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With NY’s Day and Chinese NY celebrations now behind us, it’s that time of the year again. Time to look ahead and re-appraise the technologies likely to change our lives – f o r e v e r.

I am talking about pretty radical and unexpected uses of technologies here. Those that make us sit up and take notice amongst the zillion of tech news we get bombarded with every day.

In my humble opinion and in no particular order, here are some of the exciting things awaiting us…

Is there anything that can’t be connected these days?

The Internet of Things will continue to gain new and surprising grounds – no surprise there. Technology research firm Gartner predicts that the IoT will grow to 26 bn units in 2020, up from .9bn in 2009.

In no time, we have gone from connected wristbands and rings through smart cars, eyewear and fridges to rackets and T-shirts to name a few. This is bound to accelerate over the next 12 months, and with it the rise of wearables that are there to help us… disconnect – like fashion staple MEMI.

3D printing is breaking into new and more serious territories.

3D printing has found its true calling, and I am glad to say it is not about printing plastic guns, phone cases or toys at home. It has much bigger fish to fry.

The technology is increasingly being put to industrial and scientific uses, from printing houses and organs to key aircraft engine components and complex parts for healthcare. Famously, General Electric has been tapping into the collective mind of innovators and entrepreneurs alike all over the world to great success, inviting them to submit their designs through its 3D Printing Design and Production Contests. All entries are carefully reviewed and the best ones implemented.

Digital OOH is becoming more intelligent and more effective as a result. 

Outdoor has been enjoying a revival lately, something close to a rebirth thanks to digital OOH, which is getting more sophisticated and effective by the day.

Lenticular printing (a fine example of which can be found here), QR code or NFC-enabled outdoor will continue to play a role. Here however, I am talking about the kind of outdoor that serves you real-time, contextual, location-based and highly personalized content as you simply walk past, stand in front of it or choose to interact with it. MediaCo Outdoor’s CityLive touchscreen network exemplifies the many possibilities of the outdoor of the future perfectly – quoting:

“Each CityLive unit is fitted with multipoint touch functionality, built-in NFC, WiFi, HD cameras, high-quality directional audio, a live local news and weather data feed (aarrgh), city interactive wayfinding and MediaCo Outdoor’s CityLive Look facial detection system (based on Quividi).”

This state-of-the-art digital OOH network launched last November in Manchester, UK. Here is to hoping that it becomes the standard in 12 to 18 months from now.

Dynamic Shape Displays are making headways and shaping the future of video conferencing amongst other useful applications. 

These displays came to my attention only recently when I read about MIT’s new Dynamic Shape Display inFORM.

inFORM lets you interact remotely with objects on the other side of the screen.  This means that remote participants in a video conference are able to interact physically at a distance. It can also interact with the physical world around it e.g. moving objects on the table’s surface.

MIT are exploring a number of application domains, including but not limited to 3D modelling and design (interestingly as an alternative to 3D printing), architectural models and urban planning, and medical imaging CT scans.

So one to watch in my opinion.

The rise of the Robots…

Robots will be part of our future – Honda got it many years ago. In 2006, its advertising featured Asimo, then the world’s most advanced humanoid robot or so we were told. The robot hasn’t lost its WOW factor to this day and even has its own website for all die-hard fans amongst us out there. The car manufacturer has ever since been using all sorts of other cute robots to promote its vision.

In 2013, we learnt that the top 3 tech giants were busy investing heavily in robotics – Amazon in its Prime Air drone service (with CEO Bezos, the ever optimist, predicting it could be operational as early as 2017),  Apple in factory robots and Google in, er, lifelike walking machines (unclear what it intends to do with these as yet).

And hot off the press is the bionic hand – a little bit creepier, yet very real and a substantial scientific win.

… And with Robots will come Anti-Robots.

Anti-robot Prosthesis looks pretty mean at first and until you realize that it is actually entirely human-controlled. So harmless really and certainly not a threat to the human race.

The idea behind anti-robots is that their aim is to give us ‘super powers’ as opposed to making us redundant. Phew! So a good thing all in all.

Everyone (or nearly everyone – my mum hadn’t :) has heard of Google Glass in some shape or form. It is by far the most talked about wearable currently. Yet, it is also one of the least mainstream with only approximately 10,000 users in the world as I write this – all carefully selected for the ongoing testing phase of the product.

Following in the footsteps of Nike’s Fuel band, Glass has stolen the spotlight as its deserving successor. Newsworthy in its own right, the extensive and constant media coverage is also no doubt partly the result of Google’s well-oiled PR machine.

Not surprisingly, quite a few other connected wearables have since launched, all equally eager to tap into our insatiable hunger for new and shiny hi tech objects. Some loosely reminiscent of Glass in design offer super niche functionality with only limited audience reach (e.g. Nissan’s 3E HUD), whilst others are of questionable use – if not taste (e.g. a collar camera for your petMicrosoft’s bra).

Despite everyone’s best efforts, Glass remains unsurpassed to date in my opinion. And as I was getting tired of the abundant PR, one particularity suddenly piqued my curiosity and has since made me follow the product evolution with great interest.

Unlike most – if not all – other wearables, the device strength appears to lie in its ability to constantly evolve and extend its many practical uses. This in my view makes Glass stand out and puts it firmly ahead of the pack.

Below are some of the most recent product evolutions that are good cases in point:

Glass as the surgery tool of the future

As I found out recently on the Australian Popular Science website:

Glass as a publishing platform for apps

It may not be mainstream yet but by the time it goes to market, Google Glass will come with hundreds if not thousands of apps. I came across one of these recently – the ColorSnap Glass from Sherwin-Williams:

Glass as a life changing experience for the disabled

Google has been paying close attention to how the disabled use its eyewear, as a way of improving their lives.

Glass as a way of modernizing orchestras

More recently, a conductor and music professor has been experimenting with Glass in a number of ways. It has proven to be a useful feedback tool for her students in particular. The eyewear is also being considered as a possible alternative music stand and paper score.

According to Hunter Walk, “Google is Love + Greed”. It may well be, but for as long as it endeavors to change our lives for the better, it is okay to be greedy.

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