Anthropologist and integrator (or ‘anthrogrator’, if you prefer) Rich Green has an uncanny knack of predicting future tech trends. What does he see in store for 2018?
The end of UI
Digital assistants that rely on voice and gesture control will replace keypads, remote controls and touch interfaces. We will move to software plus services.
The effect on legacy control system manufacturers here could be significant. New control interfaces will not rely on traditional remote controls once AI and automatic device discovery plus connectivity become common.
Soon, IR and RS-232 will be irrelevant. Of course, people will still want to use clickers; but, those clickers will not need much custom programming, if any at all. Elegant remote controls that slide naturally into the hand have a fighting chance for a few years. But newer models use Bluetooth, which means they are hard to integrate with legacy control companies.
While there will be no significant casualties in the next 12 months. In the long term, there will be. The incumbents will be disrupted by new entrants (e.g. Josh.ai) and mega consumer electronics manufacturers. We’ll continue to see more advanced AI behind voice interfaces and only the top dogs can afford to do that: Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
The survivors will be the ones who embrace consumer voice interfaces as they evolve into conversational, contextually aware interfaces: “Do what I mean, not what I say.” As a result, distributed, far-field mic arrays are a huge opportunity. We’ll be building microphones into all manner of household stuff.
The end of HDMI
Displays will stream all the content we would want. All we need is the audio return channel.
Even gaming will become a streaming service. Nvidia Shield does this brilliantly right now and it won’t be long before we see Nvidia silicon built into TVs. It doesn’t need to be an external STB anymore. Of course, if there is no need for HDMI, then we’ll need another way to get audio back to the surround processor and amp. Right now, we use Toslink optical and analogue baluns. Something more elegant would be nice. Even something wireless is conceivable since the bit rates are much lower when not carrying video.
Some integrators have discovered that HDMI on HDBaseT will not carry ARC. Drat! We use HDBaseT extenders with optical audio insertion. Soon, we won’t need HDBaseT except for control and audio extension. Somewhat ironic…
VR gets boring for consumers (and useful for pros)
Virtual reality (in its current state) is a gimmick. It’s great fun for gamers and the occasional float down the Nile or skydive from the moon, but I don’t see VR replacing long-form content anytime soon.
It’s just too uncomfortable and creepy, just as 3D was. People will soon get tired of it.
Social VR is something else altogether. With social VR, you are hanging out with friends and family across time and space. Now that’s brilliant. It’s not about content, it’s about being with people. It’s about immersive human interaction.
Audio augmented reality (AAR ) becomes real
There are lots of players in the AAR space. Harman is deep into AAR research, while the Bragi Dash Pro currently leads the pack. They incorporate digital assistants for near-field voice interaction including real-time language translation.
People will soon prefer AAR to ‘real reality. Filter out the dog and neighbours, or turn up the person sitting in front of you at a noisy restaurant. You can even zoom in on your favourite musician at a concert.
The possibilities are endless and loads of fun. As we get older, these will become the coolest hearing aids.
The tyranny of choice paralyses consumers
In the very immediate future, simplicity will sell at a premium; people will pay more for less. The answer lies in design. Design thinking, which is pervading CEDIA curriculum all over the world, teaches empathy for the intended user. And it doesn’t take long to discover that simplicity is the key to transparent interactions with technology. What you remove from a system design is more important that what you add in. Design leads sales. It’s the key to sustainable, humane business.
Remember: when hardware disappears, so does complexity.
Rich Green sits on the CEDIA Advisory Board and was a three-term board member. He founded and remains an active member of the CEDIA Technology Council. In 2011, Rich was inducted as a CEDIA Fellow.