Tomorrow’s tech trends will benefit not only individuals, but society as a whole. At HP’s Reinvention Week, executives highlighted the need for a culture of innovation that will contribute to the broader social good. Mobile technology, already a crucial part of our lives today, will play a major part in that innovation.
HP executives describe a future of “hyper mobility” where today’s mobile devices become smaller, more distributed, and ultimately embedded into our everyday lives (to the point where they’re practically invisible). But they’re still there, measuring the world around them—including us—and providing access to a range of services in innovative and unobtrusive ways.
These are some of the biggest tech trends that will alter mobile computing over the next few years to create a new, hyper-mobile world.
Augmented and virtual reality
For virtual reality, video is likely to be the killer app. Virtual reality company Oculus announced in August 2016 that users had already watched more than three million hours of video using its Gear VR headset for Samsung phones. The Verge reported that Facebook, which purchased Oculus in 2015, has been busy developing avatars for augmented reality that will let people come together and interact in cyberspace.
AR offers even more possibilities. It superimposes computer-generated images on top of the real world, and it has shown up in devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, a wearable headset that enables users to see and manipulate virtual objects in the real world. And let’s not forget a little thing called Pokémon Go.
Magic Leap—the mysterious startup funded by Google and others to the tune of $1.4 billion—promises stunning images that interact with the real-world environment. Imagine not just working on a virtual whiteboard with colleagues across the world, but walking through a 3D representation of your project and moving things around as you go (Tony Stark style).
Today’s wearable devices are relegated mostly to the wrist or neck, but that will change as displays and circuitry alike become more malleable. Expect to see these devices turn up in everything from jewellery to the very fabric of your clothing. Google is already working on such technology as part of its Jacquard project—and it isn’t alone.
Wearable devices will also offer more scope and accuracy in what they sense. Today’s devices feature accelerometers, altimeters, and GPS capabilities. In the future, expect other sensors monitoring everything from fabric tension to temperature and moisture—not just from a small metal-and-glass slab, but in high-resolution sensor networks all over your body.
These devices will be able to measure your vital signs with pinpoint precision and will also be able to signal to you in new ways. Imagine a workout shirt that can vibrate to let you know when you should take a break or step it up, for example, or earrings that double as microphones.
Wearable mobile systems may also be able to talk to each other, making the personal area network (PAN) a reality. Maybe interactive fabric mesh woven throughout your shirt can detect exactly what you’re doing. Smoothing your shirt sleeves could trigger your mobile communications device to answer a call or your AR contact lenses to show you virtual signposts to your next meeting.
The fully-connected self
Tomorrow’s mobile devices will become increasingly connected not just to each other, but also to the Internet of Things. We’re already seeing this in today’s mobile phones, which can be loaded with apps to control lighting and open doors. In the future, as mobile devices become even more woven into our lives in new and innovative ways, they’ll create new opportunities for interaction with the things around us.
Examples go beyond just controlling our household devices. As mobile devices become more aware of their environments, consider the possibilities for social good. Wearable devices that measure air pollution can communicate with a central app that warns asthmatics about no-go areas. Clothing can warn people when their vital stats are trending outside of an accepted range—or even alert emergency services when they become ill, sending them your location for immediate help.
Where does the miniaturization of mobile tech end? Expect to see it reach its ultimate logical conclusion with devices directly implanted in or on our bodies. In a World Economic Forum survey of futurists and tech experts in November 2015, 82 percent believed that implantable mobile phones could become a commercial reality by 2023.
Why would we want this? Implantable devices, including “smart tattoos,” would help us measure our health signals with even more accuracy, track missing children, and perhaps even help us make better decisions about strangers, who will have their identity attributes directly encoded into their implants.
Having mobile processors implanted might also make services far more secure, as we enter a world where this encrypted identity information can be used to safely access services. Maybe we’ll even be able to finally lay the username and password to rest. On the opposite end of the spectrum, maybe we’ll end up with something like this:
There’s a long journey between the mobile world we know today and the hyper-mobile future some are hoping for. Innovation is the key to getting there—and with companies all working hard in areas like AR, VR, materials science, and bio-interfaces, we’re headed there at warp speed.