The most exciting technology innovations in 2013 will almost certainly be the ones that blogs (including this one) don’t identify until they are upon us. That being said, there are a few trends that I know I will be watching take hold in 2013. If you are in the visual computing or A/V business, you may want to be expecting these as well:
1) The Second Screen – It seems like people just can’t get enough information these days. Many of us remember sitting around a single television and, as a group, deciding on which one of 10 channels to watch. Obviously, video on demand and streaming technologies have already done away with that mode of consuming media. The “second screen” movement promises to continue to revolutionize in-home media by challenging the single-screen-at-a-time assumption. Many new viewers are already watching television programming with an iPad nearby. Content providers, technology developers and creatives are now wondering how they can make more use of that second screen. The market has realized that not only do we now have multiple TV’s in households, but we have laptops, tablets and smartphones that are also connected to the broadband connection that provides programming. The second screen movement will allow social viewing and an interactive TV experience. So while you are snuggled up on the couch hugging your iPad, you can watch a program AND interact with other viewers in real-time on your iPad. Expect to hear a lot more about the second screen, especially after yesterday’s Second Screen Summit at CES. Companies such as Sharp and Sling have already announced new second screen products this year.
2) Gesture Computing – With recent announcement that Asus will bundle Leap Motion 3D motion sensor technology into all Asus computers, this could be a game changer for how we access and manipulate displays. At about $70, the cost for gesture control is now that of a fancy mouse. Gestural interfaces have been around for a long time. I’ve seen gesture interface demos as early 2000 at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference. The problems of stability and robustness have plagued early efforts, but this year the gestural interface has reached the tipping point with enough buy-in from manufacturers, a strong developer community, and a low enough price point that we may see the beginning of the end for the mouse-keyboard paradigm. This trend has enough promise to make Engelbart and Sutherland proud! If you want to follow the latest in this area, attend the Human Computer Interaction Conference.
3) Flexible Displays – After more than a decade of hype, there are rumors of Samsung’s intentions to show a 5 inch flexible display at CES this week. This technology could be adopted by all other cell phone manufacturers within 2013. I’ll definitely be hunting for a demo of this (if the rumors are true). The emergence of flexible displays is a somewhat obvious prediction, but what remains to be seen is how quickly the technology will be transformed into meaningful products.
4) New forms of Collaboration in the Conference Room – This is an area that is near-and-dear to my heart, and if you have heard me speak, you know I like to point out how little technology development has been focused on supporting human-human interactions when we are together. Since the rise of teleconferencing and telecollaboration, there has been such a focus on technology-mediated interaction when you and I are not in the same room. Over the past few years, this has changed and a number of companies now think they can improve, support and mediate multiple people who want to share data to make important decisions while they are in the same room. This class of products (I’d like to call them paracollaboration as opposed to telecollaboration), have matured to the point where most businesses are now looking at implementing them in their own conference rooms. I’m sure this will have significant impact on the A/V and visual computing space this year. Companies like Barco and Wowvision have already taken an early stab at products focused on the conference room experience, but I’m cheating a bit by making this one of my predictions because Mersive will be part of this trend when we launch our own media sharing and collaboration software, Solstice, in February. Stay tuned for demos.
5) Wearable Computing – I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the concept of wearable computing (maybe I read too much science fiction in the late 90s/early 2000s) so this prediction may be the weakest of the bunch. I’ve blogged about wearable computers before, but a lot of factors have to converge before wearable computers become mainstream. However, as low-powered computing and interesting voice/gestural interfaces become more common, products like Google Glass could become a new trend. I was talking about the likelihood that Google Glass will be another loss-leader to the Google brand when someone pointed out that I was already wearing two computers (my watch and probably more importantly my Nike+ band. It may be that the hype of wearable computing has already started to take hold. Who knows, 2013 could be the year that wearable computing begins to have application in the workplace. If it does, we’ll see glimpses of it at CES early and then a slow increase in “soft” wearable computers like the Nike+ band. Once those are accepted, why not the Google Glasses?