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16 Reviews to Review 2016

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By: Matt Kreikemeier
Founder // Technology Director

1. My home got way smarter.

For me, 2016 was definitely the year of the smart home. As a (generally) early-adopter, I feel ashamed at how late I was to this party, but I finally caved to the Alexa craze, and I feel like I've seen the future β€” it's hands-free.

"Alexa, turn on the downstairs lights."
"Alexa, set the thermostat to 70."
"Alexa, play Kidz Bop."
"Alexa, what's the weather today."
"Alexa, did the Cardinals win last night?"

These are just some of the commands that have become common around my household. Yes, they sound mundane. Besides, can't Siri do all of this? Yes, she can - sort of. Alexa just seems to be a much better listener πŸ˜ƒ I swear, she actually works, and since she actually works, it makes taking advantage of all her knowledge much more enticing. It's borderline spooky how ready she always is, but it makes her very helpful. With the addition of echo dots strategically placed throughout the house, she is always a voice-command away. You know it's the real deal when A) your wife buys in (she now doesn't know how to do anything without Alexa, and B) when your 1 year old talks to Alexa like she's another member of the family β€” it's literally just a part of our home now.

Outside of Alexa, there was no shortage of other developments in my tech/art/development world in 2016.

2. I didn't buy the new MacBook Pro.

I ordered it and then canceled before I got it. I'm sure I'll end up with one in the near future, but it just didn't wow me like I'd hoped when I tested it out.

3. I never used my drone.

Until the battery life can be improved, the 10 minutes of fly time (on my model at least) is just a tease, not allowing one to truly do some exploring from the air. The novelty wears off pretty quickly as well. Unless you're a photographer, content creator, or stunt-person, I'm not sure I see a mass market appeal. Of course, commercial use is a different story.

4. I never used my camera or video camera.

The poor guys are sitting on the shelf and getting dusty. The iPhone 7+ camera is pretty insane. When I want to capture a great moment, I no longer feel bad about not grabbing the big DSLR, I just reach into my back pocket. As long as the lighting is right, you can capture really beautiful photos. The new portrait mode with depth effect makes us all look like better photographers too - it's great.

5. AMP is...odd.

We have AMP set up for our blog because, well, because Google said we should. To be honest though, it feels a bit like a step backward - a bit reminiscent of the m. days for me (mobile specific subdomains of your site - m.mysite.com). It also seems somewhat paradoxical when thinking about responsive design. Responsive design is meant to ensure the mobile experience is not simply a dumbed down version of the full web. However, AMP is exactly that - a completely stripped down version of the full web.

It is fast though (truly instant), which is amazing. With our "now" society, I can certainly see its appeal (I already find myself preferring the AMP results over others because of speed) so it will be interesting to see if/how this continues to evolve.

6. I think security is finally becoming mainstream.

It can be hard to separate ourselves from our world of gadgets and gizmos to fully understand what's mainstream, but I think security is finally getting the attention it deserves. I'm not completely sure what it was, but I think the Apple vs. FBI case regarding the San Bernardino shooter's locked iPhone brought this topic to primetime and started a discussion around security, encryption, and privacy. There is a great podcast called Codebreaker that has an episode that tackles encryption - it's worth a listen. More and more people in my life are recognizing the need of password tools like 1Password and LastPass - I'll consider that progress.

7. Cord-cutting is getting closer, but not quite there.

I tried Sling. πŸ‘Ž.

I tried going with only single-use apps (AppleTV Apps). πŸ‘Ž. While HBO Now has nailed it, you can't do much else without an actual cable or satellite subscription (and I need my live sports!)

DIRECTV Now is the best solution I've seen, but without local network channels (at least in our area), it's not a realistic solution. Even if they were though, the cost is better I suppose, but it's not that great in my opinion by the time you add in Hulu, Netflix, CBS, etc. I'm still hopeful for a truly a la carte future, but I wouldn't hold your breath for that.

