Our crystal ball tells us what to look forward to in the year to come
As 2014 winds down, the PSFK team takes a look at the year ahead, scanning the recent innovations shared on our site to determine what we think are 10 of the most exciting ideas to be aware of in 2015.
While technology continues to loom large in daily life, we’re tracking several trends that seek to put a check on its omnipresence, as well as a few that provide us with new ways to connect to the world around us.
As we watch these ideas take shape in the coming months, they’ll be certain to have an impact on the way we’ll live, work, and play.
Step Inside The Story
Immersive 360-degree audio and video experiences are providing early glimpses into the real promise of virtual reality, offering new possibilities for how people will interact with their media and entertainment.
Something that couldn’t be better visualized than through the VR tourism initiative spearheaded by the Thomas Cook Group. Already one of the world’s leading leisure travel groups, Thomas Cook can tempt those suffering from noncommittal wanderlust with virtual tours of a yellow cab ride through Times Square, or a sunny afternoon in a resort in Cyprus, all without the real-world commitment that might have been keeping them at bay.
Or, take the less exotic but no less industrious journalistic approach of Harvest of Change. A Gannett Digital vision, the VR experience allows readers to interact with the rural plight of four Iowa farm families through 360-degree kernels of augmented reality.
Wearables Take On The Ear
With the battle of the wrist still to be decided, the war for wearable supremacy escalates as new headphone designs consider the possibility of computing without the need for a display.
Intel’s New SMS Audio Biosport In-Ear Headphones, as a leading specimen, do just that, integrating with the RunKeeper app for a simplified, hands-free experience that tracks personal bests and monitors heart rates to ensure those bests keep on coming.
Meanwhile, a pair of Bluetooth-controlled ear buds aptly named The Dash are bringing smartphone functionality to the eardrum. Their size speaks directly to the old adage that ‘good things come in small packages’ as they can operate as a fitness tracker that oversees indicators as particular as oxygen saturation.
Happiness Gets Quantified
The ability to track physical signals and external factors and correlate them with emotional states opens the door to new techniques for managing mood and stress.
Courtesy of the Guardian, the Happy for Life app serves as a digital rubric by which one can increase overall happiness. Through nuggets of suggestion as simple as “Go for a swim” or the underused “Have a good cry,” users can log how each activity stacks up on their totem pole of bliss. On the Guardian’s end, they’ve been aggregating how their users rate in the happiness spectrum (quantified in percentages above). Not optimistic results, however.
A viable solution for the despondent could be a wearable device that zaps your brain into greener pastures. A wearable device, Thync uses the power of Bluetooth to target areas of the brain that dictate moods. Sayonara, bad times.
An On-Demand Economy
As more micro-services enter the marketplace, companies that can scale experience and personalization alongside cost and convenience will differentiate themselves from the pack.
Marred with more productivity apps that is conducive to actual productivity, the market is primed to be overtaken by part-time butler services like Alfred. The app connects users with expert helpers to carry out to-do lists in a manner to-do lists never conceived: by crossing off items sans you. After collecting a lists of requests, a user is matched with a neighborhood expert who is then charged with their completion.
Those looking to conserve the added free time gained through Alfred can ensure that parking times will no longer come into play with Luxe, an Uber-esque service that matches drivers with on-demand valets.
Tech To Help Disconnect
The same devices that connect people more deeply to the world around them has led to increased complexity, stimulation and dependence, which must be counterbalanced by gentle reminders about when to take a break.
On the simple side, we’ll see further emergence of applications like Shhhh, an app that automatically turns off notifications when in the vicinity of family or friends (an option for movie theaters is hopefully upcoming).
The Power Of Privacy
As hacking scandals and misuse of personal information become more rampant and public, ownership, control and transparency around data will become competitive advantages.
Encrypted mail services like ProtonMail could become the industry standard for users increasingly weary of overreaching governments and data-obsessed social giants.
The onward push toward privacy isn’t just driven by wariness of all-seeing entities. As the existent of Yovo app indicates, there will be growing demand for social-side security features, like self-destructing images and messages, as a core component of any emerging service.
The End Of Passwords
The need to remember endless strings of alphanumeric codes gives way to new authentication techniques that leverage biometrics and embeddables as the next frontier of logging in.
From the trenches of sci-fi lore we’ll see eye scanners like Eyelock’s Myris make their way onto the forefront of user identification.
Not to be outdone, Google-backed FIDO plans to do away with the password altogether, relying on bio-based key-sets such as fingerprints and eyescans to gain access to client hardware.
The World Goes Wireless
Being plugged in will no longer require a cord as energy and information flow freely between networked systems, devices and people to power the planet in new ways.
Through a match made in heaven, appliance powerhouse Haier and tech outfit Energous are marrying appliances and WattUp routers as consumer-side machines that power themselves through a wireless system. Gone are the days of the cord.
But, in order for the world’s majority to take advantage of a wireless future, proper access to the internet will decide impending growth. It’s precisely the reason bed-mates Google and Facebook are so enamored with the prospect of high-altitude drones. Both tech Goliaths share a concerted interest in these flying machines as the best means to drive up internet users, and so, their bottom lines.
A Robot In Every Home
Sci-fi visions and dystopian warnings will become reality as artificially intelligent machines figure more prominently into daily life and society, automating much of the world and testing people’s ideas about humanity.
Retail robots are but one of a litany of examples already on the horizon. The Fellow Robot retail prototype, as one instance, is an information kiosk that has the ability to navigate across big-box store interiors in search of customers requiring assistance.
Of course, our new tin-can companions won’t just take hold at businesses. The JIBO is a robot specifically designed for domestic life as it harbors a deep understanding of social and emotional cues and is already deemed “the world’s first family robot.”
Outer Space Within Reach
Galactic becomes the new global as the possibility of experiencing life beyond the earth’s atmosphere becomes more attainable for people and companies who dream big enough.
And what can indicate bigger dreaming that a crowdfunding campaign to return a lost spacecraft (from 1978, no less) back to its original mission? Now decades later, a passionate heap of private citizens has raised more than $150,000 to this aim.
Consumers looking for a world view that extends beyond spacecraft rescue missions can scale the heavens through a balloon-driven space flight system. Conceptualized by an outfit that calls itself just that, World View, the venture would allow space enthusiasts to take in the curvature of Big Blue for an exhilarating 90 minutes.