Six key technologies that will impact the user experience of products and services in 2015 – predicted by WHITE Laboratory, a designer and developer of devices applying digital technology under the rubric of Computing Anywhere/Anytime.
2015 will be a huge turning point for the interrelationship of people, things and data.
PEOPLE: Wearable devices were in the news last year, but we noticed something bigger – more people treating smartphones like a body part, never letting them go. Next will be integration of devices into the human body. Enter the “augmented human.”
THINGS: The concept of IoT, the Internet of Things, is gaining traction and computers are making steady gains in performance. It is just a matter of time before they surpass human capabilities and attain “singularity.” Meanwhile AI is entering a new stage where computers understand and learn like humans, using data from devices that serve as their eyes and ears. In 2015 we will see examples start to appear in the form of Net services driven without significant human intervention.
DATA: Cisco reports* that global Internet traffic swelled from 100GB per second in 2002 to 28,875GB per second in 2013. The report went on to forecast 50,000GB for 2018. The question is how to turn such vast quantities of data into something of value. This year, a big key will be how manageable we – who live in the real world – can make this data that currently exists only on the Net and in-between computers. One aspect of this trend is “physicalization” of the laws of virtual space and information.
“As humans gain characteristics of machines, inanimate things are becoming more human-like. We await the day when the world of computers and data circumscribed by the Internet is liberated into the real world. New user experiences will arise from combinations of technologies in this field.”
That’s how 2015 looks to us at WHITE.
*“Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2013-2018”
Written by Akira Senken(Senior Futurist)
Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Benfey
Photo by “M. Levin, University of Washington” on flickr
Using a prosthetic leg, German athlete Markus Rehm set a long-jump Paralympic record of 8.24 meters (27 feet) at the German Athletics Championships. By placing first against able-bodied athletes, Rehm showed that mechanical devices could not only support human ability, but actually maximize what a human can achieve. This concept of “Augmented Human” will rapidly expand its impact in 2015. Mechanical advantages gained by spring-loading and leverage can amplify strength even in a passive endoskeletal application. Motor driven exoskeletal arms and legs can further extend human performance. By linking drones, virtual reality, brain waves and other elements, we will also increasingly see applications like “telexistence” that enable people to interact with remote environments as if they were there.
MIT professor Harry Asada and graduate student Faye Wu developed a wrist-mounted device that adds two robotic fingers to a human hand. These extra digits sync with the wearer’s fingers, sensing and reacting to any movement. The device supports grasping, twisting and lifting actions to enhance human dexterity.
This telexistence system streams a first-person view from one person (called Body) at a remote location to another person (called Ghost). JackIn allows activities to be shared in real time and lets one person assist another by giving expert guidance. Developed by the Rekimoto Lab at the University of Tokyo.
Photo by “Binary Koala” on flickr
On the Internet, you are bombarded with (often unwelcome) ads based on the browsing and search history of people who have interests similar to yours. Deep Learning may improve matters in 2015. An artificial intelligence API accessing IBM’s Watson, for example, would understand human speech and provide relevant answers. By modeling human perception, AI breakthroughs like Deep Learning could allow machines to understand meaning. We predict that coupling such intellectual accuracy with the speed of computer processing will give rise to many new services and products that exceed human performance in terms of both quality and quantity.
The Grid is an AI-based website builder scheduled to launch in March 2015. Upload text and images, and in just minutes, The Grid automatically designs a website for your purpose (sales, page-views, etc.). Grid’s AI algorithms optimize styling based on analysis of your content. This puts Grid in a whole new category beyond template-based services.
This interactive system helps you develop free-form hand-launched model gliders. It models flight by learning from the trajectory data of a variety of glider designs. No matter how imaginative your initial design, Pteromys will show you how adjustments will affect trajectory. This lets you optimize parameters such as wing position to assure that it will fly successfully, without trial and error using physical glider models. Developed by The University of Tokyo and ERATO (Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology), a research program funded by JST (Japan Science and Technology Agency, similar to the NSF).
