Posts tagged 2014
2014 finished with a bang, at least if you call USA and North Korea bickering over a Seth Rogen satire movie a bang. Besides that, 2014 was a year of smartwatches, bigger phones, and flat design at its finest. The new line of iPhones was released, with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus making headlines for their giant size (by Apple’s standards). iOS 8 was released on September 17th, and Android even hopped on the software wave when they announced Android Lollipop at their recent Google I/O conference. The internet suffered many different hacks, leaks and viruses starting with Heartbleed and the NSA leak, and finishing with the Sony Playstation and Xbox hacks. And offsetting the ever-growing smartphone size, smaller smartwatches are starting to take off in popularity, with Android Wear OS released alongside many new Android smartwatches from a variety of manufacturers.
The Smartwatches Of 2015
And that leads me to the biggest smartwatch announcement: Apple Watch. Last year I said Apple Watch would be a big highlight for this year, and it was. Well, at least the announcement was. Set to be designed in three styles, Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition, the Apple Watch wasn’t actually released, despite all the press and hype even from a year back. The only promise Apple gave us was a public release of “Early 2015”, which promises to be a big event whenever it happens. As great as the release of the smartwatch will be, the first time Apple will be branching into a new vertical since Steve Jobs’ death, there will be some unavoidable consequences. For instance, there have been many smaller smartwatches makers, most prominently the “Kickstarted” Pebble, along Samsung and the Android gang’s watches. Some of the less well-funded makers will likely need to sell or potentially go out of business.
The fact is that consumers tend to favor sticking with their native tech ecosystem, , just as the product companies desire. It’s just easier. But also, with so much more money and development resources, Apple is hard to beat in terms of quality of hardware and software. It’s a little sad, as some of these startups and smaller watches were actually not that bad, but will still likely fall prey to Apple’s enormity.
So far in the progression of wearables, smartwatches have been the only successful niche. Smart glasses, such as Google Glass, were a lot like the segway. There was a lot of hype, but no actual use in daily life. For instance, Google Glass was a highlight of Google’s I/O conference, a special restricted public testing called the Explorer Program. With the I/O announcement, and the Explorer Program, the excitement level was high for the public release in the beginning of 2014. Unfortunately, when the public release did come, nothing really happened. Partly, this was because of all the controversy of Glass’ pretty much secret filming capability, leading to it being banned in many places. But also, the whole concept was to make a device that can seamlessly let you access the internet without pulling out your phone, but the execution of that idea lacked. First of all, the glasses looked geeky. I can’t lie, when you wear something like that you’re kind of throwing your style out the window for technology. Also, the main control of the device is speaking, which doesn’t really work when in public, not because of the sound quality, but because you just look weird talking to no one, while staring blankly into space.
So, what comes next? As I’ve argued, smartwatches will become big whether the product is significantly useful out of the gate or not. As the line of products grows, just as it did with iPhones way back when, their usefulness and quality will increase dramatically. The key to a successful wearable is that it’s both novel and useful. Most wearables that have failed to succeed lost their battles because they weren’t useful enough, such as (most notably) Google Glass, some Kickstarter gadgets, and early smartwatches. Many concepts simply didn’t have enough features and interaction with the outside world to make a dent in our daily lives. So it’s pretty hard to predict exactly what type of wearable will find the most success this year, though CES featured a few “out of the box” products that start to hint at what types of products might come out of blue in 2015: for example, mind reading.
Ok, ok, maybe not exactly mind reading, but products like Thync, a small device you wear on your head that changes your mood using electrical pulses, and Mellow Mind, another headpiece that measures your state of relaxation and with music teaches you to relax, hint at a new branch of technologies working to understand, read, and even manipulate your mind. However whimsical, the popular neural-controlled cat-eared Necomimi may show a direction that consumer and lifestyle products are headed. As much of human existence has been focused on interacting with the world through our fingers, direct interaction via the brain is quite exciting. Not just for consumers, to see what will be made from them to use and marvel over, but also for entrepreneurs, companies and scientists, as a world of possibilities opens up. We often see technologies interacting with brains in sci-fi, whether it’s operating your home, high-tech simulated worlds, or much more, it really is amazing that we are already staring to go in that direction with CES 2015. As scientists and engineers become more adept in their understanding of direct interaction via neurons and electrical pulses, we will hopefully reach a stage where all this practical interaction with technology will be possible, and sci-fi will become real once again.
2013 was a great year for technological breakthroughs. New iPhones, new iPads, curved screens and more are just some of the things that were developed in 2013. But there is one question that is still being asked: what does the new year hold for us? There have been many promises, leaks and hints throughout the end of last year, and we can only wait and see if they become true. But we can predict.
There are many things that are very likely to happen in 2014. One of which is the highly awaited public release of Google Glass. When Project Glass was released as a concept to developers back in Google I/O, the frenzy of publicity began. Everyone was completely memorized by the possibility of a computer on your glasses, and apps soon began popping up everywhere for every usage. These glasses and almost certainly being released on the early 2014 Google I/O. Of course, millions and billions of people will learn about these glasses and become intrigued enough to buy one, and Google Glasses will soon be seen everywhere. This will certainly cause some controversy, but will probably blow over soon enough.
We can’t forget Apple, though. At the 2014 WWDC, we can reasonably expect a new iPhone 6, which will probably be 50% percent lighter and 30% thinner. The retina will be better, and all the other stats will be much improved. The new Macbooks and iPads will most likely come at the later Apple conference, since at the last conference they were updated. After the release of the iPhone 5C, there is a chance that Apple will go down the color path with their other devices, especially the iPad Minis, which would definitely be a big surprise and a hit with the younger generation.
There has been one Apple product that I have been skirting around, but will now address. The iWatch. Samsung have already released their smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, but the early version was slightly disappointing. First of all, it is not a stand-alone product, but only works if paired to a Galaxy smartphone. The functions of the watch itself is limited to answering call, which you then have to get you phone out to answer, checking social and SMS notifications, and using Samsungs 70 third-party app like Path, Evernote, Runkeeper and more. The design is not fantastic and somewhat slow if you are used to Apple products, so we can hope that Apple improves on that. What Apple would do to make the iWatch significantly better is (1) make it faster and more reactive and (2) make it stand-alone from Apple’s other devices. If they do that, then it might justify Samsungs price of $300.
Smartglass will certainly take a leap in the new year. Transparent phones are already being prototyped without any software (so it’s useless for now), but it still has a few noticeable spots of chips, cameras and such visible. Since, as in Corning’s brilliant video, A Day Made Of Glass 1 and 2, smartglass will be everywhere in every shape and size in the future, we cannot hope too much for this coming trip around the sun. Although, significant progress will be made, and curved or curving glass will definitely be upgraded, almost to the point of public release.
A Day Made Of Glass 2, paused and explained by Corning
All in all 2014 is certainly going to be an interesting year. Breakthroughs will be made in not only technology, but science, physics, and almost any other field you can think of. The big events to look out for this year is the Google I/O, the Apple WWDC, the 2014 CES, Macworld/iWorld Expo, and more. Just as in 2013, at just these events thousands of products and concepts will be released and showcased, its amazing that all this could be accomplished in one year. But for now, all we have to do is wait and let the scientists and engineers work their magic.