Tuesday 16 August 2016 3:22 pm

Driverless cars, artificial intelligence and blockchain: Meet the Gartner Hype Cycle of 2016

Driverless car technology is careering towards the trough of disillusionment after hitting the peak of hype, according to Gartner analysts monitoring the progression of the world's emerging technology trends.

The firm's annual Hype Cycle tracks where trends such as virtual reality, robotics, personal voice assistants and, of course, driverless cars, are in their journey from talked-about technology to becoming as mainstream as smartphones.

Autonomous vehicle technology is being worked on by the world's top tech companies, including Google, Apple and Uber, in addition to the leading car manufacturers. It has moved past what Gartner calls the peak of inflated expectations, edging closer to the so-called trough of disillusionment with a time-scale for mass adoption moving beyond the five to 10 year period identified last year and now put at more than 10 years away.

Read more: Self-driving cars, smart dust and the new tech trends

Virtual reality technology is making headway, however, moving closer to the "plateau of productivity", or mainstream adoption. Several tech firms, including Facebook's Oculus, China's Xiaomi and Samsung have launched or plan to launch limited availability VR headsets this year.

Immersive experiences is one of three top-level trends identified by Gartner in 2016. Along with VR and augmented reality, which has gained huge attention with the popularity of Pokemon Go, other tech in this area includes gesture controlled devices, smart homes and human augmentation.

Machine learning remains at the peak of inflated expectations amid a wave of acquisitions in the space by the likes of Twitter, Microsoft and Apple and the ground-breaking success of Google DeepMind's AlphaGo, which used machine learning to triumph over a human player in the Chinese game Go

Read more: Why companies like Twitter are paying top dollar for AI startups

Artificial intelligence, along with virtual personal assistants and smart robots are among the smart machines trend which Gartner predicts has the potential to be the most disruptive over the coming decade

"Due to radical computational power, near-endless amounts of data and unprecedented advances in deep neural networks, [smart machine technologies] will allow organisations with smart machine technologies to harness data in order to adapt to new situations and solve problems that no one has encountered previously," the report said.

A new addition to the Hype Cycle is blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin which has caught the attention of financial services across the globe. Gartner believes it will be around five to 10 years until adoption becomes mainstream but is classed as potentially transformational. It is one of three technologies which is set to have the most profound impact.

Read more: The UK now has its first official blockchain provider for public services

"While the hype is around the financial services industry, it is likely that manufacturing, government, healthcare and education will see more rapid evolution and acceptance," said analysts.

"As a portent for the rise of the programmable economy, the potential of this technology to radically transform economic interactions should raise critical questions for society, governments and enterprises, for which there are no clear answers today."