Welcome to the Future Marty!

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Well since my blog has “Hoverboards” in the title I think it is only fitting I publish a post today which is of course that fateful day Marty McFly arrived in the future with Doc Brown in Back to the Future Part II.

As we are now officially in the future I have compiled a list of my favourite new tech developments for your perusal. There have been some staggering leaps forward in the tech world in the last few years let alone the last thirty and I can’t wait to see where these ideas go next.

Self Driving Cars

For a long time I have felt that it is bizarre how accepting we are of people being involved in car accidents. I think what Google, Tesla and now the wider car industry (and it is now rumoured Apple) are doing in this space is incredibly exciting and one that will have huge ramifications once vehicles that can drive themselves are introduced properly to the mainstream. Add in Uber and other similar tech companies and within 10 years we could see people’s attitudes to cars radically change. Why own a car when you could just tell your watch or phone where you need to go, when then signals a car nearby to take you to your destination for less than a bus fare or train ticket? All these vehicles would be able to talk to each other as well so no more traffic jams and delays on the roads. Once people are convinced of their safety you would also be able to spend extra time with friends, family or colleagues, watch a film or get some sleep. Sounds like paradise to me!

Here are some of my favourite videos highlighting this new tech.

Tesla’s lateset software update allows for a new kind of cruise control:

Imagine what self driving cars could do for all kinds of people:

It’s not just cars:

Perhaps Mercedes vision of the future is a bit too clean…but I kind of like it:

AR & VR

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality seem like they are at a point to finally hit the mainstream and make a huge impact on everyday life. From what Facebook are doing with Oculus to the incredible Magic Leap and Microsoft HoloLens demos it really does seem like these will usher in a major shift in computing and entertainment.

The promise of Oculus and Magic Leap in particular excite me. The latest demos that both have shown off and the buzz coming from silicon valley around them really gives the sense that something big is coming. It isn’t only video games either but a huge range of entertainment areas are being investigated as well as some great educational innovations.

I am a big fan as well of how Google are attempting to bring Virtual Reality costs down with project Cardboard.

Magic Leap’s latest demo:

Oculus new controller developments demo:

Google cardboard:

AI Personal Assistants

Now perhaps this one doesn’t sound as exciting as the first two, but the fact that many of you already have simple versions of these in your pocket shows the impact they have already have and will have soon. You’ll likely have heard of Apple’s Siri and also Google Now but then there is also the incredible sounding version from Facebook known as ‘M’.

All three of these collect data from activity on your phone and the other touch points they have on you around the Internet and actively attempt to help better organise your life by presenting you with contextual information. Right now Siri and Google Now are only really impressing at odd moments, for example telling you how long it will take you to get home from work, and this is only scratching the surface of what they can and will be able to do.

Facebook’s M seems to take this another step by convincingly having a human like conversation with you. Go to this Buzzfeed article to read more on this.

These AI will not just live on your phone but also your watch or smart clothing, your home appliances and work computer, helping you go about your every day. They’ll also be able to keep an eye on your health and alert you of any issues. We’re already seeing wearable devices providing important health care information, imagine what an AI enabled version could do?

There is definitely an element of creepiness that will need to be overcome. This will likely come down to how information is presented and how our devices act.

Project Soli

This is a difficult one to describe so I’ll just place this here:

What an incredible use of radar to create a personal experience. Hope to see this used in devices soon.

And that’s it! All my favourite new pieces of technology. There is of course a lot more like Hyperloop, 3D printing, drones etc etc but the above are absolutely my top four picks. I hope you enjoyed the read!

One last and very recent development…who could resist self lacing shoes: http://news.nike.com/news/nike-mag-2015

Happy back to the Future day!

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Who needs apps?

Moving towards a context driven and more user friendly mobile world.

iPhone iOS 9

Siri – Proactive Assistant in iOS 9 organises data for the user

After wearing the Apple Watch for a month, watching both the Google I/O and Apple WWDC conferences I think it is clearer than ever that we are moving away from what could be called a traditional mobile app interface to a newsfeed style one and this is a natural evolution for mobile device UI design.

Paul Adams has written far more eloquently and in depth about this than I, you can read his post on the Intercom blog here. (Seriously good read).

Here is my home screen.

iOS_1

 

Here is the second page on my home screen.

iOS_2

 

It is a bit of a mess. Now granted I know I have more apps than most but this multi app interface is not uncommon and is certainly not as user friendly as it once was. When Apple introduced the iPhone it was a revolution in mobile UI thanks to the touch screen input and app layout, but now it is beginning to feel tired, cumbersome and confusing no matter how pretty the tech companies try and make it. I have myself and witnessed others lose apps within custom folders just like when you put something aside for safe keeping and then can never remember where that was…! Frustrating when you are looking for that one piece of information.

