The Ten Trends That Shaped 2014

A retrospective of the trends we saw define the year that was

As we plan for 2015 and beyond, PSFK took a look back at the key trends that helped shape 2014. After thorough review of PSFK Reports in industry verticals like Health, Retail, ‘Making’, Wearables, Travel, the Internet of Things and more, we outline ten ideas which began to mature in 2014 and we’ll be sure to see more of in years to come. Enjoy!

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Tech Became Empathetic
Devices began to understand our needs and provided relevant recommendations at key junctures in our lives. For instance, to keep stress — the ever-present enemy of the independent worker — at bay, Bossy monitors workplace self-care and organization. As the ultimate supervisor, the gadget can connect to the API of notorious time-waster Facebook to thwart it, or to bolster the managerial power of Evernote.

Experiences Were Contextually Enriched
Specific user conditions like time and place were leveraged to deliver relevant information, entertainment, and more. Even museums joined in.

Digital marketing and communication strategy firm Prophets outfitted the Rubens House with iBeacon technology so museum goers could interact with its exhibits as they would a walkthrough app. The Beacons, serving as digital guides, lead visitors through room layouts which would trigger pertinent artwork info that displayed on accompanying tablets or phones.

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Programming Was Intuitive
Simple interfaces and easy to follow ‘recipes’ allowed anyone to embed interactivity into the world around them. With tinkering at the forefront, littleBits Electronics took on device obsolescence by allowing everyday electronics users to rescue their “dumb” devices from an outdated fate. By democratizing the smart home industry, littleBits put the power of innovation back where consumers prefer: in their own hands.

‘Making’ Was Within Reach
Newfound access to skills and manufacturing resources allowed anyone to scale their ideas from prototype to reality. In effect, reducing the overwhelming pressure to reinvigorate manufacturing industries through scales that are, well, no longer scalable. As manufacturing hub Maker’s Row illuminates, first time designers became as integral in the process as corporate behemoths.

Computing Became Natural
Human inputs like sound and gesture offered more natural interfacing with technology. Thalmic Labs’ gesture-tracking armband comes to mind as it frees up users in situations where hands-free maneuverability is key. Namely, presentations, leisure time involving remote-control toys, and yes, even the occasional DJ set.

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Intimacy Was Distance-Agnostic
Real-time information streamed and collected by sensors connected people and experiences from afar. Billie Whitehouse’s Fundawear (pictured at top of page) might be the most engaging example as the tech-integrated garment allows long distance lovers intimate moments. Touch from one end of a smartphone is transferred via vibrations to the anticipating skin of the wearer resulting in cross-world intimacy.

The Real World Was Digitized
Digital elements were embedded into physical objects for added context, entertainment, and more. Target led the charge with their iOS application ‘In A Snap.’ Using image recognition technology, shoppers can flip through the pages of magazines or cycle through printed ads and scan the material to conjure the item’s availability, additional product info, or checkout process right from their phone.

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Tech Responded At An Emotional Level
Technologies were biometrically attuned to tailor their responses more appropriately at an individual level. Those fleeting things we call moods were no exception as Microsoft prototyped a pair of earbuds that picked the next song dependent on their flow.

The Cloud Improved Decision Making
Aggregated data sets paired with real-time analysis enabled everyone to make smarter choices. Though driving might not always be an optimal one – depending on your city of choice – a “self-learning” function in the Smartcar, which helped reduce driver’s electric bill by 75%, undoubtedly raised many a driver’s IQ points.

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Systems Grew Self-Aware
Tech became anticipatory to deliver actions against future needs and behaviors. The press of a button no longer necessary. As with intelligent street lighting firm Tvilight, auxiliary city infrastructure became a presence-based control system that responds to actual needs instead of projected ones.

Headphones image via Alosh Bennett / Flickr / Creative Commons   

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