Photo by “Heather Katsoulis” on flickr
Oculus Rift has already proven that an inexpensive VR head mounted display (HMD) can improve upon flat displays, potentially offering everyone fully immersive virtual reality experiences. In 2015, we will see the physicalization of virtual environments and Internet data. Numerous haptic devices will be introduced to enrich the VR experience with tactile feedback. The ability to feel “touch” will create a more natural impression of interactivity with virtual environments.
Four ultrasonic phase arrays are arranged to face each other vertically and horizontally, creating a sound field in which small objects will float in mid-air to form patterns. This graphical levitation system demonstrates how the physicalization of pixels can allow various objects to be displayed in real-world space.
If you have ever doodled on a carpet using your finger, you’ll relate to this tactile display technology. Keio University’s Media Design Lab has developed dedicated devices for drawing freehand or transferring on-screen designs onto fur.
Photo by “Playing Futures: Applied Nomadology” on flickr
At first, people took the Internet of Things as simply a matter of connecting things to the Internet, but this didn’t create much value. In 2015 we will see the migration of services from the Internet to the real world. Physicalization devices that link the virtual and the real will accelerate this trend.
Nest, which was acquired by Google, was first known for its learning thermostat. But you can also understand Nest as a platform that provides a more comfortable living environment. Beyond adjusting room temperature, Nest serves as a hub to connect a variety of home services. In this sense, it is also a smart device with the potential to add value by enhancing a home’s eco-system.
The Nest Learning Thermostat optimizes the tradeoff between a family’s heating/cooling habits and energy costs. But by providing an open system to developers, ‘Works with Nest’ software continues to spawn a wide range of products and services that link to Nest.
Replacing a bicycle’s rear wheel with the Copenhagen Wheel transforms it into an electric power assisted bike, complete with sensors and a wheel lock. This allows power assisted riding that is optimized for each situation, whether your route is flat or hilly. Data obtained by the device can drive additional services that add still more value.
Photo by “Michael Coghlan” on flickr
Social network services like Facebook and Twitter let you communicate with friends and complete strangers who may share your interests (or not). The downside of such open environments is social media stress. To counter this phenomenon, new services are springing up that operate in a limited area, preserve anonymity and/or automatically delete messages not long after they are sent. The popularity of such apps reflects the desire and need for anonymous messaging and ephemeral networks, which will continue to grow in the year ahead.
Open Garden’s FireChat app creates a mesh network that allows nearby users to communicate through multi-peer technology, without requiring an Internet connection. FireChat gained fame as the networking app used to organize pro-democracy student protests in Hong Kong last year.
Rumr is a messaging app that lets you chat anonymously with friends and strangers. Although you can switch to your real name at any time, anonymity makes it easier for many people to discuss sensitive topics in a protective social network environment.
Photo by “Kyle McDonald” on flickr
National research institutes, hospitals and university laboratories, long the centers of gene sequencing and other DNA research, are slowly relaxing their tight grip on the technology. In 2015 we will see DNA Bio Hack devices that dramatically lower the barriers to entry. Instead of professional equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars, open source products like the Ninja PCR DNA amplifier will let primary school children and middle school students get a head start in gene research. Taking DNA beyond the realm of medicine, mavericks will develop DNA applications to create new products, services, and even art.
Grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded MIT’s development of a microchip-based contraceptive implant that is remotely controllable to provide 16 years of reversible birth control. Besides the cost advantage, this technology also precludes the need for regular ingestion of contraceptive pills.
The American rock band OK Go, known for their edgy promotional videos, announced the release of their new album “Hungry Ghosts” on DNA media. UCLA chemist Sriram Kosuri’s team encoded the album’s digital data as gene sequences to be released dissolved in small amounts of water.
WHITE Laboratory develops products,
services and promotional campaigns that apply digital technology
under the rubric of Computing Anywhere/Anytime.