When writing a piece predicting the key technologies to watch for the year ahead there is always an element of concern that inaccurate premonitions will come back to haunt you, whether it is something brilliant that has been missed off or indeed that you may wax lyrical about what proves to be a non-starter.
To spare our blushes, in the event of our prescience being found wanting, we can find comfort in events gone by, to reassure ourselves that everyone gets things wrong occasionally.
In December 1903, a New York Times editorial insisted that a flying machine would take from “one to ten million years” to develop. Nine days later the Wright brothers took off on their first flight.
Top of the list for 2018 is Augmented Reality (AR). Yes, it could be argued that 2017 saw significant progress in this field; however, it is clear to see that all the signs are pointing to AR achieving mainstream status in 2018.
While consumer interest in virtual reality seems to be slowing, the technology heavyweights Apple and Google have thrown their respective augmented reality hats into the ring, namely their ARKit and ARCore developer platforms. Similarly, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft are also focusing a huge amount of energy on AR.
With Apple’s ARKit, iOS apps can map out a room and use realistic lighting changes to make objects better blend in with a scene. From here, AR could start to redefine everything from online shopping to selfies, leaving a cumbersome ‘face-computer’ behind.
Blockchain. Yes I hear you, no surprise there. However, I think we are now seeing a life for Blockchain beyond that of its current role as the decentralised heart of cryptocurrency.
To date, its primary use has been to verify cryptocurrency transactions without a middle-man, however developers are realising it has uses outside of this latest finance craze.
Transaction records, or “blocks” are cryptographically protected and then distributed to all participants. This allows transactions to be verified without the need for human involvement, but also is much harder to spoof.
With this in mind, one potential use touted by industry experts could be to verify contractual terms possibly even executing them automatically in “smart contracts”, or similarly to verify access to resources.
With cybersecurity dominating the headlines in 2017, blockchain could well prove to have numerous applications as we look to shore up security in our hyper connected world.
The touchless interface
The rise of the touchless interface is relentless. The term refers to the ubiquity of devices that now see us uttering commands such as, ‘Alexa’ and ‘Okay Google’, as well as gesturing towards our devices.
The adoption of these personal assistant devices should see us finally coming round to the idea of the smart home. Why bother turning the dial on your thermostat or going to the effort of flicking that light switch? Alexa knows how to turn up the mood lighting and crank the heating without you rising from the sofa.
But, something far more cutting edge than the latest weather forecast is being showcased at CES 2018, which will take the touchless interface to the next level. That is the integration of geolocation capabilities, cameras and computer vision sensors with these devices to recognise who is where in your house. Translating this into simpler terms, that will be the ability to pick up an empty milk bottle and say ‘Alexa, order this’, without you specifying what it is you want to order, since Alexa understands what you’re looking at or holding. Potentially something that could redefine our shopping habits at the very least.
Of course, these are just three of the technologies that could provide the new age ‘Wright brothers’ moment. Many more exciting technologies will unfold over the course of the year as we begin to realise the potential of digital incorporation into everyday life.
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