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Fast forward: from robots to sense-stimulating wearables, the future is now

Technological developments are moving fast, and what’s available in stores now can be seen as predictors of what’s on the horizon

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 October, 2017, 9:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 October, 2017, 9:31am

We have come a long way in a short amount of time in terms of technology in the last 10 years. It wasn’t so long ago when we had massive system towers, wires, and decks to control a home entertainment system. Now, everything can be controlled using a smartphone.

Given the speed of developments, imagine what technology might be able to do for us 10 years from now – or even sooner.

Here are five fun predictions based on what is already available in stores in Hong Kong.

Available now: Robots

Robohon is a robot that integrates a screen, camera and projection unit all-in-one. It is “intelligent” enough to respond to your voice commands to take a picture of you, project an image on the wall, or even dance if you ask it nicely.

Future forecast: Robots will replace the smartphone.

Do Robohon’s abilities – aside from its dancing – seem similar to those already performed by a device you currently carry around with you? Years from now you may not need to carry a smart device or phone around; your smart device might carry you (and your luggage!). They are likely to come in all different shapes and sizes, and to serve as both personal assistant and communications device. On-the-go people will probably want action-figure sized robots, while others might prefer life-size robots that can do all the heavy lifting – and even burp the baby, when called upon to do so.

Available now: Wearables

Kevin Wong, co-founder and chief executive of Origami Labs, says Orii is the world’s first voice-powered smart-ring. “We basically turn your finger into a voice-enabled smartphone,” he says. With bone conduction technology, you no longer need to “hear” sound in the conventional manner. Devices vibrate the bones near your ears and your brain perceives those vibrations as sound.

Future forecast: Wearables will interface with your senses in ways you will not expect.

The way we interface with technology is still pretty straightforward. We see using screens and hear through speakers. In the future, visuals might not reach our brains through our eyes. How about a headband that stimulates your hair follicles to send nerve signals that your brain perceives as visual augmented reality? Or a skin-sensitive necklace that can cause you to smell delicious food and fragrances? Along with these technologies, also expect to find new ways to prank your friends with less appealing sights, sounds, and smells.

Available now: 3D printers

You can design amazing 3D objects in your living room and send them to a 3D printer which then uses simple plastic materials to mould your designs into shape.

Future forecast: Eat what your print.

What if we could digitally design our own food delicacies using food gels as the 3D printed raw materials?

Available now: Proactive smart tech

Samsung has developed a refrigerator which enables you to view the contents without opening the door by using the touch panel on the door or on your smartphone app. The technology can remind you, for example, to pick up some milk on the way home.

Future forecast: Technology will become more proactive.

Not only will you be able to see what’s inside your refrigerator using a touch panel or your smartphone app, the same proactive technology will also work on your wardrobe – which may recommend that you wear a woollen sweater because it is chilly outside, and which can point you towards your favourite sweater. It can also remind you to bring your umbrella because it is raining outside, or even let you know where you have stored your wellies. Better yet, if you are passing your favourite store on the way to work, an app can let you know that you would be able to squeeze in 15 minutes of shopping at the store and still get to work on time, given current traffic conditions.

Available now: Immersive screen experience

Televisions already come in almost any size and can even be curved. OLED screens are thin and bright, and emit a lot less heat than traditional LCD and LED screens. With the touch of a button, control the mood with lighting.

Future forecast: Your living room will be “living”.

Having wall-to-wall television would certainly be nice. Wrap the screen around you on every wall and even on the ceiling for a totally immersive experience, because you are attending a rock concert, digitally that is.