Another year beckons, promising yet more lively debate on the joys and perils of technology once reserved for gadget-loving hobbyists, but now the hot topic on everyone’s lips.
This year we have seen a serious discussion surrounding artificial intelligence and its potential effects on human civilization, Silicon Valley giants’ responsibility when it comes to extremism and terrorism along with incredible advances that could shape healthcare for the better.
Virtual hangout spaces, biometric security and robotic companions are among the innovations poised to become part of our lives over the coming months, according to analysts at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas this week.
So what is next? Here are our predictions for technology events to come in 2018.
5G will enable much faster connectivity
Introduced last year, 5th generation mobile networks and wireless systems (5G) will start to proliferate and make their way into homes and smartphones towards the end of 2018.
The greater bandwidth capacity, which Verizon and Samsung are planning to role out later this year, will help to speed up downloads and communication between internet-connected devices. For example, movies that took almost a day to download on 3G and several minutes on 4G will be available in seconds using 5G.
The improved capacity will also enable the connection of more nodes and sensors across cities to make them smarter, and bring down the latency of data transfer to almost zero, crucial for systems like self-driving vehicles.
Digital assistants will become part of the furniture
Smart speakers enjoyed a bumper year in 2017, with products that integrate Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant seeing a dramatic surge in sales. Many more from a variety of companies are set to launch imminently, with uptake predicted to increase this year and peak in 2019.
Assistants will also break out of speaker format, and be incorporated into other everyday products – cars, mirrors, shower heads – as we become more used to using speech commands, and the computers become better at identifying individual voices! Ready for the revolution?
Artificial intelligence will try to gain our trust
As digital systems take on more and more of our tasks, they will learn more about us and our habits. This will allow the development of better predictive algorithms to cater to our tastes, which could be used by anyone from retailers and entertainment services to accountants.
Increased knowledge will also eventually enable the systems to converse with their users, and explain why they make certain choices. This will help skeptics to overcome trust issues they might have with intelligent systems!
Robots will become our companions
Like last year, companion robots will be everywhere. These cute-looking machines, like Kuri, are physical manifestations of digital assistants – integrating speakers for playing communicative feedback sounds and music, as well as cameras to capture moments around the house and help with surveillance.
Using facial recognition, they can identify family members and pets, and follow them around when necessary to provide assistance. They will also be able to show emotions through lighting and “facial expressions” on displays.
Biometrics will help keep our personal property safe
Many people already unlock their smartphones with their thumbprints, but this and other types of biometric security technology are set to become much more widespread. Anything that needs to be kept secure, from possessions in a locker to data on a computer, will be accessible through one of several body-activated systems.
Biometrics will also help to customise our environments, particularly facial recognition – brought to global attention last year with the launch of the iPhone X. This will be integrated into cars, where windshield sensors will pick up on who’s behind the wheel, and automatically adjust the seat, mirrors, radio station etc to the driver’s preferences.
VR will revolutionize social media
Virtual reality has so far mainly been used in the gaming and entertainment industries, often via clunky headsets. But the technology will be picked up by the industrial and commercial sectors to improve workflow, thanks to lighter eyewear, and improved connection speeds that will allow for faster wireless data transfer.
This will also have an impact on social media. Users will soon be able to “meet” each other and hang out in digital spaces rather than just liking photos and commenting on status updates!
AR will become part of daily life
Meanwhile, augmented reality will make its way onto handheld devices in a much greater capacity than currently seen. After Pokémon Go introduced the technology to the masses, areas like navigation, interior design, advertising will all benefit from AR – which overlays digital information onto real-time imagery on a screen.
Developer kits on iOS and Android are allowing more software engineers to include AR capabilities in their apps, which will result in a lot more handset up, head up, and less looking down and bumping into people on the sidewalk.
Are you excited as much as we are? Which one of these potentially life-changing innovations caught your attention the most? Leave us a comment in the section below!