We’ve been trained to download apps, whether free or paid for, and to keep downloading apps even if we already have an app that does the job of the new app. Apps apps apps! What we really want is a certain piece of functionality or data presented to us as soon as we pick up and look at the device. Creating a frictionless tech experience for the user is always on the minds of the engineers as clearly visible at both I/O and WWDC this year. I’d love to be out for a walk, look at my phone and see instantly information about my surroundings and presented with apps that I may want to use in that moment based on what the device knows about me.

The Apple Watch has certainly begun to alter my expectations. I now expect my phone to switch on when I look at it, clicking a button or tapping the screen to unlock it now feels like an unnecessary step. I don’t want to see lots of apps on the screen, just bite sized pieces of relevant information (glances have become more useful than I initially anticipated), and finally I’d love my device to do certain pieces of activity behind the scenes with little to no input from me. The activity tracking in watchOS for the fitness minded is truly fantastic. I am looking forward to playing with Pebble’s new Time UI as I think that could be a real reflection of things to come and I am not surprised to see Apple introduce a similar experience in watchOS 2 with Time Travel.

Now On Tap is able to find relevant data from within natural language

Now On Tap is able to find relevant data from within natural language and understand the context

Both Google Now on Tap and Apple’s Siri Proactive Assistant are definitely drives to this exciting new mobile future. I (sadly) don’t think we’ll see a drastic UI change any time soon, this feed of information similar to the Facebook Newsfeed will likely stay hidden behind a swipe to the notifications stream for I believe at least the next two to three iterations, perhaps we’ll see more use of the lock-screen however.

In the long run I think this could be the big threat to Facebook and explains why they have made so many moves to try and create the elusive Facebook phone. If I can just look at my phone and get presented with information that I want at that moment, including news and updates from friends, then why would I open a social networking app? But then again why will I be looking at my phone when I’ll be embedded in a new VR driven future?

Now I should clarify as I wrap up this post I’m not really talking about removing the downloading of apps (people will always want to and should customise their mobile experience) but more a change to the UI and the idea of using apps in the way that we currently do. There will always be a future for having to open fully fledged applications, think games or enterprise based activities, but the current experience of opening and closing and opening and closing and opening (you get the idea) is one that I believe will go away in the not too distant future.

If you want some further reading try the following:

Wired.com – It’s Official: Everyone Has The Same Plan For Tech’s Future

Quartz – The future of iOS: apps you can enjoy without ever opening them

10 Years Ago My Job Didn’t Exist

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Today Facebook is celebrating its 10th Anniversary.

In 2004, as dramatised by The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum and Chris Hughes launched TheFacebook.com and even they didn’t realise what they were about to accomplish. The following year Reddit and YouTube went live followed by Twitter in 2006 with the iPhone being unveiled to the world in 2007.

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The Best Retail Experience Is By A Tech Company

I’ve spoken about this before but never really broken it down and it’s an easy guess as to who I am referring to in the title. Right now I really believe Apple have the best in store retail experience, and I’m not talking about the actual store and it’s staff per say (but they are pretty great) but a specific experience when it comes to paying.

Not many people are aware of this, but more should be. Here is how the experience goes in a few simple steps:

  1. Walk into store
  2. Find item you want
  3. Open Apple Store app
  4. Scan barcode
  5. Pay with Apple account
  6. Leave

You don’t need to speak to anyone, no collecting receipts (they’re emailed to you), no need for a bag. Just go in, pick up and go. You also don’t have to worry about security tags setting off alarms or security on the door stopping you and asking for truth. They do a good job of trusting the customer. Your iPhone also auto connects to the Apple Store Wifi when you walk in so no need to worry about getting a signal. It’s the kind of experience that Apple are well known for (although lately have struggled with through their iCloud service) but it’s one I rarely see referenced.

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Remembering Steve


A year ago today I heard the news that Steve Jobs had passed away. He was, like for many others, one of my biggest heroes and I’m not afraid to say that I shed a tear on the morning of 5th October 2011 (typing this now weirdly makes me feel emotional).

I’ve never been affected in this way about any other person who is in the public eye that has died. I remembering being shocked at not only the fact that Steve had lost his battle to cancer but also the impact that it had on me emotionally.

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