We’re not so sure that 2016 represented a stellar year in gadgetry. Sure, there were all round improvements in all kinds of areas, but they tended to be incremental rather than revolutionary. They suggested the way things might go in the future, rather that bring the future into our homes and offices right now.
And they also included spectacular failures that actually involved smoke and flames (yes, the Samsung Note7).
We’re hoping that 2017 is going to more exciting – without the fireworks, but with lots of products that make our lives easier and (quietly now!) a lot of fun.
Here are a few things we see coming. Well, in some cases, hope to see coming.
Microsoft Surface Studio
Yeah, yeah, it’s just another variation of the Microsoft Surface Pro theme that’s been around for some years: a touch screen computer running Windows 10. But we have a feeling the Surface Studio – which is due to launch early this year – is the start of something almost revolutionary in computing.
To recap, the Studio is a large screen Surface Pro, 28 inches rather than a mere twelve. Obviously it’s not a portable. It is designed for a desk, and in a sense can become the desk, thanks to a flexible stand which not only holds it upright, but allows it to adopt the position of a drawing board, gently tilted up to towards the back.
This strikes me as the first step to the full smart desk, with freeform windowing and computing on a massive display. You will be able to type, have virtual post-its for scribbling with the stylus, have context sensitive control with the Surface Dial. Imagine if the Surface Studio were 48 inches instead of 28, and offered an 8K (8192 pixels wide) for photo-realistic display up close. I can see it coming … although not this year.
With it hitting consoles, now, and more viewing options rolling out, we’re expecting virtual reality to really gather steam. To remind us all, VR is a system that makes you feel like you’re actually in a scene, not just looking at it on a screen. It does this using a headset (of course) with independent screens for each eyes. These allow a 3D view, but more importantly, the system tracks your head’s physical movements in space. Turn your head to the left and the view shifts just as if you were in the scene. Look up and you see the “sky” or the “ceiling” according to the scenario you’re in.
If you’re using headphones, the sound also shifts to match. You can’t smell things. You can’t feel the breeze on your face. But it is remarkably close to experiencing the real thing. With consoles, games are likely to be driving VR as we see a boom in the development of games designed to take advantage of it. But with technology this new, what “killer applications” might develop remain to be seen. Perhaps it will even be shopping: even retailers are experimenting with using VR to help you shop.
Meanwhile, you can play around with VR now at very little cost using your smart phone and a VR adaptor, such as the model from Kaiser Baas
For a more detailed primer on how VR works, check out our article from a few months ago.
Virtual reality is sort of like going to other worlds. Augmented Reality – sometimes called “mixed reality” – is more like overlaying other worlds on our own. On early example might be the “heads up display” in a fighter plane, or some proposed car displays, where information is projected onto the windscreen in front of the real world outside.