What is the next big thing in tech? I have no idea, but it’s fun to speculate. I like this thread on Quora that attempts to answer this very question and you know what? It has some pretty stellar answers. Particularly deep and insightful is what Vankatesh Rao has to say: “Historically, there’s been a fairly good record of people seeing “the next big thing” (NBT) a respectable fraction of the time, so it CAN be done, without 20/20 hindsight. Here are some successful big-thing anticipations that I am cherry-picking to illustrate when, why and how you can predict NBTs.” On top of this, he actually offers a few reasonable ways to identify the next big thing before it is the next big thing. He’s got me convinced that it might actually be somewhat feasible to predict with a decent amount of accuracy. Anyways, here’s what a few members of the Think Tank had to say on the matter.
I think the next big thing may very well be wearable technology such as the Google Glass project. While dorky (yes, incredibly dorky) I think they represent the next stage of connectedness. We already have our phones with us at all times but it is getting inconvenient, sadly, to take them out to interact with them. Oftentimes innovations, even tech innovations, center around making life easier for consumers and that can certainly mean allowing people to get lazier and lazier–but not only. We already have some wearable tech available to consumers now such as fitness devices (like the Nike+ FuelBand). One logical place to innovate is the wrist watch–many companies have developed watches that integrate with your smartphone. To get a little deeper, imagine a contact lens that shows you the latest updates from Twitter or notifies you when you get an email? It’s already in the works. Here’s an interesting infographic from Mashable that talks about wearable tech.
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The Internet of Things
The next big shift is one we are starting to see now with the internet of things. The main revolutions until now have been really software based or evolution of established devices (phones, computers, PDAs/Tablets) rather than really changing the way that people get the data that exists in the internet. What is changing is that we no longer think about using information on a laptop to set things in the house, rather that thing is itself connected (e.g. Philips Hue or The Nest Thermostat). Where this gets really exciting is when you start to think about inputs because these devices do not have keyboards or pointers so we are having to think more creatively about inputs. Augmented Reality is a particularly exciting example because it allows us to move to a world where technology in eyewear, contact lenses, or other applications we haven’t even thought of yet are controlled not by what we input but rather by what we show an interest in. I think this will be fundamental revolution that changes the way we see and interact with the world around us.
Computers Will Do More of the Little Things for Us
Trying to pick the next big thing is like trying to forecast the stock market – we all think we can do it and 90% of us look like idiots in retrospect for trying. You can’t know what’s big until it’s big. Who would have thought touch-screen-phones/browsers would be it after the Palm and Newton? That said, computers are getting more able every day. Some are waiting for a breakthrough moment when they’re smarter than us – that’s not the right way to think about it. In many ways, they’re already smarter than us. And each year, we add more things that the computers can do better. I think we’ll continue to rely on them for more and more – to drive, to tell us what to eat and when, to plan our finances.