Virtual Reality is reality

Thanks to a few billion dollar’s worth of R&D and ultra-competitive market acceleration, Virtual Reality (VR) has graduated from popular science fiction to in-market reality. Thanks to products like (Facebook-owned) Oculus RiftHTC’s Vive and Playstation VR, the technology is close to being integrated into everything from gaming, through medicine, to your own private cinema on flights. DIY Virtual Reality kits like Google Cardboard work directly from mobile, offering a low-cost, lo-fi VR experience, opening up access to a huge portion of the population.

Can you feel that? 3D touch

3D touch is to 2016 what wearable tech was to 2015: the tech trend everyone’s talking about. Led by Apple’s move into force-touch screens (meaning the force you use on devices will invoke a varied response), tech companies are moving to speed up this concept for their own devices. Imagine feeling the weight of a folder as you drag it along the screen. Or feeling bumps and ridges as you guide your finger around an e-book? 3D touch and sensory screen tech aren’t far from adding a whole new element to the digital experience. Its application isn’t just novelty: adding a tangible layer to interfaces will make tech more accessible, and provide new outputs for art, design, and products.

The rise of messenger apps

Initially just for chatting with friends and family online, messaging apps saw a big move into the workforce this year thanks to the likes of Slack and Facebook Messenger.

Earlier this year, game-changing start-up Operator was revealed to the world as an ‘Uber for everything’ service. It offers an instant messaging-style chat service to organise purchases for you. Say you are after a blue sweater – just text Operator, and they’ll provide you with a range of options before processing the transaction and sending the product to you, all without any added cost or you having to go to the store.

Chinese phenomenon WeChat is leading the messenger service revolution, allowing social chat, news services, taxi booking, ticket purchasing and much more all within the one service. Though these integrated features are currently available in China exclusively, their popularity will dictate how apps are designed in the New Year.

The end of apps as we know them

The recent success of WeChat’s integrated model hints to the combining of apps moving forward – a consolidation that could lead to an effective ‘removal’ of apps entirely. Integration could mean your calendar responds to the beginning of a meeting by muting incoming calls automatically, for example – the types of things people currently use IFTTT to set up. Driving in busy traffic to a meeting you are already late for?

Your map app diverts to the fastest route while your colleagues are automatically-messaged your ETA.

Connectivity is another force driving consolidation. As the utility of cloud-storage increases and our phones’ physical storage capacity decreases, mobile ‘As A Service’ offerings will extend beyond just storing our mixtapes and photos. Cloud-based apps that run inside your web browser will likely dominate the next year as a workaround to rising storage requirements, with many apps disappearing into your browser, or dissolved into other apps completely.

Everywhere around you: ambient UX

IoT is more than just your smartfridge triggering a milk order: it’s now increasingly focused on how things talk to things that talk to you.Ambient User Experience means devices respond to human prompts — say, movement — without being dictated explicitly.

Doors in your home will sense you, unlock, and open before giving your coffee-maker the heads up.

Companies like Nest are already implementing this into their app design, with many more products to follow. Increased utility from our phones means their response to our needs will be more intuitive and user-friendly than ever. Exactly what does this means for us? No one is really sure just yet, but we’re pretty excited to find out.

Now where’s that pizza drone I asked for…

 

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