UAVs at scale a reality.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence will continue to penetrate more aspects of tech and commerce leading to new levels of sense-making from data. Data will trump algorithms as the tools for data science — algorithms, dashboards, and reports—become increasingly commoditized, but the raw material of data science — unique and differentiated sources of data — becomes more valuable.

Virtual reality will make headway in 2016, but I don’t believe it will live up to the hype for several years. Why? The promise of VR is so strong and speaks to something so visceral. This makes the uncanny valley for VR wide and thus the margin of error for true immersion quite small. I do, however, expect to see advances in image resolution, input mechanisms, and high-definition audio that will help close that gap. In 2016, we’ll see VR headsets combined with encoding and streaming capabilities make headway. Support for 360 photos and videos, spherical video cameras, and other 3D modeling inputs will continue to drive the creation of VR content. Cinematic journalism efforts like those from the New York Times and cheap, mobile-based VR solutions will also have impact in the mass-market by expanding perspectives and eroding the fixed, right-angle frames of traditional media. But the true power of VR will remain a few years off.  

e-Sports, and the next-gen fan experience will see significant progress as well. e-Sports will continue to gain momentum and audience, achieving deeper mass market penetration. Watching other people play video games will seem a less strange concept to the mass market. We’ll see professional leagues continue to emerge, coalesce, and gain mass while professional gamers will begin to be recognized as highly-skilled entertainers and sports stars capable of drawing enormous audiences and followings.  For more traditional sports, the next-gen fan experience will continue to mature in 2016. As teams fight for ways to draw people into their newly instrumented and highly-connected stadiums, new tools and services will emerge to enrich in-venue fans with exclusive content, games, and experiences.

When it comes to gaming technology, the future is cross-screen and stateful. Gamers will be able to pick up where they left off on any device at any time. We will see cloud-based tooling mature to assist game developers not only with game development but also with acquisition, analytics, and advertising. Finally, to ride the wave of e-sports, expect more game developers to incorporate spectatorship into their core game design. 

And lastly, I’m keeping my eye on quantum computing and cryptography. Advances in both the theory and practical application of quantum-level computing and encryption will begin to ignite the imagination of the business and tech communities. The promise of computationally-secure communications links and step-function advances in parallel processing performance will attract increased investment and research.

If we thought 2015 was an interesting year for these cutting-edge technologies, 2016 promises to be even more exciting.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Verizon, Verizon Ventures, and/or any/all contributors to this site.


Related posts from Verizon Ventures: 

Race to Develop Autonomous Vehicle Technologies is Wide Open 

VR Will Change the Game for Sports Fans 

Investing in Virtual Reality Companies Could Soon Deliver Real Profits 



Tags: David Famolari , UAV , Virtual Reality , E-Sports , drones