8. Twitter is hanging on for dear life.

In a similar vein. Twitter TV is Twitter's latest attempt at finding its former glory. While the limited programming (I think just NFL Football) hasn't necessarily allowed exposure of this feature to the non-sports-fan masses, I actually think the idea has some merit. Twitter is responsible for this dual-device world we live in when consuming media - people love tweeting during events. To have those experiences in one place, if done well, can be valuable for me. The Apple TV app could use some work, but they might be on to something with bringing Twitter to television in a way that everyone can use.

9. New Apple Pay features are too convenient.

Apple Pay is nothing new, but Apple Pay on the web is, and it's awesome terrible cool. No more typing/copying-and-pasting credit card information? Yes, please! However, it might be a little too easy to buy stuff. Anything you want is literally a touch away. Those few moments (and the hassle) of having to enter your credit card information saved many of us from silly impulse buys. Well, not anymore. This is the definition of a love/hate user experience relationship.

10. Pokemon Go came and went.

For the average person, I think the PokΓ©mon Go craze is over. I had my fun with it for a couple weeks, then never touched it again. With that said, I suspect it left its mark - gaming will never be the same. The experience was/is exciting and I think we all crave more of it.

11. Ad-blocking software took off.

Content marketing was certainly already a "thing" in our world of digital advertising and experience branding, but with 200 million monthly active users leveraging ad-blocking software, great content continues to require daily attention in order to hope to stay relevant.

12. VR is becoming mainstream.

There are TV commercials for Virtual Reality every day. That may not mean it's for sure here to stay, but I think it's a sign that there are a lot of companies betting big on VR, so I expect that we're only getting started in this space, and it's going to get a whole lot better. Gaming has its obvious use cases, but the interactive experiences that this technology allows is what excites me. Sitting sideline for a soccer match, running up and down the court with Lebron James, traveling around the world, touring real estate from your couch, and who knows, one day you're family member that lives out of town may be able to sit in the room with you and watch your kids open their Christmas presents.

With all of that said, I truly can't wait for 25 years from now when we look back at the ridiculous headgear we would wear to just sit there and interact with (in the grand scheme of things) super simple interfaces.

13. Snapchat shocked us with Spectacles.

They did what Google couldn't with Glass - made something that doesn't look completely nerdy. The marketing ploy of the pop-up vending machine has proven genius. We'll be seeing more of this from copycats, no doubt.

14. Personalization is everywhere.

In a crowded marketplace, brands are looking to stand out by leveraging personalization tactics. Simple tricks like using a consumer's first name in an email has had such great success, brands are now looking to go a step further. Uber Feed looks to transform your trip experience by offering contextual content based on your destination. Oreo invited customers to design their own packaging. No doubt, 2017 will bring a tidal wave of personalized experiences to our screens.

15. Self-driving cars hit the road.

Otto teamed up with Budweiser to send a self-driving semi-truck full of beer across Colorado. Uber put self-driving cars into real-world action in San Francisco. It wasn't long before government regulators gave them the boot and they were forced to relocate their pilot program to Arizona. But, it's happening. Like, for real happening.

Don't worry though, we won't be restricted to our primitive roadway systems. Uber has plans for flying cars - Flying. Cars.

16. Artificial intelligence is all around us.

Speaking of robots. AI is now everywhere. Siri, Google Now, Alexa, Cortana — all AI. As noted above, smart cars — AI. Purchase prediction in eCommerce (Amazon is too good) — AI. Any time you see "recommended for you" — yep, that's AI. Chat bots for sharing information and providing customer support — many use AI for this now too. My Nest thermostat knows when I prefer it cooler, when I'm not home, and when I'm out of town, and with the power of AI, controls my home temperature for me. I won't even mention Watson, which among other things, is aiding doctors in saving lives.

Moral of the (2016) story, robots are taking over. It can be scary (some may argue, evil), but I find it fascinating and I'm excited to see additional progress in 2017.

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