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New year, new technology

As 2019 kicks off, it’s the time of the year when we take our customary look forward and try to spot the trends that might help to shape developments in design and technology in 2019 – as well as seeing what’s making the headlines at the Consumer and Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

CES produces a whole range of new products, technologies, ideas and devices which, even if they aren’t yet ready to go to market, give us an indication of what might be in store for the rest of the year once the hype of the show itself has died down.

In some cases, predictions made CES about what we’re all going to be carrying in our pockets or using and managing in our homes in a couple of years may even come to pass.    

General trends which seem likely to come more fully into focus in 2019 include the growing use of augmented reality (AR) in User Experience. The kind of impact made by Pokemon Go back in 2017 looks set to be rivalled this year as app developers enable smart phones to offer what Mark Zuckerberg described as ‘the ultimate AR experience’.   

It’s good to see an increasing emphasis on sustainability.

As concern about the environment grows, reflected in high profile campaigns against the widespread and lasting impact of single-use plastics, technology is showing signs of being able to help, in two ways.

The first of these is the use of sustainable materials and production techniques which help to reduce the overall carbon footprint. The second is the role of technology in smart homes, as they evolve into connected living spaces which help minimise energy consumption.  

Another big change on the way is the rise of genuine wireless charging. Inductive charging may be sold as wireless, but the fact that it still requires two surfaces to be touching somehow dilutes the value of the ‘wireless’ tag. Now a company called Wi-Charge has developed technology – FDA approved and compliant with standards around the globe – which can charge a phone from across a room. If this takes off, the ramifications could be huge.   

Developments at CES

Enjoyable and important though CES undoubtedly is, there are almost too many things happening to get a firm grip on what’s important, what’s merely interesting and what – such as a mechanised device the size of a wardrobe that folds your clothes for you – is simply rather strange. These are just a few of the things we’ve spotted this year:

Foldable Phone

The Chinese company Royole unveiled the Flexpai, a flexible, 7.8-inch tablet that can be folded in half to become a double sided smartphone. It’s a little chunky at the moment, but supports 5G and prepares the ground for the big players to launch their own foldable devices.   

Alexa on the Move

If, as critics will have us believe, the novelty of Alexa in the home is beginning to wear off, how about the next big thing from Amazon: Alexa in the car as a built-in fundamental feature rather than a third party addition.

If widely adopted, this would mean all entertainment and navigation features (as well, potentially, as lots of other things) in a car being voice activated. Of course, Alexa would also be on hand to answer questions when dashboard warning lights start blinking.

Google had better be quick off the mark to respond.

LG Mirror

If you’re one of those people who hates the palaver of trying clothes on in fitting rooms, then the LG Smart Mirror could revolutionise your wardrobe.

It scans you for height, weight, vital statistics, inside leg measurement etc. and creates an avatar which you can dress in virtual versions of your clothes, before using the mirror to buy a real-world version of the outfits that look good.  

 Mercedes Benz Smart watch

We’re getting used to fit bits and smart watches counting our steps and monitoring our heart rate. But now the Mercedes Benz/Garmin smart watch takes the same kind of data and feeds it back to your car. The car will then use the data to determine how stressed you’re feeling, and make the relevant adjustments to lighting, music, temperature and seat position in the car. 

Google Assistant Interpreter

Google translate has already begun to replace tattered phrase books and ‘TALKING…VERY….LOUDLY…AND…SLOWLY….’ to anyone who speaks a foreign language, but the Interpreter Mode on Google Assistant takes things to a whole new level.

The fact that it can interpret live voices into different languages – and that machine learning and AI mean that its accuracy constantly improves – could revolutionise the world of communications. It may even challenge the dominant role of English as the global language of business.   

Health in the Home

Two of the gadgets launched at CES demonstrate the inroads that technology is making into helping us all to keep ourselves healthy.

Lumen and FoodMarble launched ingenious devices which, when you blow into them, connect to smart phone apps which can display information such as how well you’re digesting your food and whether you’re burning as many carbs and as much fat as you’d like.

EyeQue, meanwhile, launched a gadget that can be attached to a smartphone and enables the user to check their eyesight and produce results which can then be used to order new glasses. 

And we didn’t even have the time to mention the air bag for cyclists, or the smart plank of wood from Japan or the LG TV screen that unrolls from a sound bar or……….

Happy New Year! It’s certainly going to be interesting.

Don’t forget, if you have ideas for new technologies or products that you want to take to market, get in touch with Cambridge Design Technology as your first step along the journey. We’ll be delighted to have a chat about turning your ideas into reality. Call on 01223 662300 or email info@cambridge-dt.com

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