Now that 2018 is a few days underway the biggest tech event of the year is just around the corner. For many technology enthusiasts the Consumer Electronics Show, better to known to many as CES, is an exciting event complete with announcements and the unveiling of new devices, and it will take place next week and officially begin on January 7th continuing through January 12th, making it a week filled with new devices and mobile products and really just new tech products in general that will fit into many different categories. With CES being the biggest tech show of the year, it will likely be the starting point for many of the devices and products that companies will be releasing throughout the year, as not all of the products that will be shown off will get an immediate release or even one that comes just a month or two later. Some products won’t be launched until the later part of the year, and some might even trickle into 2019. Some of the stuff seen at CES won’t even be products, but rather technology that will be baked into other future products. With that said, below are some of the predictions for what to expect with technology over the next year.
A.I. Will Become Even More Prominent
Artificial intelligence is already being worked into products and it’s already in some of the products that we have now, as is machine learning. Devices like Amazon’s line of Echo Speakers, Google’s line of Home speakers, and many of the products that work with both of those, like the Nest Learning Thermostat for example, are running with A.I. and machine learning tech, so this type of technology is already in homes across the globe, but A.I. and digital assistants in general will have an even bigger part to play this year and beyond. For starters, chip manufacturers are hard at work building processors that are equipped to handle more A.I. interaction. MediaTek is one such company that is already focusing on and building A.I. chipsets that will “make use of a dedicated A.I. functionality.” Though MediaTek hasn’t actually divulged much information about what these chipsets will be able to do specifically, the chips to look for will apparently be part of MediaTek’s new P series.
MediaTek isn’t alone either, Huawei’s A.I.-based HiSilicon Kirin 970 is already inside of some of its devices like the Mate 10 Pro, and Qualcomm has the Snapdragon 845 on the way that will be powering many of this year’s top flagship smartphones, such as those from Samsung, LG, OnePlus, Sony, and more. Of course, Samsung too makes its own chipsets, and it’s next batch of Exynos processors will have similar A.I.-based capabilities. LG may not be working on A.I. chipsets, but it is reportedly working on A.I.-powered robots to roam the floors of the Incheon International Airport in South Korea with an arrival suspected to be as early as June of this year. So while not all the largest tech companies who make some of the world’s most popular smartphones and the components that power them will be making the same kind of A.I. tech, they all seem to be involved with A.I. in one way or another. Coming back around to the A.I.-based mobile processors, with these chipsets having already been in development and ready for products this year, consumers can likely expect to see more of these devices hit store shelves which will have some A.I. functionality, more than what is already available.
Digital Assistants Will Be Baked Into More Products
Building off of the A.I. prediction, digital assistants will definitely be more front and center this year. While the Echo has already been available for the last two years, and Google Home has already been available for one with a new crop in both camps hitting shelves over the last couple of months, it’s not just these two sets of products that 2018 will bring to market. Yes, Amazon’s Echo line of speakers and the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max will be more popular than ever this year, but Google still reportedly has a Home speaker on the way that comes with a touch screen to compete with the Amazon Echo Show, and that will likely show up at the Search giant’s I/O developer conference later this year, with a potential launch in the Fall. Multiple other companies have also confirmed their own smart speakers. Sony for example has one coming and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it at CES, Samsung is also rumored to have a smart speaker on the way powered by its own Bixby virtual assistant and carry audio by Harman Kardon and is expected to launch sometime in the first half of 2018. Back in September of 2017 the CEO of Harman even stated that the speaker is expected to be “unbeatable” suggesting that it will be a powerful device that is capable of offering tons of useful functions to the consumer.
Digital assistants are already baked into many of our mobile devices, and they’re becoming more prominent in our home appliances, too, TVs for instance are already coming with Alexa built-in and some are starting to show up with Google Assistant, so while the tech is already in the home, it’s going to be much more consumer-facing this year and companies will likely showcase many more products than ever before that are powered by this A.I.-driven technology. With the continued advent of the smart home and all of the products that will fill one, digital assistants will only have a bigger role to play, as more and more consumers take the dive into setting up a touchless interface for controlling multiple things throughout the home, from thermostats, to lights, to coffee makers and even washing machines and dryers. Smart locks and alarm systems, and security cameras too are all products that are on the market now and have been for the past year, and more product types are going to be including some form of smart technology that will allow them to talk to digital assistants this year, giving people less of a reason to have to pull their phones out of their pockets to initiate a task.
VR Will Take A Backseat To AR This Year
While the last two or three years have seen heavy focus on virtual reality technology, 2018 seems to be the year that will mark the focus on augmented reality. AR has been available in some form or another before now. Ingress, Pokemon GO, and even other, older applications have used a form of augmented reality to show people virtual graphics that were overlayed on top of the real world and top of whatever their camera sees. This is all sort of small though compared to the way AR technology will be present this year. Google, naturally, already has it hands in the AR pot. While it’s not hard to envision all of the things that Google could possibly do with augmented reality it’s already starting with things like Google Lens, which utilizes machine learning technology to analyze the different details inside of photographs and deliver relevant information about them to the user. Google Lens is already available inside of the Google Photos app and there’s even a button for it that users can access from the Google Assistant interface on their smartphones. Beyond Google Lens, companies like Microsoft, Acer, Samsung and others are working with Augmented Reality too. The Windows Mixed Reality platform is a good example of this and while Mixed Reality is not just AR alone, it does incorporate AR technology along with VR technology. The Mixed Reality platform that Windows launched has technically been available since the end of last year, but some of those headsets have only been available a very short time with Samsung’s Odyssey headset launching in late 2017, so more companies are bound to release these kinds of headsets this year and give AR more of a focus.
