As anyone who has attended CES can attest, tech innovations for 2018 abound. Since none of us can predict the future, it’s hard to know for certain which technologies will truly take off. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for looking ahead to the coming year and seeking to identify and leverage key technologies that could propel your business forward.
Below we’ve compiled a few tech innovations that have grabbed our attention and seem to show lots of promise. Most are not new concepts, but are ones that have the potential to be more fully realized in everyday life this coming year.
Augmented or Mixed Reality
While many continue to have hope and excitement for applications of full-on virtual reality, there are still significant hurdles to overcome. In contrast, augmented reality seems poised to have big growth in 2018.
Augmented reality is the concept of overlaying virtual images onto someone’s real world surroundings. Most consumers are being introduced to the concept through smartphone applications. For example, Google’s AR stickers that can be placed into photos on the Pixel 2 smartphone. Or apps created by the Smithsonian and other museums that utilize AR to bring museum exhibits to life, such as in the Skin and Bones exhibit.
While there is much fun envisioned (think playing virtual paintball in your home, with paint splatters portrayed on your walls), there are many practical applications we expect to see impact everyday life. Consumer opportunities include using AR to help people visualize potential furniture purchases in the context of their own home, or see nutritional data while walking through a grocery store. Similarly businesses might use AR to overlay augmented instructions to workers on a manufacturing floor or display necessary safety precautions to construction workers as they move through a job site.
Software Enhanced Photography
Phone camera hardware has continuously improved in recent years, and that’s likely to be true this year as well. What’s exciting for 2018 and beyond, though, is the significant improvements that are being made to camera software.
Apple and Samsung are using software (and dual lenses) to offer increasingly complex features, from true optical zooms to “studio lighting” modes to a variety of depth of field effects. Google’s approach has been different (their latest, the Pixel 2, has just a single lens), but their advances in HDR processing software enable them to create similarly stunning images. (HDR images are made by simultaneously taking multiple photos at different shutter speeds, then using software to combine the images, bringing out greater details.)
It’s unlikely that single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras will go away any time soon, but we expect these software advances to continue to revolutionize the quality of smaller, less expensive devices. The combination of affordability and performance means potential opportunities in business, as well as consumer applications.
Conversational Interfaces & Hyper-Personalization
As we noted in our top tech disruptions post, voice technologies took hold in a significant way in 2011. Since then, many big players like Google and Amazon have been fighting to own marketshare in voice-activated controls for everything from homes to cars.
One reason for the success of voice controls is that people like interacting with technology in a conversational way. So much so that there is a trend toward creating hyper-personalized online experiences using “conversational interfaces.” A conversational interface is a “hybrid UI that interacts with users combining chat, voice, or any other natural language interface with graphical UI elements like buttons, images, menus, or videos.”
Conversational interfaces aim to improve customer experience by reducing the need for forms and menus on websites. Landbot.io is lauded for their work in this area, helping business increase conversion rates through creating a conversation based web experience. UX Planet provides a great overview of how conversational interfaces can help enable further advances in personalized web experiences.
The IoT is coming to life in many industries and healthcare is no exception. The need for HIPAA compliance (and personal data security in general) understandably slows adoption, but numerous health sensors may make their way into consumer hands this year.
Wearables are certainly the most well known of current options, and their functionality has been steadily increasing. For example, while the Apple watch has offered heart monitoring features for awhile, those capabilities advanced further when medical smartphone accessory maker AliveCor received FDA approval in late 2017 for its EKG KardiaBand. The band replaces the typical Apple watch band, and, in just 30 seconds, can provide accurate detection of atrial fibrillation (AF) rates.
While that’s impressive, over 92 health & wellness exhibitors were at CES 2018, showcasing even more tech innovations that could revolutionize our ability to monitor and improve our health. Devices ranged from ones like Diabnext for management of diabetes to Pulse for non-drug pain relief to Rotex for biometric monitoring. There’s a lot to look forward to!
If these tech innovations inspire you to apply technology differently in your business this year, please contact us. We’d love to talk about your ideas.