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Magic Leap promo image.

Any savvy investor with a hand in tech stock knows that an innovation gold rush is well underway. Although the market is viciously competitive, creative upstarts that aim to change the game in their field are increasingly gaining an edge over bigger, less adaptable entities. The name of the game is Change, so the companies to watch are those who are making the biggest waves in their industry, the ones who promise to disrupt the status quo, the ones who are launching new methods and ideas in stagnant landscapes.

In 2016, these are just five companies to keep an eye on, because when their innovations go mainstream, we’ll be looking at tidal waves.

Nextbit

nextbit robin review aa (13 of 20)

Ten years ago, when the concept of “the cloud” first got rolling, the public looked at the technology with a skeptical eye. Why keep all your files online when you can just email them to yourself or carry around a USB drive? Fast forward to the present day and these once-standard methods look as outdated as a horse-drawn carriage. Cloud technology has changed the way we store data, the way we collaborate, and the way we exchange information. Now one company wants to bring this revolution to our mobile devices.

Nextbit is an upstart that is designing upper-mid-range smartphones that are completely cloud-centric. The idea is to take the pressure off internal storage and focus on better specs and a consistent experience. When you get a Nextbit device, you also get 100+GB of cloud storage as part of the deal. Apps are kept on internal storage, but everything is synced with the cloud. That means when you uninstall an app, instead of all the associated data being gone forever, what you’re really doing is just “pausing” updates between the device and the cloud. Your data is available no matter what device you’re currently using. Their first device, the Robin, has a pricetag of $400, runs on a Snapdragon 808 processor, has 3 gigs of RAM, and sports a stylish, retro-futuristic chassis.

nextbit robin review aa (10 of 20)

 

FreedomPop

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Mobile carriers don’t tend to be well-loved companies. Many users just can’t shake the feeling that they’re being taken for a ride with fees, rising costs, and disadvantageous contracts. FreedomPop wants to unshackle these disgruntled subscribers by providing a “wi-fi first” approach to mobile data. With wi-fi networks becoming increasingly ubiquitous, the idea makes a lot of sense. The low-cost mobile service originally focused on “light users,” but quality of service has been steadily increasing since 2012. Last year, the Economist called the Los Angeles-based company a “seriously attractive alternative” to traditional carriers, and FreedomPop’s list of subscribers has been rapidly growing.

Viv

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You may have heard of Siri if you’re, you know, alive. Viv is an artificial intelligence company that was started by some of Siri’s original designers. The monosyllabic little upstart has some massive ambitions: they want to go toe-to-toe with Google, Apple, and Microsoft in the AI field. The idea is to create a “global platform that enables developers to plug into and create an intelligent, conversational interface to anything.” The applications of such a technology are so widespread that if Viv can pull it off, we wouldn’t be surprised to see them scooped up by one tech giant or another as soon as they unveil their project. The company is operating in stealth mode right now, but if they can deliver, “game changer” would be an understatement.

Lithium X

 

Figure 1: Sal de los Angeles Project (CNW Group/Lithium X Energy Corp.)

Figure 1: Sal de los Angeles Project (CNW Group/Lithium X Energy Corp.)

As the world continues to ween itself off fossil fuels, lithium-ion batteries have emerged as the best source of clean energy storage. The modern world runs on lithium-ion batteries. If you’re not convinced that the future is mobile, I don’t know what to tell you, but mobile can’t exist without lithium. Experts are anticipating a boom in the demand for lithium over the next five years as the nascent Internet of Things market upsurges and smartwatches become more pervasive. With an interest in renewable energy growing, we can also expect to start seeing lithium-ion batteries in green homes and cars. What’s more, lithium is becoming more and more expensive – the cost of the mineral has tripled since 2003.

That’s why Lithium X Energy Corp is angling to corner this rapidly growing market. In just a few short months since launching as LIX on the TSXV, Canada’s startup stock exchange, Lithium X has built an impressive team of mining industry heavyweights, and assembled the largest land position in Nevada’s Clayton Valley, home to North America’s only lithium mine. Strategically, the project is close to Faraday Future and Tesla’s Nevada operations. Lithium X has also entered into an agreement to advance the Sal de Los Angeles lithium brine project in Argentina’s “Golden Triangle”, one of the world’s ten largest known lithium salars. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the roughly $40 million market cap (US) Lithium X become synonymous with lithium-ion batteries in the near future. Since the likes of Goldman Sachs are saying lithium is the new gasoline, it should be no surprise Lithium X has garnered the attention of investors.

lithium x stock

Magic Leap

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Augmented reality is coming. Companies like Yelp have long been using simple overlays to make UI simple and effective, and games like Pokemon Go might make AR go mainstream in 2016. Magic Leap has higher goals in the AR field than anything we’ve seen to date. The company wants to create cinematic-quality augmented reality. Although they haven’t released a product yet, the company raised $827 million in 2015 which includes an impressive $542 million from Google. When the sultan of search starts throwing around cash like that, it’s a pretty good indicator that Magic Leap will be making a quantum leap in the world of AR sometime very soon.

Conclusion

It’s an fascinating time to be alive. The exploding technological landscape is offering opportunities for innovators and investors alike, and creativity is being rewarded alongside initiative. Although it was tough to narrow it down to just five game-changers, we believe these are the companies to keep an eye on if you want to stay abreast of the most radical moves in the tech world this year. This applies to both those interested in potentially investing, or just the average Joe looking to see what innovative companies might be hopping into the spotlight in the years to come.

What are your thoughts on our list? Did we leave out any upstarts you believe have a shot at changing both the market and our everyday lives? Let us know in the comments below!

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