Welcome to 2018

One sure prediction is that the new year will bring a slew of predictions, some glowingly optimistic and some confidently pessimistic. I’ve sifted through the predictions in the digital world, and here’s my summary, plus a New Year’s gift.

Artificial Intelligence

As the use of big data, algorithms and the digital technology has evolved artificial intelligence has moved from the esoteric into real world.

It turns up in marketing, with a series of caveats. It’s behind an app to identifying snakes, with caveats about what that does for our relationship with nature. It’s contributing to how we brew beer and AI is what makes chatbots smart enough to be helpful.

The Webby Awards Trend report notes that we still trust humans over AI, but I suspect we’re not always aware of where AI impacts our lives. We will see more practical adaptations of AI in 2018.

Virtual Reality

I like the idea of virtual reality, but my experience so far has been that it doesn’t add enough to my experience to compensate for the awfulness of the headset. Frankly I’d rather read a book and imagine the worlds. So the story-telling in VR needs to improve, and the devices need to get better.

So far the biggest use seems to be in gaming but even there users are underwhelmed, the Economist reported in December that VR has failed to live up to it’s hype, and added that there is a “distinct whiff of urgency in the air” as VR struggles with poor equipment and unsatisfactory content.

The devices are starting to get lighter and prettier, however they’re still relatively expensive.


Will 2018 be the year that the devices and the experiences improve?

Blockchain

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin and other crypto-currencies, it has other uses in making digital information exchange more trustworthy.

We’ll see these tests scale more widely along with more novel uses, I’m sure there are smart people out there looking at how blockchain could be used more broadly to securing our online identity.

Bots

Bots get a lot of bad press, they were exploited in the 2016 election and throughout 2017 to deliver false information to a screen near you, eroding reasonable debate and internet freedom according to Freedom House reports.

However due to advances in AI bots are starting to get better at customer service than humans. Will 2018 be the year we pass the Turing Test on a help-desk call?

Cybersecurity

This remained a big issue for business last year with major breaches in a range of industries from food retail, email, healthcare and governments.

Companies spend increasing proportions of their IT budget on cybersecurity and introduce restrictive measure to protect their data (USB sticks are frequently banned for example), 2018 will be the year of innovation in cybersecurity as companies struggle to reassure customers that their data is safe.

Social Media

Social media will become even more commercialised, expect more of those ads on Instagram, and more promoted posts – and more ways to promote content – on all platforms as the pressure increases for the platforms to be profitable and for company use of social media to demonstrate a return on investment. This won’t be pretty.

On the plus side we’ll see more tweaks on the platforms to encourage engagement; expect more platforms to adapt the Facebook emoticon model, and more uses of video and live-streaming.

My New Year’s Gift

In an attempt to be more consistent with my blog posting I developed a content calendar, I’ve added the various “International Day Of…” dates that might be useful along with a few significant birthdays and events. I’ve added a few content ideas, and I’m sharing the framework so far in case anyone else finds it useful.

2017

As we say farewell to 2017, here’s a reminder of what the world thought was worth searching for – it’s a two minute film from Google based on search data. It’s like a time capsule of the year.

 

Image: New Year’s Day  |  geralt on Pixabay  |  CC0 1.0

More than Reality; Augmented Reality

Remember when swarms of people were rushing through parks, causing traffic accidents, invading museums in a quest to capture invisible creatures? That was Pokemon Go,  an augmented-reality game that used your mobile phone to superimpose a layer of visible monsters on your smart phone. If you were under 30 it was a fun way to get out side with a bunch of people, if you were over 30 it was an incredible waste of time, and if you were over 60 (hi Mum!) you couldn’t understand it at all. Pokemon Go turned 1 year old last month.

So far Augmented Reality, and it’s big sister Virtual Reality, seem to be technologies looking for a purpose. But what if you could find a good use for them?

Social Issues

The BBC radio programme Click report on the use of Virtual and Augmented reality in the world of art and social conscious raising, it’s worth listening to, although not all that easy to imagine the art under discussion – it’s challenging our knowledge of history, relationships and empathy. They talk about some of the technical challenges of making the experiences work for international audiences.

Clouds over Sidra, is a Virtual reality film that aims to transport you to the experience of a refugee camp, and it was created by the UN to highlight the plight of refugees, now more numerous than ever.

There’s a an old adage that history is written by the victors, as a result the statues of the good and the great tend to be of white men. There are no statues of real women in New York’s central park – but 26 of men, and it’s the same pattern across the world. It will take generations to change this. In the meantime Y&R is bringing women into the landscape in an augmented reality app called “The Whole Story“. It’s a great way to be more aware of who is missing from the landscape, this is focused on the missing women of history, but the same technology could be used for unrecognised men. It could also be used to update the history of those great men who, in current times, aren’t viewed in quite the same light.

Medical Uses of Augmented Reality

(1) Training doctors on anatomy,  Microsoft has worked with their HoloLens product and medical experts to build a 3D interactive anatomically correct model to train students.

(2) Headsets using virtual reality could help visually-impaired people have independence, helping them navigate their way around cities even in low lighting.

(3) Using wearables to train surgeons in remote locations

(4) Performing surgery – remotely – already exists, but it’s only a matter of time before the surgeon’s experience becomes more virtual.

Advertising/Entertainment

There will be lots more  experimentation with advertising and entertainment uses of virtual or augmented reality, my favourite so far is this, from Pepsi. How freaked out would you have been if this had happened at your bus stop.

The equipment for virtual reality is expensive and clunky which keeps it in the realms of specialists for now, but augmented reality via your phone represents a real opportunity beyond catching Charmeleons and Venusaurs.