Magic Leap, the company behind some of the most fabled AR technology finally revealed just last month what it had been working on for so long. The device, called the Magic Leap One, is a set of Mixed Reality goggles that will be available for developers later this year. Even Oculus patented its own AR goggles back in August of 2017, so it’s very possible that these could end up surfacing this year and adding to what the company already offers to consumers through its own Rift headset as the well as the platform that powers Samsung’s Gear VR. Other products like Google’s AR stickers feature that you can find in the Pixel camera, or Lenovo’s Jedi Challenges headset and Lightsaber combo which just released at the tailend of 2017 are a glimpse at what’s to come, and while both of those things were available last year, it’s a showcase of what to expect as both Google and Lenovo will no doubt be expanding on those offerings. There’s plenty of unknowns in regards to what actual, tangible products will come about this year, but it’s no secret at this point that companies are working on Augmented Reality. Google’s announcement and launch of the ARCore platform is another good example of how AR will be one of the biggest technology focuses in 2018, and ARCore is only one platform, coming from one company - Google. Others will have their own, such as Apple with the ARKit. Not to mention, ARCore isn’t just going to be in Google devices. Samsung has already adopted it for its future Galaxy devices and some of Google’s other partners are sure to do the same, which means consumers will see more and more Augmented Reality-capable products on the market, and ones that can fit in the palm of their hands no less.
In-Screen Fingerprint Sensors
Fingerprint sensors are pretty common in phones these days, whether they be inserted into a front-facing home button below the display or on the back of the device, both of which are pretty common locations for them to be. With the arrival of Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chipset and the Synaptics Clear ID technology, though, it's now going to be possible for companies to start putting fingerprint sensors in the display which is going to alleviate having to use a home button on the front to have the sensor and get rid of having it on the back, which in turn will allow for phones to be a little more stylish, but also allow companies to design their devices to have more screen real estate. In-screen fingerprint sensors have been rumored for at least the past year, and they're just now starting to become a reality. Even though there are no phones yet which have in-screen fingerprint sensors embedded in them, the Snapdragon 845 processor will make it possible and it will be included in plenty of phones this year, so consumers can expect it to show up at some point even if they're not included in the flagships that launch in the earlier part of the year. This is a trend that will start in 2018 and likely begin to carry on into the years beyond it, as more and more phone makers look at implementing displays that come with an 18:9 or 18.5:9 aspect ratio.
Dual Cameras Will Become The Norm For Both Front & Back
Dual cameras are already becoming more and more common on smartphones these days, and in fact have been becoming more common on phones throughout 2017. This year, more phones are sure to feature dual rear-facing cameras, but it's also quite likely that more phones will start to implement dual cameras on the front as well. Some smartphones coming from Chinese brands already use dual cameras on the front to help deliver better self portrait shots, so it wouldn't be surprising to see more devices with these dual front camera sensors this year. It may not expand entirely out to major flagships or even non-flagships from major OEMs, at least not right away, but dual cameras is a popular trait and with more phones having them on the back, dual camera on the front seems like the most likely next step.
Voice-Driven & Intelligent Apps
Digital assistants are already here, and we've already talked about how they will become more commonplace in other types of products, but it's not just physical products that will be utilizing them. Apps will more voice-driven by incorporating the integration with Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, and other digital assistants, making them much easier to use as certain features will be available to activate by voice so users don't have to interact with them by touching the smartphone display. This won't necessarily be for entire apps, but specific features. In addition to apps being more voice-driven apps will likely become more intelligent, too, learning from the ways users interact with them. This is technically already available to some degree with third-party keyboard apps and music streaming apps, as keyboards learn the language used and begin to help predict new words to insert into conversations more accurately, while music streaming apps are capable of learning what to suggest for users to listen to based on their likes and past listening history. This year though apps will likely become more intelligent and begin to learn their users on a larger scale as app developers integrate machine learning more into their creations.
Foldable Displays And Devices Could Make Their Mark
Devices with flexible screens that allow for devices to fold in half are on the horizon and it seems that Samsung's Galaxy X may be the first phone, or rather mobile device, that will have a display that is capable of this sort of feature. For many this will mean the ability to have a phone that while in a folded state will look and act like a smartphone, featuring a more pocketable size that is akin to smartphone that are currently available, but when unfolded will be usable like a tablet to give users more screen real estate to work with. Foldable displays are likely far from becoming a common device trait anytime soon, but truly flexible displays are already here in the sense that companies are already working on them and trying to integrate them with devices, and with Samsung's Galaxy X on the way you can bet other major brands are working on something too. The Galaxy X is suspected to debut at CES, which doesn't necessarily mean this will be a phone that Samsung intends to launch this year, but it is possible that if it does show up at CES it could be a device that Samsung launches in 2018 even if it's near the end of the year, which also leaves the market open to see devices from other companies.
Ultra High-Definition Premium Compatibility
This is another trend that will likely start popping up this year thanks to the Snapdragon 845 processor from Qualcomm. In its announcement about the chipset the manufacturer mentions that the CPU will allow for "Hollywood-grade video capture" which will likely mean that smartphones this year will be equipped with some higher quality camera sensors to account for this capability from the processor.
2018 is sure to bring along with it a lot of different new tech products and trends, but the ones listed above are likely to be the most probable, with some of them being a guarantee, such as the in-screen fingerprint sensors and expansion of digital assistants as well as AR. Some of this may end up being tech we see at the upcoming CES which starts next week, while others may not show up until later on in the year, but these are trends which are likely to show up in the near future even if they don't make their way into available products in 2018. That said 2018 will be just like any other year in tech in some ways. Not everyone will be excited about what the big tech focuses will be this year, just as everyone wasn't excited about the idea of virtual reality and smartwatches over the last couple of years, but it will be interesting to see where the tech industry is headed and what sort of products will make their way to market for consumers to purchase.