Another year passed, another 365 days of tech happenings in the books.
No, the smartwatch isn’t any greater, we don’t have flying cars yet and R.I.P. net neutrality. But don’t think all those bummers mean there hasn’t been enough good tech stuff in 2017 to fill up a year-in-tech best-of list. Because there has been, and so here’s mine:
7. Twitter’s 280 character limit
Not everyone was happy, including myself, when Twitter announced this year that it would be scrapping its 140 character limit in favor of one that’s doubly generous. But not only did the move inspire some funny, smart aleck responses – which made for great content – now, weeks after its instatement, 280 has actually proved itself to be less of a timeline eyesore and more just useful.
And besides, who doesn’t want tweetstorms from [insert polarizing head-of-state figure you feel the responsibility to follow here] cut into half as many posts on your feed?
6. Augmented reality
Sure, Pokemon GO brought augmented reality technology -- the overlay of digital elements onto the real world as seen on your screen -- to popularity in 2016. But in 2017, heavyweights like Apple and Google announced investments of their firepower into AR with ARKit and ARCore, raising the medium’s awareness to near VR-level status and improving its capabilities along the way.
There’s no doubt that years from now, when we’re using AR to design our homes, shop or play even more immersive games that we can today imagine, 2017 will be remembered as the starting point.
5. Energy conservation
Just about every year, the U.S. sets a new record-high in percentage of renewable energy – wind and solar – contributed to the nation’s power grid. But in 2017, that number, for the first time ever, rose above 10 percent in the month of March, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
On top of that, in a separate 2017 energy report from the EIA, it was found that, even though gadget numbers per household are rising, power consumption per household is dropping thanks to smaller and more energy efficient tech.
So: all good news in 2017 for those of us who like the idea of there still being energy available a few years down the road.
4. Bitcoin’s record-breaking boom
Bitcoin reached an all-time high of over $19,000 this year, and, unlike the big end-over-end spike the crypotcurrency saw in 2013 -- caused mostly by a fraudulent trading bot -- this boom is tied to real-world financial institutions finally getting on board and just a general heightened awareness of the idea of digital money.
In other words, if you’re still one of those people waiting for the bitcoin bubble to burst, bitcoin enthusiasts can now point at 2017 and say, "What bubble?!"
3. HQ Trivia
It’s amazing that it took all these years to come up with the idea of a live game show that you can both watch and play along with from inside of your phone. But, of course, that’s exactly what HQ Trivia is, and in mere weeks since its Fall 2017 launch, the trending app has already hit the live viewer/player milestone of two-thirds of a million people. Maybe part of the attraction is that the game gives away actual money to winners.
Either way, don’t think HQ’s novel format of watching and playing along won’t spawn a number of copycats in the future.
2. All-screen smartphones
In 2017, popular smartphones like the Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxys said goodbye to front buttons and chunky screen borders, leaving front sides that are essentially all-screen. Not only is the trend a great look, but it also makes it possible for large-screen phones to finally feel palmable.
With other smartphone companies like LG, Oneplus and Essential releasing all-screen phones of their own this year, there will be no going back to bezels, and that’s good enough news to make number two on my list.
1. Elon Musk
Multiple CEO and futurist Elon Musk could probably have a 2017 list of his own, with his rocket company SpaceX making history in March with the world’s first re-flight and re-landing of an orbital rocket; his car company Tesla setting new speed and battery distance standards with the intro of its electric Roadster 2; and the new tunnel-digging venture Musk started this year, called The Boring Company, has developing tech that he says will eventually be able to create underground transportation throughways at the clip of a mile a week.
That last part might might sound boring (ha!), but it stands to reason that it will be most helpful to getting Musk’s dream of the 700-mph hyperloop transportation system up (or down) and running, which is good since the billionaire did tweet in July that such a system between New York and D.C. was given “verbal govt approval.”
I could also go on about Musk’s work this year in brain-computer technology and also in ensuring that artificial intelligence is being built with human safety in mind, but you get it: There wasn’t a single meaningful stretch in 2017 in which Elon Musk wasn’t making tech headlines. That's why he's the number one tech thing of the year.