Change is good, right? We chart the tech that’s bound to give you future shock in the New Year
As a revelatory year in tech comes to a close, so too arrives a rush of “predictions” from the big technology multi-nationals and think tanks. From Samsung to Google, these are the companies that ultimately set the agenda for the commercial products to come – or so they like to think. Predicting the routes that new technologies will take has always been sticky – bubble wrap was originally designed to be boring wallpaper, for one – and crossing the 2014-2015 divide is set to be no different. If history’s bunk, so is futurism – but, strip futurism of its corporate ideologies and it’s still quite fun to ponder, nevertheless. Here’s our ultimate rundown of what to expect from tech circles in 2015, all of which are indubitably, probably, definitely-maybe going to happen some time in the next year. Are some of these pie-in-the-sky predictions unlikely to reach full fruition in the next 12 months alone? Perhaps – but they call it California dreaming for a reason…
2015 might just be the year that Chinese phone manufacturers finally go West. Xiaomi – otherwise known as “China’s Apple” – recently overtook LG to become the third-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Lei Jun, its phenomenally successful founder, is the black polo-shirt-wearing technology magnate to watch: whilst Microsoft and their ilk have been knocking around for decades, Xiaomi was recently valued at $45 billion at just 4 years old.
POWER DRESSING 2.0
For those of us who remember the heady era of “Power Dressing”, the new year could spell a welcome resurgence. You can keep your shoulder pads, skirt suits and brooches in the back of your ‘drobe, though – the new work uniform means a new kind of ostentation: wearables. Besides, claims that 2014 was the ‘year of the wearables’ have been too early to say, and as with so many new technologies, it’s the world of work where they are likely to find their first home – as epitomised in the trailer for Opening Ceremony and Intel’s MICA bracelet.
BLUETOOTH COMES BACK IN FASHION
For those of you who miss the days when transferring ringtones to your mate via Bluetooth was what good times were made of – “Mate, you don’t have to hold the phones that close together!” – iBeacons technology might feel a little too nostalgic to have so much buzz. Apple’s trademarked indoor positioning system, it enables smart phones to perform actions when within range of an iBeacon. Functioning using low energy Bluetooth sensing, it basically means that next year you could get push notifications from shops every time you walk through their door. Clearly this could go one of either two ways – it could be a usuful way to synch the user’s online/offline worlds, or end up as over-hyped and under-used as the (still) infuriatingly omnipresent QR code.
SOMEONE'S GOING TO BUY NETFLIX
Like a hungover decision to watch the entirety of Breaking Bad in 48 hours, all eyes are glued on Netflix’s next move. With the biggest Web players all looking to gain a stronger foothold in paid-for, streaming video, Google or Yahoo could be strong contenders to purchase Netflix altogether. With the acquisition of Beats and Oculus Rift this year setting a massive cash-money precedent in the past year, such a purchase could be a total gamechanger come 2015.
THE RISE OF THE GOSSIP APP
The rise of anonymous apps has been well-documented, but few have made the dent that Yik Yak has. An anonymous social media app, it allows users to anonymously create and view “yaks” – but, unlike PostSecret, Whisper, et al., one can only share to users within a 10 mile radius. Location-based anonymous models like Yik Yak are perfect for college campuses – thanks to which the app saw 100,000 new users in just three months – but also mean cyber-bullying issues abound. But with other apps already blatantly copying the Yik Yak design, 2015 is sure to see an increase in localized gossip as the social media currency to beat.
THE NEXT VICTORIA'S SECRET WILL BE DIGITAL - MAYBE
If the previously discrete worlds of fashion and technology became loved up in 2014, the year to come means bedding in and going steady. The next stage might be the erasure of human models altogether, as 3D body scanning and motion capture technology departs Hollywood for Paris, Milan, London and NY. In fact, a digital avatar supermodel could walk the runway in all four cities at once. As Victoria’s Secret snap up every super babe on the planet, our money’s on the bras-and-knickers powerhouse betting on a digitized diva for next year’s extravaganza.
