Every new year the tech world starts out with great hope and promise. Big ideas and trends promise to blaze a new trail with breakthrough tech than can change the way we live, work, and play. We witnessed plenty of successes last year, and a few failures, which we addressed in our 2016 year-in-review Technically Human podcast.
Now that 2016 is behind us, we’re focused on 2017 and have identified three big tech trends we’ll be watching closely this year.
Trend #1 – Smart homes will only get smarter.
So maybe you’re not Mark Zuckerberg with a custom-built, Morgan Freeman-voiced, artificial- intelligence (AI) home automation system inspired by Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of AI and connected-home devices, which are becoming easier to buy and integrate thanks to new form factors such as Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot, and Google Home, as well as AI voice assistants Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
These AI protocols not only listen to your voice commands, but learn through pattern recognition and data mining from sources that include your calendar, query history, search history, purchase habits, streaming habits, and more, so “it” can get smarter and respond better to your requests and needs.
These AI tools won’t just be limited to standalone speakers. LG has announced that its new InstaView Smart Refrigerator will have Alexa built in, so you can use your voice to reorder food right from your fridge. Alexa will also be featured in Whirlpool’s next-generation, voice-controlled appliances, so you can control your washer, dryer, fridge, and oven using voice commands.
As you incorporate more IoT tech into your home from multiple brands, centralized hubs such as Samsung SmartThings and Apple Homekit bring it all together into one app so you can control and monitor your automated, intelligent home with ease.
Trend #2 – Your clothes will get smarter too.
We talk a lot about the convergence of tech and lifestyle brands. In no category is this more evident than in the clothing space. Taking something as utilitarian as a t-shirt and literally weaving tech into its fabric is not the future. It’s here now.
Take Polar, a fitness lifestyle brand that creates items for peak athletic performance. They’ve recently introduced a smart shirt technology that can track heart rate, movement, speed, distance, and acceleration. Under Armour is ramping up its tech game with everything from athlete-recovery sleepwear to shoes that can track, analyze, and store virtually every running metric, so you know exactly what you need to do to improve your runs.
Smart clothes aren’t just for gym rats, though. Levi’s has teamed up with Google to develop a smart jacket that allows a person to control their mobile experience and connect to a variety of services, such as music or maps, directly from the jacket.
Trend #3 – Physical and digital worlds will continue to blend.
The first two trends we covered are part of this trend. AI, the cloud, and increasingly powerful machines will drive more and more of our daily routines. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)—which continue to grow in popularity and adoption thanks to more powerful, more accessible devices—will enhance the way we experience and interact with our world.
Content is king with VR, so brands and companies are going to build more environments and applications for social interaction, livestreaming, and immersive experiences. Oculus recently launched a Rooms environment so users can gather with friends, make calls, and enjoy multiplayer games in VR; and the NBA is livestreaming a game in VR each week to deliver an immersive sports experience, just to site a few examples of how VR is bringing the real world into your digital VR world.
AR has always been on the cusp of “maybe this is something our brand should do” territory. Then came Pokemon Go and its explosive growth of users that brought AR into every day. With this proof point, momentum is building to integrate more AR into the world, especially since it’s a true mixed media experience.
The top-of-the-line example is the powerful Microsoft Hololens, which creates a blended environment that lets people work and interact with digital content in the real world. There are applications ranging from realtors delivering a new vision of an existing home to retailers who use AR to sell to tech-savvy customers who want to “experience” the product wherever they are.
What does my future look like?
It looks smarter than ever before. With AI and the cloud as the brain and heart, the digital world that surrounds you will learn more and more about you at each interaction, with the goals of enhancing your life, keeping you entertained, and making every day easier.
Will these trends take over in 2017? We’ll have to wait and see. Maybe we can ask Alexa if it knows…
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