What a difference a year makes.
2016 created an intriguing bassline for some new & exciting technologies to be released into the industry over the coming year; with the idea of improving the already smart technology, we look more in depth at ‘Smart Homes’ & voice recognition, Virtual & Augmented Realities and the latest enhancements of hand-held devices & mobile optimisation. Self-lacing shoes are already amongst us, so things are looking up.
VR vs. AR
As with most of the technology ‘predictions’ in this blog post, Virtual Reality isn’t a new idea and it has been around for quite some time now but, the developments that we are seeing around the concept are.
One of the most sought after gifts for Christmas 2016, the now widely accessible VR headsets place you inside another reality and create a unique user experience, based on which video you’ve pre-selected. Stemming from the prehistoric sentiment of a novel, users are immersed into the fantasy worlds of choice but the headsets are just the tip of the iceberg, giving you only the visual and sound experience but, as always, customers are looking for more.
Combining the world of gaming and people’s apparent love for health & fitness (reflected in the app charts), apparatus such as the ‘VR Flight Kit’ gives the user that full-body experience. Once upon a time we had to rely on our own mobility to guide us through the VR rhetoric, we’re now strapped into the flight kit machine, which is somewhat mechanically driven, but ultimately requires your core strength to power the movement and direction. Ramping it up a level, the MMOne project is made up of a robust sports seat, elevated off the ground and attached to a fully rotating, robotic arm. Once fixed into the chair, the passenger is given the tools of a VR headset and a gaming controller, then aggressively (but safely) hurled around in sync with the game, whether that be Mario Kart or a Red Bull flight simulator. These simulators depict the direction in which VR, and gaming, is heading; VR gives us the option to submerge ourselves into an alternate surrounding but pick ourselves straight back out again, Augmented Reality introduces the idea of supplementing our world and surroundings, with software.
As with VR, the complexity of AR does vary but you can already see basic elements of it in a lot of existing technology, a lot of which may have passed us by; whether it be designing a sofa and dropping it in your living room, playing an intense game of Pokémon Go or scanning your screen over a tourist attraction and getting the history of it displayed on your screen.
AR and business industries, especially Digital Marketing, go hand-in-hand. When you think of the reality headsets, you think of gaming, which works fine to introduce us to the premise but, when the technologies are developed and progress passed their ostensible infantile stages, the possibilities in the business world will be limitless.
Imagine a meeting, for example, and it’s now the norm for everyone to wear AR contact lenses; you’re giving a presentation to a prospect client (it’s still face-to-face at this point, because we don’t want to completely lose those interpersonal skills just yet) and, with the aid of AR, you’re able to see their LinkedIn profile. You begin your presentation and, instead of the old-school Powerpoint or (worse still) slides printed onto paper, your Website Development plan is demonstrated through a series of captivating 3D visuals and dynamic text, keeping apathetic levels at an all-time low. The meeting went well and you want to follow up a few days later so you set up a conference call; you’re physically sat in the office alone but, the call has begun and you’re with said clients, with thanks to you AR lenses, the client sees your face and is reminded how charming you were and the deal is set* (*sequence shortened for dramatic effect).
Virtual and Augmented Reality have undergone serious developments in recent times and, an idea once featured in futuristic Sci-fi blockbusters, is now becoming just that, reality. The gaming element of these technologies was a nice, gentle intro but now the serious work begins on making them work for businesses – Is this the new way to engage your clients and make them ‘live’ your content?
The Power of Voice to enhance UX
We briefly touched upon the idea of ‘Smart Homes’ in our previous blog Self-Sufficiency Is King and voice recognition software around the house, which is becoming the new norm. We’re already accustomed to the basics, such as the search function on Siri; we’re able to befriend our devices and ask things like “Which Content Management System is best suited for my website?”. Over time, the idea that these machines will ‘get to know us’ and cater to our preferences, is the premise behind the smart home devices, like the Amazon Echo.
Amongst a busy crowd of voices that are fighting to be heard, it’s Alexa that is by far screaming the loudest. The Multimedia speaker capsule named Echo, created by Amazon, and it’s scaled down sidekick Echo Dot, contains Alexa - the name on everyone’s lips – and her wish is your command.
The Echo boasts the ability to hold 3000+ apps but it’s essentially down to the user to pick & choose the apps they would use, which gives Alexa an initial understanding of the user’s likes and interests and, from there, the app ‘gets to know’ you and adapt itself to your lifestyle. As you’d expect, the genre of apps is far and wide – educational, fun & games, organisational, health & fitness – and, with most new products, some still need fine-tuning. Despite this, Alexa remains Queen of the smart speaker world. We’re already seeing partnerships and ‘add-ons’, like the LG fridge, and it seems everyone wants to be Alexa’s friend. There’s now a walking, talking knee-high robot, named ‘Lynx’ which works alongside Alexa and looks after you’re home; it can interact with guests or keep a watchful eye on your home with its webcam through-the-eyes function. Giving the Echo personable features is ensuring its blanket covering of a wider market.
But what’s next for Alexa in business and how will it work for a Digital Marketing Agency?
With rudimentary organisational features, it’s already useful in the general management of day-to-day life, with handy reminders to remember your keys and the calendar app that everyone knows and loves, the Echo is set to advance in order to place itself in board rooms & offices and ultimately become an integral piece of equipment for every meeting and every business. We predict that the Echo, if not then another voice recognition/ speaker system, will position itself in your working lives.
Digital Wallets and Mobile Solutions
Another trend which is set to rise in 2017 and beyond, is the use of mobile commerce and the idea of ‘Digital Wallets’; you’d be surprised to learn that some websites are still not yet mobile optimised and, if ignored for much longer, they will get left in the wake of 2016.
In the blink of an eye, we’ve already seen the rapid transition from cash to Oyster Card, to contactless card and now all you need is your phone – it seems that the idea of having a real leather wallet has become somewhat antique and getting a card in and out is far too stressful for the busy commuter/parent-of-three/business person, so the best way to pay is to simply swipe your device which, more often than not, is in your hand anyway so this progression makes complete sense. One of the most talked about on the market at the minute is Google Wallet, closely followed by the Apple Pay and of course PayPal, and albeit still focused mainly in the London area, the popularity will undoubtedly disseminate across the nation.
It’s vital for all websites to be mobile and device friendly and the speedy progression of the digital payment systems and their apps is a great reflection of this.
Alongside the standard updates that we see annually with phones, laptops and gaming consoles, there are a lot of exciting things to look out for in 2017 amongst the world of tech. The Internet of Things is set to reach new heights and connected devices are well-rooted in a good percentage of homes across the UK & the rest of the world, but think of the IoT on a much grander scale. Whether it be reminding a farmer that his crops are due a spray, or traffic lights prioritising and filtering congestion in heavily populated cities, a plan on ‘how to improve’ is forever being formulated and this can only mean good things for us in the business world.