YOUR HOME WILL BE SMART
The ‘connected home’, the ‘Internet of Things’, the ‘Internet Refrigerator Effect’ – whichever way you put it, our homes are set to be ever more connected in the months to come. If you’re able to get those scenes from the “connected” Lake House in Gone Girl out of your head just for a second, the connected home is closer than you think – a dedicated network to support ‘The Internet of Things’ is set to roll out in across 10 UK cities in 2015.
APPLE WATCH WILL BE A MEGA HIT
As the hype surrounding the Apple Watch announcement is set to turn into an actual release come “early 2015”, just how much will the tech behemoth’s gamble on the wrist pay off? Some forecasters reckon it could be a bigger hit than anyone expects. In fact, certain analysts think the watch could be as big a hit as the iPad was in 2010. Unfortunately, it might be harder for us to cut through the marketing and get down to those juicy sales figures. Apple announced earlier this year that they are making changes in how they’ll report revenue, keeping the sales figures for the Watch top secret.
GENDER STEREOTYPES IN TECH MIGHT NOT BE GOING ANYWHERE :-(
With op-eds aplenty on Silicon Valley’s diversity problem, this should be the year that our biggest companies are scrutinized more closely than ever for gender diversity, or a (probable) lack thereof. Unfortunately, given that the products that are slated for release next year are going to encroach on the domestic home more than ever before, developers can’t seem to get at-home gender stereotypes out of their collective vision. Take the Amazon Echo – invite-only for now, it will no doubt receive a wider release next year. The advertisement for Amazon’s Siri-like at home digital assistant, depicting a ‘normal’ American family set up, has been lambasted for promoting dated gender norms. The parody of said video – transforming ‘Alexa’ into a foul-mouthed, angry version of her former helpful self – has clocked up more views than the official version.
FACEBOOK FOR WORK WILL LAUNCH
Office skivers, fear not – soon logging into Facebook won’t necessarily mean you’re procrastinating. In a social media marketplace that is increasingly seeing companies encroach on even non-competitors’ turfs, it’s no surprise that Mark Zuckerberg is taking aim at the allure of business networking sites like LinkedIn. According to early reports, “Facebook for Work” will allow users to chat and collaborate on documents with colleagues, and of course network with co-workers both actual and potential.
YOUR KIDS WILL CODE
This will make you feel old. The UK is rolling out the world’s most ambitious scheme to get children to code this school year, shaking up computer studies to get kids as young as five creating their own programs. Let’s hope for the kids’ sake the curriculum doesn’t include sporting the obligatory Silicon Valley gingham shirt and varying degrees of beard growth.
SEX TECH IS ACTUALLY, REALLY GOING TO BE A THING
The arrival of sex tech has been keenly anticipated since way before the ‘digital age’ – just look at Woody Allen’s ‘orgasmatron’ for a 1978 vision of sexual futures that no doubt chimed with a viewing generation who subsequently grew up to be programmers. Just like that fictional machine that made a joke out of how ludicrous an ‘instant’ orgasm would be, the future of sex tech might just lie in devices for people who want to avoid most of the consequences of real sex: teledildonics, remote kissing devices, and hologram sex are all in the offing. More immediately relevant in what’s set to be the real ‘Year of the Wearables’, though, might be the latest from Bondara: a kind of Fitbit for sex, it will measure the wearer’s calories burned per minute, and other such quantified tracking that will no doubt put you in the mood for love.
LAWMAKERS WILL TRY TO CRACK DOWN ON DRONES...
BoJo, Pornographers, artists, Hollywood: the yaysayers of drone technology are a varied bunch, and the battle to have our unmanned aerial friends fly freely through the skies continues apace. But who will win out in the game of drones? Just a few weeks ago, the US public received hints of how the FAA’s upcoming drone rules would be incredibly restrictive – a license would require dozens of hours flying a manned aircraft, too. However, while the FAA’s aim was to ‘safely integrate’ drone tech by September 2015, it was revealed recently that the project is seriously delayed – don’t expect anything set in stone until at least 2017.
