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2016 Tech Year in Review

  • Date: December 21, 2016
  • By: Keegan O'Brien

With 2016 coming to a close, I asked the team to share what they found to be the biggest things to happen in the tech industry in the past year. Some decided to share what is coming in 2017 with some trends identified by Gartner and others told me not to reinvent the wheel with this kind of post. But…I am a marketing guy, and I am always looking for blog content. I did get a few generous individuals to share some insight and they bring up some key happenings in the industry below.

Software Engineer Chris Shouts

1. Microsoft embracing open source and Linux? The story needs some punch but I think this will have a very positive long-term effect on Microsoft and the general world of computing.
2. The commodification of machine learning and AI (aka cognitive computing). The barrier to entry for using these technologies has never been lower.
3. Autonomous vehicles (i.e. Tesla Autopilot). Basically a beta test of self-driving cars in the wild.
4. Virtual / augmented reality available to all.

Innovation Lead Philip Nelson

1. The huge hack of IOT devices have shown to the masses that the hobbyist approach to IOT is not going to work. These devices have all the risks of any computer on the internet with a fraction of the power needed to deal with those risks. (bring in the professionals!)
2. Automation of low skilled jobs has just started to be recognized as a bigger issue to unskilled workers than trade policies or immigration. But not nearly enough!
3. Vastly improved facial recognition.

Solutions Consultant Mike Putnam

The 2016 precedence of this UK law (and US tendency to mimic - ever notice the growing quantity of public safety cams?). 2016 has been a very good year to bury very bad news. And political distractions perhaps explain why a bill that has been described as the most extreme surveillance legislation ever passed in a democracy has today passed into law in the U.K. never having faced substantial opposition...coupled with the increasingly mainstream adoption of things like Amazon Echo and Google Home. It is way past tinfoil hat mode at this point.

Solutions Consultant Paul D'Anna

What about the rise of VR and AR for that matter as well? Although “they are still not my reality” he says.

Software Engineer Lawrence Valiquette II

It might be no secret that Expert Systems and AI technologies are a passion of Lawrence’s. With the work Tesla has been doing with auto-pilot, a software update that turned crash detection hardware into autonomous driving, to the constant enhancements to smart systems and digital assistants.

With those things in mind, my pick for 2016 is WaveNet (a deep neural network for generating raw audio waveforms) created by Google’s DeepMind unit. WaveNet is a breakthrough for talking machines which will replace the need (sorry voice actors) to have short speech fragments recorded by a single speaker and cobbled together to form sentences. With WaveNet, it actually adjusts raw wave audio to construct words and the resulting sentences flow more naturally, smoothly, and closely resemble human speech. WaveNet however has some complexity in how it handles text-to-speech, as the text has to be transformed into sequences of linguistic and phonetic features. In this blog post, you can compare WaveNet to Parametric and Concatenative (Googles two best Text to Speech systems) and the difference is amazing. Gone are the days of choppy GPS directions and conversations with smart devices.

WaveNet is not limited to speech either as it can model any audio signal and as the blog post shows in the Making Music section it can be trained with a dataset of classical piano music and produces its own interesting samples (audio examples in the blog, really worth checking out).

Wrap Up

That’s a small list from a select few. What do you think we missed? What would you add to the list for 2016?


about author

Keegan O'Brien

Keegan O’Brien works as Marketing Manager for Omni Resources. Keegan manages the social media platforms for Omni and helps to plan and manage all promotional efforts for the organization. Prior to Omni, he taught marketing at the high school level in the Fox Valley for over 10 years. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a marketing education degree and a minor in business administration.

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