Every forthcoming year is unpredictable and 2018 is not the exception. From politics to culture, a year ago the world seemed to have trouble finding its footing through a seemingly never-ending twelve months. Whether the day’s stories focused on the potential looming threat of artificial intelligence, the continued spread of online misinformation in the form of “fake news,” or the toxic aspects of Silicon Valley culture, our relationship with technology was just as tumultuous. For every groundbreaking SpaceX launch, another self-driving car mishap or overpriced juicer running on WiFi appeared to be waiting just around the corner.
While almost a half of 2018 passed by, here are some encouraging signs that this year may bring some stability — at least, technologically speaking. Platforms like the smart home are finally taking their first steps out of their awkward years to become usable, reliable solutions. Mapping and navigation has never been more clear, offering detailed views inside of office buildings and shopping malls at a moment’s notice. And social media companies seem to be waking up to their responsibilities not just as places to connect with friends and family, but as media juggernauts.
Here’s a look at some of the potential trends in technology to look forward to (or avert your eyes at) in 2018:
AUGMENTED REALITY BECOMES A REALITY
Pokemon Go may have given consumers the first augmented reality killer app in 2016, but 2017 gave software developers the full set of tools to help AR go mainstream. Last summer’s release of ARKit for iOS and ARCore for Android means 2018 will see the release of new and exciting augmented reality apps that take full advantage of these new software development kits.
This new generation of software is already offering worlds of possibility in categories beyond gaming, like the IKEA app that can place a virtual piece of furniture anywhere in your house. And for gamers, there’s no need to look any further than Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, which is sure to give Pikachu a run for its money.
While mobile AR software continues to gain ground, the holy grail remains a fully self-contained AR system. Tech giants have already placed big bets in AR devices like Microsoft’s Hololens, but this year’s real show-stopper will be the release of Magic Leap’s Lightwear, a highly-anticipated standalone AR platform that doesn’t require the use of an additional device. Lightwear, a years-in-the-making device, mixes a pair of glasses with a belt-worn computer for an experience that must be seen to be believed — and finally gets a chance to be seen this year.
LIVE FOR LIVE FITNESS
If your New Year’s resolution was to get fit, 2018 might be the year you actually begin working out in the comfort of your own home. Connected fitness machines like the Peloton Bike are set to continue supplanting dusty old weight racks by offering live, on-demand workout classes streamed directly to a screen on the bike itself. With expansions into other fitness equipment like treadmills, these machines can help you bypass crowded, sweaty classes and experience a live workout group in your own living room.
Across many services, hours of archived workouts can already be streamed to tablets, phones, and set-top boxes. But a greater push into live and group fitness routines by companies like Flywheel and Daily Burn can help users stay motivated without having to follow the same routines day in, day out. Coupled with data provided by fitness-tracking devices many already own, there’s never been a better time to lead a healthy lifestyle.
RISING DIGITAL WALLS
For freeloaders and free speech advocates alike, the message is clear: the carefree days of sharing your parent’s Netflix password or browsing blocked websites through a VPN may soon be over. As countries and companies look to protect their messaging and balance sheets, expect 2018 to carry forward the trend of cracking down on the sharing of unauthorized (or undesirable) content.
Television companies have already announced their intention to crack down on password sharing in an attempt to recover lost revenue. And as Google Chrome prepares to debut its own built-in ad blocker, expect content providers to erect more digital walls — both paid and unpaid — to save their bottom line.
Governments, meanwhile, can be expected to continue looking inward as access to the global internet gets limited or cut off altogether. Last year, after blocking access to VPN services used to bypass the so-called Great Firewall, China took the remarkable step towards ending online anonymity by implementing a new system of social credit. In the first few days of 2018, protests in Iran have already led to encrypted messaging services like Telegram being blocked, joining other prohibited websites like YouTube and Facebook on the country’s Internet.
In the United States, the FCC took its controversial first steps towards reversing net neutrality rules. As 2018 unfolds and Congress ultimately decides their fate, anticipate more heated battles over the fate of the open internet around the world.
THE PROLIFERATION OF THE ASSISTANT
When Apple’s Siri started speaking up in 2011, users began to listen as the first mainstream voice-activated assistant sent text messages, scheduled meetings, and quipped jokes on the iPhone 4S. Though less than perfect at first, Siri and her many cohorts — Alexa, Bixby, and Cortana, to name a few — have grown into fully-functional platforms that can do an awful lot more than fetch basic data. Like order dollhouses for newsmen.
Now that these platforms are beginning to mature, assisted by robust developer communities creating new Alexa Skills, Google Assistant commands, and SiriKit interactions, they’re taking their next big leap in 2018: proliferation. The virtual assistant isn’t just pre-installed on your phone’s operating system: it’s now embedded in your smartwatch, your headphones, your speakers, and practically anything with a microphone and an internet connection. And the cost of adding another Echo or Google Home to yet another room in your house is becoming negligible, starting at around $30.
Read the Whitepaper “Conversational Systems: Changing The Future Of Communication” and find out how conversational systems are changing the landscape of communication
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