Futurologists are a common feature at business conferences. Unfortunately, many aren’t held accountable to how their predictions pan out. We’re all still waiting for our flying cars, clean reliable fusion power plants and 3D holograms. In November last year, I picked six new technologies that were likely to make an impact in 2014. So how did they fare? Here’s what happened: 1. Curved and flexible displays This first pick came with a caveat: “Unfortunately, getting devices with a curved or flexible screen produced on a production line designed for flat screen devices has turned out to have been far more difficult than it initially seemed… As a result, you’re unlikely to see these devices outside South Korea in the immediate future.” Sure enough, at the International CES in Las Vegas, Samsung demonstrated curved-screen TVs as the centrepiece of its display. In January, LG launched the G Flex curved-screen smartphone in Australia. Meanwhile more recently, at its Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event alongside the IFA trade show, Samsung unveiled a new curved-edge smartphone called the Galaxy Note Edge. As predicted, there have been issues putting flexible and curved glass into mass production. However, LG Display appears to have come up with a solution: Using plastic instead of glass in a new display technology called P-OLED (Plastic-Organic Light Emitting Diode). The thin, flexible display technology helped it to create a round-screen Android Gear smartwatch called the G Watch R, along with a smartphone that has a display that runs right to the edge screen. The company expects smartphones and tablets that are designed to bend (and fold flat after being bent) to begin appearing next year, with rollable tablets, foldable-screen laptops and flexible TVs coming sometime in 2017. 2. Smart TVs Whether it’s smart TVs that run apps out of the box, set-top boxes or HDMI thumb sticks (such as Google ChromeCast), 2014 was a massive year on the smart TV front. The year kicked off at CES with LG reviving the Palm Pilot operating system (webOS) for its smart TVs and Panasonic partnering with Mozilla to put Firefox OS on its TVs. Not to be outdone, in June Google announced Android TV, a new platform for smart TV apps and content. Last month, it announced the first set-top box to use the platform, known as the Nexus Player. Also from Google, a little device known as the ChromeCast finally reached Australia in May. Amazon saw the action and said “me too”, releasing its version of the ChromeCast in October and a set-top box called Fire TV in April. So what will people watch on all these smart devices? The best news is that streaming video service Netflix is set to launch in Australia. It seems the humble “idiot box” has never been smarter than it was in 2014. 3. Smartwatches Apple Watch was announced this year. Need I say any more? Even putting Apple Watch aside, 2014 was a huge year for smartwatches. Google also announced its smartwatch platform, known as Android Wear, which in turn powers devices from a range of companies including Sony, LG, Samsung, Motorola and others. These devices are all packed with a range of apps and features – and they’ll even tell you what the time is. 4. Augmented reality glasses Google Glass got a limited public release this year with a range of fashionable frames and prescription lenses. Sony released the software development kit for its Google Glass clone. But the real big mover was a related technology called virtual reality. Jaws dropped when Facebook paid $2 billion for virtual reality device maker Oculus. Last month, Samsung announced the first consumer device based on the technology, known as Gear VR. You could say 2014 was the year augmented reality and virtual reality became a reality for consumers. 5. Home automation Google kicked off the year by launching its home automation push with the $3.2 billion takeover of smart thermostat maker Nest. The tech giant encouraged other businesses, including Australian smart-light maker LiFX, to build new devices that connected to Nest. Apple responded in June by launching HomeKit as part of iOS 8. The technology makes it easy for third-party device makers to allow their devices to be controlled with iPhones and iPads. 6. Low-end smartphones This is a topic I’ve touched on over the past couple of weeks. The short version is we’re reaching a saturation point in the smartphone market, while low-cost vendors such as Xiaomi are booming in China. The great news for consumers is, even with the Australia tax, buying an affordable smartphone has never been more affordable. Throughout the year, a range of devices (including the Moto E and Moto G, the Kogan Agora 4G and the Microsoft Lumia 635 and 530) hit the local market. Each boasted features once the preserve of high-end devices and – best of all – prices well under $300 outright. Conclusion Forget about waiting for that flying car. From smartwatches to smart TVs and low-end smartphones to home automation, the six technologies on the future gadget form guide ran a strong race in 2014. When some of this technology will make it into the average person’s home is another question. This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.
Australian electronics company Geek Ammo has caught the attention of close to 1500 backers on Kickstarter just four days after its launch, nearly exceeding its goal of $25,000 by four times. Its product, called MicroView, is a chip-sized Arduino OLED (light emitting diode display). Arduino is a hugely popular “open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software”. It is commonly used in robotics and the Internet of Things. What makes the tiny MicroView so revolutionary is that it's the first Arduino compatible board that let's you know what it's thinking without the need to connect it to a computer, something that was necessary up until now. The OLED display can then be used to create games, smiley faces, dashboards or just about anything that designers can come up with. A short video on its Kickstarter campaign looks at a number of ways Microview can be used. The founders originally came up with a pin that lights up so users would know the Arduino was working, but this new product takes the idea a whole lot further. Geek Ammo CEO Marcus Schappi, formerly at Ninja Blocks, says the products is “for geeks” who play with Arduino, including artists, designers, hobbyists and would make it much easier for teachers working in electronics and robotics. By being able to do big runs with Kickstarter funds, Geek Ammo hopes to keep the cost of the MicroView down to $45 (including worldwide shipping). Schappi says it was important to keep MicroView affordable so it remained accessible to artists, designers, educators, inventors, engineers. He says Geek Ammo would like to be able to create about four Arduino products a year. At the moment his preference is to bootstrap the company rather than take investment. If you’re still wondering what Arduino can do, meet Pinokio, brought alive by servomotors and an Arduino to a desk lamp: From its creators: “Pinokio is an exploration into the expressive and behavioural potentials of robotic computing. Customized computer code and electronic circuit design imbues Pinokio with the ability to be aware of its environment, especially people, and to expresses a dynamic range of behaviour. As it negotiates its world, we the human audience can see that Lamp shares many traits possessed by animals, generating a range of emotional sympathies. In the end we may ask: Is Pinokio only a lamp? – a useful machine? Perhaps we should put the book aside and meet a new friend.”
The Consumer Electronics Show is gadget heaven. Every year major manufacturers pull out some of the most powerful (and wacky), pieces of technology for attendees and have the chance to show off some of the most impressive and futuristic pieces of hardware ever seen; it's the biggest tech event of the year.