Robots, Music, Home Farming: Our Tech Predictions for 2016

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We've spent the week at CES in Las Vegas, talking with lots of folks about technology and where it's all headed. We find that we're in a good position to spot tech trends, since they tend to surface on Kickstarter first! So once again the Design and Tech Communities Team has rounded up some tech predictions for the year ahead, through the lens of the great projects and people we encountered in 2015. We had a harder time of it this year, given that many of the trends on last year's list are still very much with us. But a few strong candidates jumped out. Here are some ideas that keep popping up on Kickstarter and in our conversations with the creators who are building the future.

Useful robots for everyone. We’re not talking about BB-8-style roving companions. This is more about desktop robots that can handle precise and repetitive tasks, like Makerarm (above), Dobot, and OpenTrons. Humans can spend that time doing something less mechanical. Then they can challenge the robot to a quick game of chess, which they will probably lose.

New musical instruments. Musicians love messing with electronic sounds, but standard computer interfaces don't lend themselves to musical expression, and piano keyboards aren't for everyone. So creators are coming to Kickstarter with new ways to turn touch and motion into notes and sound. The Artiphon Instrument 1 (above), Owow, and Oval are instruments from the future, and Sensory Percussion uses vibration sensors to turn an acoustic drum kit into a sophisticated digital controller. We expect instruments to keep taking on freaky new physical forms, to the delight of adventurous musicians.

Living with VR. With the Rift and other advanced VR headsets hitting the market, people are going to be looking for things to do with them and ways to make them more fun to use. Watch for more VR-friendly furniture, like the swivel chair VRGO (above). And we hope to see more great VR projects that combine elements of film, games, and art, like CLOUDS and Blackout.

 Cheap, tiny computers. The Raspberry Pi kicked off a trend that just won’t slow down. In the past year we’ve seen C.H.I.P. (above), “the world’s first $9 computer," and Pine A64, which calls itself a $15 supercomputer. There will be more — and it will be interesting to see what happens when hardware developers leverage boards that pack a lot of power at a price that would be unthinkable a few years back.

Modular tech. We’ve seen a lot of experiments with modularity — breaking down the functions of a device into smart pieces that can be mixed and matched. The Blocks smartwatch (above), the Robo Wunderkind robot kit, and the Nexpaq phone case are all pushing in this direction.

Simpler, friendlier interfaces. Gadget makers are trying to cut through the clutter of buttons and knobs to give people more natural ways to get information from, and interact with, devices. Ulo (above) defies expectations about home-security systems with its cute little owl face. BeeLine, a bike navigation device, dispenses with turn-by-turn minutiae and just points in the direction of your destination. Nuimo lets you skip clunky apps and control your music and lights with a simple dial. Simple = good.

Indoor farming. There’s obviously plenty of interest these days in locally grown food. So why not take that to the extreme and grow it in your kitchen? That’s the idea behind Grove, a full-blown vegetable-growing, fish-sustaining ecosystem, and Livin, a multistory hotel for… protein-rich mealworms. There’s more to come as locavores look inward.

Compiled by the Design and Tech Communities Team: David Gallagher, John Dimatos, Zach Dunham, Nick Yulman, and Julio Terra.

Comments
    1. Artiphon on January 12, 2016

      Great post, David. The future looks creative!

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