The top 10 innovations of the 2010s

02 January 2020

The 2010s saw the rise of self-driving cars, voice assistants, 3D printing, AI, VR, 4G and more. As the world enters 2020 and a new decade, Electronics360 is taking a moment to count down the 10 best innovations of this decade.

10) Music streaming

Music streaming services changed the music industry forever. In 2011, Spotify was released, and Apple followed suit with Apple Music in 2015. Streaming services make it much easier for artists to release music on their own terms. They can produce their music, finalize it and upload it to the world on their own.

Music streaming effectively ended the reign of CDs and iTunes. Now fans can open an app and an artist's entire catalog is at their fingertips. Along with music accessibility, new forms of media have been born with streaming services. Without streaming services, podcasts would have just existed as radio segments, but today many people have careers in podcasting. The media industry changed forever with streaming services.

9) Ride-share apps

Getting a ride to a bar or a concert 10 years ago meant one of three things: securing a designated driver, calling a taxi or finding a ride some other way. Today, someone can open an app, press a few buttons, and there is a driver there at their front door within a few minutes, ready to take them to their location.

A few companies started the ride-sharing movement. The two biggest are Uber, launched in 2011, and Lyft, launched in 2012. Ride-sharing apps are seen as a more honest, trustworthy and convenient transportation method than taxis. The rider pays for the ride before even stepping in the car, so there is no way for the driver to upcharge the customer by taking a longer route. Some also believe ride-sharing is safer because you can watch the route the driver is taking within the app.

8) Streaming services

Netflix's launch in 2007 revolutionized the film industry. Netflix allowed users to stream their favorite shows and movies for a small fee. Cable companies struggled to compete with the low price tag and the "cut the cord" movement was born. Many people dropped their cable subscriptions for cheaper streaming services.

Other streaming services quickly followed suit. Hulu was publicly launched in 2008 and Hulu Live was launched in 2017. Hulu Live provided a cheaper option for consumers who want to watch shows as they air, but do not want to be tied to a cable company. Since the launch of Netflix and Hulu, cable TV stations have started launching and announcing their own streaming channels. HBO launched HBO2go in 2010 and they announced last year that they will be releasing a new streaming service, HBOmax. In 2019, NBC announced that their streaming service, Peacock, will be released in 2020. Disney announced the development of Disney Plus in 2018 and it officially launched in November 2019. Apple launched AppleTV Plus in 2019.

Streaming companies have also produced award-winning movies and shows. In 2012, Hulu released its first scripted series, "Battleground." The first Netflix-produced show, "House of Cards," was released in 2013. Apple released its own produced shows in 2019.

7) Social media boom

While many of today's social media platforms existed before the 2010s, the decade saw the biggest boom yet in social media. First, Instagram launched in 2010. Starting as a small picture sharing network, Instagram grew to be one of today's biggest social media platforms. People have careers that are dedicated to posting to Instagram. Many brands use Instagram to advertise, announce launches and even search for employees. Instagram has since become one of the largest social media platforms.

Other social media platforms also saw huge developments during the 2010s. Facebook started as a simple site to post statuses and has turned into a colossal network that connects people all over the world. Twitter became a major news source and started social uprisings in the last decade. The #metoo and Arab Uprising movements both started on Twitter. Twitter also changed the way that people interact with celebrities and politicians. Almost instantly, nearly every important person in the world was accessible at a user’s fingertips. Politicians can now communicate directly with their constituents on social media. Social media has never been more significant and has changed how people communicate.

6) Self-driving cars

Inventors have been trying to create road safe self-driving cars since the 1920s. But in the 2010s, these cars became reality. In 2015, Nevada, Florida, California, Virginia, Michigan and Washington, D.C., allowed automated cars to be tested on public roads. In 2010, Audi sent a self-driving Audi TTS to the top of Pike’s Peak. In 2011, GM created the EN-V, an autonomous electric urban vehicle. In 2012, Volkswagen started testing a Temporary Auto Pilot system that allows a car to drive itself up to 80 miles per hour. In January 2013, Toyota demonstrated its partially self-driving car. Tesla started selling cars with autopilot in 2017. Self-driving cars went from a crazy futuristic concept to commonplace on the road.

