5 tech trends for 2016

Virtual reality headsets, even lighter laptops and the smart home going mainstream – here are a few things to look out for in 2016…

05 Jan 2016


Virtual reality headsets, even lighter laptops and the smart home going mainstream – here are a few things to look out for in 2016…

1. Virtual reality arrives (in a big way)

Oculus Rift

Virtual reality will be one of the biggest tech trends of 2016. With VR gaming headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive launching early in 2016, and VR being a centerpiece of the CES tech show in Las Vegas – the stage is set.

Some 50% of people in the UK are aware of virtual reality headsets, and 1 in 3 have expressed an interest in using them – according to analyst Mintel

‘2016 is the year VR will go mainstream,’ says Press Association tech reporter Martyn Landi. With the launch of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, says Martyn, ‘there’s plenty to talk about and show off’.

Martyn adds: ‘Placing VR headsets at the centre of CES is a no-brainer, giving the world the chance to see it in action properly, and convince those who see it as a gimmick.’

The headsets run on high-end PCs, with powerful processors and graphics cards. It’s about more than gaming though.

HTC writes about Vive on its blog that it’s working with companies to create ‘content that spans gaming, entertainment, medical, education and retail’. 

Discover more about HTC Vive at the Gaming Bunker.


2. Laptops get lighter, slimmer and smarter

Slim laptop2016 will be a great time to buy a laptop. Why? There’s a host of new technologies that are among the most innovative of recent years, such as:

  • Intel Core M processors: laptops packing this tiny but powerful processor can run without a fan as the processor doesn’t get too hot. The result? Super-thin, super-quiet laptops like the Apple MacBook with Core M
  • USB Type-C: this combines your main connectivity needs in a single port – from charging your phone and transferring images from your camera to watching video.
  • Intel 6th generation Core processors: the latest update to Intel’s most powerful processor is great at saving power for longer battery life and built for multitasking.
  • Windows 10: get the same experience on your phone, laptop and tablet, switch between typing and touchscreen swiping, and use your voice to search the web with a Windows 10 machine.


3. The smart home goes mainstream


At the heart of the smart home is the idea your lighting, heating, smoke detectors, security cameras and other things are all controlled over Wi-Fi using your phone.

In the early days, each of the devices would be controlled by its own individual app. This made the smart home seem faddy – too fiddly and futuristic.

But in 2015 we saw the rise of systems like Samsung’s SmartThings, which lets you control numerous devices (including those not made by Samsung) through a single smartphone app.

This approach – known as open platform – has been key in making the smart home more appealing, and will continue to do so in 2016. The sensor technology used in SmartThings, where sensors are placed on doors and windows to detect movement, or on plug sockets to activate power, is likely to become more common in our homes.

And we’ll see voice control develop further as another way of communicating with your smart home devices. One such product that’s already available is the Amazon Echo portable speaker, through which you can control gadgets like Philips hue smart lightbulbs with your voice.

Expect too to see smart home connectivity rolled out to larger appliances such as TVs (check out Samsung’s plan to make its TVs compatible with SmartThings, so you can monitor and control your home from your TV).

In 2016, Google Nest, SmartThings and more will go from niche tech to everyday household items. People will look to smart tech for practical reasons like:

  • Using less energy – 24% people believe investing in technology would save them money in the long-run
  • Future-proofing their home – nearly 1 in 3 people would find a property more appealing if it had connected technology

Source: Barclays Digital Homes Report


4. 4K UHD will become the living-room norm


The past year has seen 4K UHD go from still-relatively-niche tech to the main contender for your next TV – with falling prices and smaller screen options.

And this will really solidify in 2016. Manufacturers will focus on 4K UHD with the sets launching at CES in Las Vegas - and new Full HD TVs will be few and far between.

Ultra HD Blu-ray players and discs are set to launch early in 2016, while Netflix could announce more developments in 4K streaming at CES.

The picture will be even sharper on many 2016 4K TVs thanks to HDR, or high dynamic range. This technology creates deeper blacks and brighter whites.

8 reasons to buy a 4K UHD TV now


5. Smartwatches to get more popular (and stylish)

Apple watch

The arrival of the Apple Watch in 2015 took the smartwatch closer to the mainstream – with its chic and wearable design, clever features and iconic branding.

And in 2016 we’ll make wearables a bigger part of our everyday lives, so experts say. The number of Brits who own a piece of wearable tech is set to double in 2016 – from 7% to 14%. That’s according to consultancy firm Lansons

A greater emphasis on style and design is important here. Apple Watch and the round-faced Android Wear watches are much better looking than the boxy, bulky smartwatches of old.

But tie-ups with high-end fashion brands are blurring the lines between tech and style, making the watches more desirable.

Apple worked with Hermes to create a version of the Apple Watch that’s fit for fashion week. Could 2016 see such tie-ups become more common?

Find out more about the latest tech launched at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show