The Japan Times newsroom selected these tech and digital stories as the most important of 2016.
1. All systems go: For a few weeks in the summer, it seemed to be all that anyone was talking about was “Pokemon Go,” an augmented-reality game you play on your phone. The game was the result of a collaboration between Nintendo and Niantic.
2. A new way of seeing: Sony’s PlayStation VR device was a big hit at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, and the Oculus and HTC Vive models won fans too. With China’s Alibaba offering the world’s first virtual reality shopping experience, it seems the race for dominance has just begun.
3. Sharp is bought by Hon Hai: The Taiwanese Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which trades as Foxconn Technology Group, came to the rescue of Japan’s struggling Sharp Corp. Hon Hai acquired the firm after some tough negotiations that saw an original offer cut to ¥389 billion.
4. Nobody at the wheel: An increase in technological advances in the world of self-driving cars led to many preliminary experiments in the field. Insiders believe driverless cars will become a hot topic in 2017 as Japan hopes to showcase self-driving vehicles at the 2020 Olympics.
5. Burning up your phone: In October, Samsung made the decision to recall its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after several reported instances of the gadgets bursting into flames. Japan is one of many countries that has banned the device on its airlines.
6. Man vs. Machine: Google DeepMind’s artificial-intelligence program AlphaGo beat phenomenon Lee Sedol of South Korea in a game of go. There have been computer vs. human chess matches before, but AlphaGo’s moves showed an element of creativity that has some spooked over how fast AI is progressing.
7. A line on some fresh cash: Line launched its IPO on the Tokyo and New York stock exchanges, and raised more than ¥115 billion ahead of the listing. It was the second-biggest IPO of the year, but its 220 million monthly active users were probably more interested in the stamps.
8. Fake news in Japan: The U.S. election was plagued by the issue of fake news stories, but in Japan the questionable journalism turned up in health stories on the DeNA-operated WELQ website. Got sore shoulders? It may be a spiritual problem according to one article.
9. Online jukebox: The music-streaming website Spotify launched in Japan in September and fans hope it will be a game-changer in an industry that is still heavily invested in CD sales.
10. Mario makes a splash: Nintendo’s “Super Mario Run” app came out Dec. 15 and was the fastest downloaded app since “Pokemon Go.” However, Nintendo’s shares still fell and that raised concerns over its ability to move into the growing field of mobile gaming.
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