2016 marked a big shift in the way we use our mobiles: Texts and phone calls now play second fiddle to emojis and Snapchats; movies and television are beginning to overlap with VR, and artificial intelligence (AI) has begun to power everything from our breakfast to our commuting (with much more on the horizon).
In 2017, these trends will mature: VR will become increasingly accessible, mobile screen technology will (finally) develop exponentially, and our vehicles may start to take the wheel back. Most importantly, this is the year in which big data takes over: where information from the sensors around us will begin to be integrated into AI and medicine, and the outcome will underpin our everyday reality in a way most of us can’t quite comprehend just yet.
With releases from Oculus, HTC, PlayStation, Google, and Samsung in the latter half of 2016, VR made its first major splash in the mainstream market. While limited mostly to games and film experiences, the exponential take-up in headsets will see developers outside of the entertainment sphere lining up for a slice of this highly lucrative market.
With VR (and its Augmented Reality companion), online shoppers could accurately visualise the size and shape of a potential outfit before they buy them online, while Volvo is offering first-person car drives as a new form of immersive advertising. Marriott Hotels is using VR to give people a taste of a remote travel experience, and BetterCloud is using VR in the recruitment process to give people a taste of what it’s like to work there.
VR shows promise for treatment of disorders like PTSD due to the ability to induce ‘presence’ – the feeling of being in another place. Sufferers of the anxiety disorder can slowly be exposed to scenarios that make them anxious, and desensitise them to their fears over time (for those of you who don’t like spiders, it’s already been successfully trialed to treat arachnophobia).
From NASA space simulations to the military, trade, and education – VR presents a world of opportunities to take us further than we’ve ever been before. And with a projected market value of $162 billion by 2020, it’s going to happen fast.
New phone feel
From waterproofing to dual lens cameras and wireless charging, we saw a host of mobile device innovations in 2016. In 2017, the screen will have its turn.
The Samsung S7 edge and Xiami Mi Mix borderless screen have paved the way for borderless screens and immersive displays, but the best is yet to come. 2017 will likely see the introduction of ‘flexible’ screens in mobile devices, improving the screen strength so you don’t have to skip a heartbeat if you ever drop your phone. Coupled with the increasing availability of 4K mobile displays, mobile experiences will be more vivid (and stable) than ever – particularly in the aforementioned world of mobile-led VR.
Now that’s intelligent
Apps like Google Now, Siri, and Amazon Alexa are already becoming familiar names, but represent a new era in 2017: intelligent apps. These apps use analytics, AI, and autonomous processes to learn more about you every day and make your life easier. From prioritising emails (like in Google Inbox) to Virtual Personal Assistants that organise meetings between two people, apps will expand their role to connect with IoT home devices (like your fridge and television) and eventually, your car and office.
Conversational, integrated AI systems like Google Home will continue to blossom in 2017 as the technology we own is capable of sensing and collecting data.
The real value for these applications will come with the ability to analyse and synthesise data from a wide array of sources, and then use that to make our lives less complex. For example, cities could re-plan their transport priorities based on live commuting maps, or your office could use your phone to change your seat height, lighting, and air temperature before you need to ask.
Could 2017 be the year we let go of the wheel? Tesla, Google, and Uber are all at varying stages of deploying hands-free driving, and while safety concerns have marred the public’s trust in fully robotic control, manufacturers will continue to integrate self-driving controls. Auto-reverse parking is already standard in many new car models, so it’s not inconceivable that features like Tesla’s Autopilot (which monitors distance between traffic and keeps cars within lanes) will be sighted more and more. Off-the-shelf autonomy could re-program older cars to more modern methods of control, increasing safety for everyone on the roads . And while brands like Ford and Mercedes expect to have fully autonomous cars by around 2021, Tesla predicts its car will complete a self-driven trip from New York to LA before the end of 2017.
The increasing number of health sensors, like smart watches and fitness trackers, plus AI-powered data sorting, will mean doctors can use patient data to tailor treatments to every individual. For example, the University of California, San Francisco, is leading the personalised medicine movement by training their doctors to have broader conversations with their patients about the social, environmental and economic aspects of illness. More broadly, big data processing (with apps like DreamLab) may lead to more effective treatments and cures. With Big Data Analytics estimated to be worth $34.27 billion by 2022, information analytics will become more and more important to our medical experience.
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