…BUT AMAZON PRIME WILL GO AHEAD, SOMEWHERE
Delays or otherwise, Amazon aren’t happy with the proposed legislation. Amazon Prime Air is the tech leviathan’s proposed drone delivery system, which will aim to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less. With the technology good to go, Amazon have stated themselves that they hope the FAA will make their mind up by 2015. With that looking unlikely, however, Amazon is experimenting with drones in the UK. With Brits having already issued more than 300 licenses for commercial drone use, Amazon might pull their research out of the USA altogether.
YOUR FAVOURITE ACTORS WILL GO FULL-DIGITAL
One of Dazed’s most visually stimulating films of 2014, half-animated, half-live action film The Congress stars Robin Wright as an aging actress who agrees to sell off a digital version of herself so she never has to act again. But is this warped version of Hollywood closer to reality than we might think? We are, after all, at the point where digital-scanning technology has become so advanced that we cannot tell the difference. The computer scientist behind the technology that makes the most convincing 3D scans of actors is Paul Debevec – his digital doubles have been used in movies and video games for more than a decade. Now that the ‘Uncanny Valley’ has been surpassed – the name given by a Japanese robotics engineer to the way in which a humanoid machine that is just slightly off will repulse us more than a cartoonish robot – maybe 2015 will see more digital versions replacing real-life-versions of our favourite stars.
For those who find today’s connected world more exhausting than ever, 2015 might provide some relief. The design expectations of our wearables, for example, are heading for a less connected, less ‘smart’, and less tech-y reality in the next year. Just look at the smartwatch that’s not a smartwatch, the Sony FES watch: made entirely of e-paper so that even the strap is customisable, the device doesn’t do much else but tell the time and look pretty. Already an Internet smash, the first dates for delivery are in May 2015 – we expect many more un-connected competitors before then.
SPACE IS BACK IN FASHION
After the #CometLanding broke the Internet back in November, and would-be bomb Interstellar smashed the Box Office after all, it looks Outer Space is capturing the public’s imagination yet again. But corporate commercial failures and wins aside, one spacey development for the new year is straight out of Glasgow. Nope, it’s not a sexy alien ScarJo this time, but rather Tom Walkinshaw’s ‘PocketQube’, which allows at-home space enthusiasts to build and launch a fully functioning satellite for the (comparatively) small price of $25,000.
SILK ROAD 3.0?
In a year that saw both the original Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 busted by the FBI – as well as their respective founders – speculation abounds as to what will serve as a replacement in the darknet drugs marketplace in the year to come. Last month, the Tor Project told the BBC that the police had ‘way overblown what they had done’ – in fact, marketplaces are thriving, with new lead website Agora boasting more listings than Silk Road 2.0 had at the time of its closure. Maybe the question isn’t about what the “next” Silk Road is at all, but rather, with the rise of decentralized BitCoin marketplaces like OpenBazaar (with a full release expected in 2015), whether savvy new models of undetectability will once again outstrip police power.
RACIALLY DIVERSE EMOJIS ARE COMING
If tech companies remain slow to take the hint that diversity should be a priority in the workplace, at least our emoji board is set to look more representative in 2015. Just last month the Unicode Consortium announced plans to add a skin modifier to its system, which means that every human emoji will be available in its original white skin tone as well as four other shades to depict black, Asian and Latino users too. There’s no set date, yet – but with pressure being piled on from all quarters it can’t be too long before we see the overdue makeover in place.
THE AGE OF THE SUPER HACKS IS HERE TO STAY
The tech year in news certainly ended with a bang – or, with fresh revelations each day, make that several bangs, crashes and wallops. For those who have somehow missed it, the Sony hackers have revealed private email exchanges between Sony execs and movie stars – resulting in embarrassing admissions from both sides – and has also been tied to the planned release, subsequent threats regarding and eventual cancellation of The Interview (you can follow the story on Dazed, here). In 2015, hacks of major businesses will continue to occur with a frightening regularity. What’s more, as the FBI have warned, it’s actually the health care industry most at risk to major data breach – large amounts of stored medical records are the perfect breeding ground for identity theft.