Virtual reality was all the rage in 2016. After years of research, the VR tech bubble finally popped with companies like Oculus and PlayStation scrambling to market and distribute their products. This saw a massive wave of VR tech startups emerge to capitalize on the myriad of ways in which virtual reality tech could be exploited and innovated. But as 2016 draws to a close, it’s time to look to the future to see what other tech trends are on the horizon of 2017.

AI and Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence has been the focal point of science-fiction stories for as long as the genre has existed, yet it’s about to cross from the realm of fiction into reality. The technology has progressed enough to allow smaller companies to take part in and contribute to the AI revolution. 2017 will see AI being deployed physically through robots and devices, in the realm of apps and services. One area that would benefit significantly is in the processing of gargantuan accumulations of data, which is more commonly becoming known as Big Data. The ability to analyze trends and patterns of Big Data for a number of different applications will be incredibly useful.

Not everyone is optimistic about this fact, however. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has long been outspoken about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, so much so that he founded OpenAI, a non-profit research company dedicated to creating safe AI. Paradoxically, this has led to another massive field that will be tackled by startups in 2017: cybersecurity augmented by AI.

Smart Things

While this may seem like a broad category, it encompasses quite a specific function. It’s somewhat of a crossroads between IoT (Internet of Things) and AI. The Internet of Things basically refers to any device that can be connected to the Internet, and with the proliferation of smart devices such as drones, autonomous cars and household appliances, startups will begin to look at how they can collaborate these devices intelligently. This will likely result in forming a network of items that are constantly in communication. This is largely possible to the falling costs of technology, the ability to access most internet-connected devices from your smartphone, and the Wi-Fi capabilities of many modern manufactured devices such as televisions and fridges.

Wearable Tech

Wearables are nothing new. From the Apple Watch to the Fitbit, companies have been marketing and selling wearable tech for the past few years. However, this was mainly limited to fitness and performance trackers. While Apple may have done something slightly more revolutionary with the Apple Watch, at the end of the day it was still really just an extension of a mobile phone. Next year there will be a heightened focus on combining technology and wearables, not only limited to watches.

Startups specializing in garments embedded with LEDs and sportswear that can track body vitals will begin to emerge. Other companies will focus on wearables such as the Snapchat Spectacles that allow users to record short point-of-view videos and share them with their friends. The number of startups looking to capitalize on this convergence of functionality and aesthetic sensibility is already growing and only likely to increase in the coming year.

Food Delivery Startups

While this may seem like a stretch since companies such as Deliveroo have every urban city covered in terms of food delivery, 2017 is actually primed to receive an influx of new food delivery startups. The reason for this isn’t a cost reduction on bicycles, but rather what looks to be an inundation of robotic couriers.

These little guys are something to keep an eye out for. Delivery bots will drastically reduce the cost needed to traditionally deliver food – you won’t have to pay a robot an hourly wage – with the projected cost of a delivery looking to cost between $1 and $3. The bots use similar technology to that which powers autonomous cars. And while these robots are still in their trial phase, they’re definitely going to see some widespread use in the coming year.

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