5) 4G

5G has been big news in the mobile technology world for several years. While it certainly is the future of cellular technology, 5G would not exist without 4G paving the way. After the launch in 2010, 4G opened the door to a slew of new internet capabilities. 4G brought faster connections, faster internet access, better call connection and streaming music or podcasts. It has a peak mobile connection speed of at least 100 megabits per second. 4G changed the way that phones work and it has been a huge part of creating today’s digital world. 5G is slated to be bigger than 4G, which is significant considering the latter was one of the biggest innovations of the 2010s.

4) Robotics

Robotics have come a long way in the last decade and are a bigger part of daily life than ever before. From surgical robots to celebrity robots to companion robots, there is an endless list of new robotics developments that have come from the 2010s.

Surgical robots are not new, but they have seen a huge rise in popularity. The Da Vinci surgical robot, a robotic platform designed to work with surgeons to make small procedures easier, is commonly used today. Da Vincis were used in an estimated 200,000 surgeries in 2012. A 2010 video of a Da Vinci operating on a grape went viral in 2017. This past year also saw a rise in remotely performed surgeries. The first remote surgery using 5G was performed in March 2019 in China. During this surgery, the doctor and the patient were 1,900 miles away from each other.

There has been a rise in celebrity robots in the last decade. Pepper the Robot, a semi-humanoid robot that can read emotions, was introduced in 2014 and went on sale in 2015. Peppers are used in offices as a receptionist, greeters in stores and even home companions. Sophia the Robot made headlines when she made her first public appearance at South by Southwest in 2016. Sophia became the first robot to become a citizen of Saudi Arabia in 2017. She now has a large following and has even participated in interviews.

3) Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi was launched in 2012 and it changed the way people all over the world learn computer science. Raspberry Pi is a series of small, inexpensive single-board computers that were developed to promote basic computer science in schools and developing countries. Raspberry Pi runs Linux, provides a set of GPIO pins for controlling electronic components for physical computing and enables users to explore the internet of things (IoT) and home automation projects. The release of Raspberry Pi changed the way that code is taught and enabled many people to start their own coding projects at home.

2) 3D printing

3D printing became a budding source of manufacturing in the 2010s. From printing tiny tech to toys to organs, 3D printing has grown by leaps and bounds. According to some sources, 3D printing entered its "adult" stage in the last decade. At the beginning of the decade, 3D printing at home seemed like something that could only happen in futuristic TV shows or at large companies that can afford it. Today, people can buy a small desktop 3D printer for $350 on Amazon. Consumer 3D printers are becoming much more common, and many makerspaces have added 3D printers to their arsenal of tech. This was a huge decade for 3D printing, but it is just the beginning.

1) Artificial intelligence

AI was a natural choice for number one on our countdown because it has seen huge growth during this decade, but is also a big tech to watch in as 2020 sets in. In 2011, IBM 's Watson played against humans on the TV show "Jeopardy!" Not only did it play, but it beat the show's two best players. Also in 2011, Apple released its AI-based voice assistant, Siri. After that, the age of the AI-based digital assistant was born. Amazon launched Alexa in 2014 and Google launched its virtual assistant in 2016.

AI is now part of daily life. Deep learning networks, a kind of AI, went mainstream during the 2010s. Image recognition, natural language processing, fraud detection, speech recognition and more were all mastered with deep learning networks. There was also a panic that developed surrounding AI, with numerous media reports about AI and automation taking over jobs. While AI is becoming more integrated into daily life, many people are still wary about it. While it has been a great decade for AI, it will be a major tech to watch in the coming decade because its development is not stopping any time soon.

There have been many amazing innovations and technologies that flourished in the 2010s. Some are just getting started, like self-driving cars, and others like 4G are fading. This was the most exciting decade for tech yet, and the next decade's innovations will likely be even more so.

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