Living in the present, I often forget how fast the world is changing around us. While we spent our time playing Pokémon Go and kept dreaming about self-driving cars, plenty of other solutions started to unfold around us to change our lives for good. Taking the first steps into the new year, I collected all the tech trends that keep us steamed up and can’t wait to see how they effect our work as designers.
IoT – is it still something to count with?
Starting a list with the Internet of Things in 2017 sounds much like a cliché, as the world was buzzing for years around the revolutionary changes it would bring to us. So, why aren’t we living in the world of smart devices and what holds us back? We see plenty of individual solutions, but while the competition is high, the collaboration – that can give a true meaning to IoT – still remains low.
Will it ever happen? With the major brands joining the competition (Google, Amazon and Apple, just to mention a few) we hope 2017 will be all about the unification of IoT device platforms and finally the creation of smart home solutions available to wider audience with an affordable price (I mean, have you seen that an Amazon Echo Dot is available for just 50 bucks?). With Apple’s HomeKit released, lights, heating, climate and other electronics can be all controlled in one app. Still, to stick with reality, I rather expect the big changes in industrial and asset management solutions, like agriculture and city management.
VR and AR – will it come to IoT’s fate?
VR and AR were definitely the new black in 2016. Yet again, after trying all the coolest options available, I sadly put away my virtual reality goggles in the drawer. We – and millions of others – played Pokémon Go, tried HTC Vice and Playstation VR, showing how AR can radically change the users’ behaviour.
So what comes next? Technology is there, markets are ready – with a bit of optimism – it will change practically everything. Jobs, industrial work, leisure activities and with the new marketing possibilities, our whole life. Once it turns from a luxury item to everyone’s desk, we expect VR and AR to leave a mark on every form of social activities – new sports, new shopping themes and I’m sure Facebook has some more ideas, they paid 2 billion dollars for Oculus Rift after all. Digi-capital predicts AR/VR industry will be worth 150 billion dollars by 2020, remaining one of the biggest tech trends in the upcoming years. Let’s just hope Netflix won’t bring Vista to life:
Virtual and augmented reality gives a whole new dimension to UX design as well. With all the tools already on the market (or under development), you can give a hyper-immersive experience where all senses of the human body are influenced. The question is how you can give control without having an actual interface. While skeuomorphism is dead on traditional screens, VR/AR can bring back in-real-life solutions. Classic UI practices won’t work – as it is impossible to digest information on peripheral vision -, playing with the depth of field and displaying objects aligned allows us to create new forms of interfaces. But first of all, in 2017 the biggest UX challenge is to create a new visual grammar, new principles and the appropriate tools to provide intuitive and reliable experiences.
Healthtech, Fintech, Edtech – and the rest of the boring world “humanised”
While IoT and VR/AR are hard-core geek stuff, there are plenty of other sectors that are on a doorstep of (r)evolution. As a team working on user experience of various ideas, we can’t stand how tardy the changes are in daily operations effecting everyone’s life. Education, healthcare and financial management – just to name a few – remained the same for the last several years without any major breakthrough (I find it shocking that the last big financial thing effecting everyone was Paypal found in December 1998, having reached its adulthood just recently).
Will it change? Yes, and change is already here! While banks keep dominating the market (giving the biggest burden to user experience), the market itself will shift around them. There are independent solutions for money transfer, lending, cash management, daily banking and investment, putting the customer experience into the spotlight. FinTech startups can take an advantage of their newly built and streamlined operation to offer a smooth alternative for everyone.
Security will become even more important with the new regulations taking into effect and with the promise of open APIs – some predict 30% of jobs will be automated in banks in the next couple of years. With the revolution of Fintech, cyber crimes will also rise giving another priority to vendors (Tesco Bank’s 20,000 customers have had money stolen from their accounts in one weekend, just to give you an example). While it sounds scary, the changes in the future of financial services are unstoppable.
Changes in HealthTeach are a lot more blurred and are yet to be seen. The biggest question is how augmented reality and machine learning can bring meaningful improvement into healthcare not just to the average customers’ life with mHealth (just in 2015, 32% of mobile phone users downloaded one healthcare or fitness app). Big data entering practice’s operations can possibly turn healthcare into health prediction – with that we could save 50% of the global healthcare budget due to the current inefficient processes.
AI and automation
Personally, I loved the chatbot solutions of the Airline industry this year, allowing me to solve frustrating problems in a very comforting way – when it happened to work. And – while enterprise-level people kept talking about the big moments of AI in 2016 – chatbots were the only real use case we saw for everyday’s people. Ovum – a research firm – predicts that matching learning will remain as a privilege of the Global 2000 due to the lack of data scientists. Unfortunately, it is hard to believe that AI will notably change our life this year, yet I can’t wait to see the small improvements in advanced medical solutions, agriculture and how automised solutions will improve humanity’s productivity. And Facebook can do a favour to all of us and make the chatbots something useful.
The tone, the inclusiveness (which will remain one of the biggest digital-social issues in 2017) and ethical/moral attributes of AI are a real UX challenge. Current AI assistant solutions are great for a joyful conversation but many cases fail in everything else. We have to accept certain limitations (and explicitly communicate) to create trust in AI and give up the compulsion to create human-like machines in every case. Our job is to ensure those AI solutions are – even if a little bit more boring – can truly come in handy.
2016’s consumer market seemed to be a playground for these technologies. While in the last 30 years, we portrayed many of them as a replacement of human mind or as a mangle of humanity, we all realise humans and technology have capabilities complementing each other. I hope 2017 will be about calming the hype down and focusing on how these innovations can further extend what humans are actually better at.