What’s New For Technology In 2017
Artificial intelligence, voice control and virtual reality – this is the year that science fiction becomes fact
The goal of clever technologists is to seamlessly introduce gadgetry into everyday life that you never knew you needed but now can’t live without.
Some products have reached the point of near perfection. The mobile phone, for example, will be tweaked but there are no dramatic improvements expected in the foreseeable future. So what’s next?
The new wave of technological advancement is so futuristic it has been the stuff of wildly imaginative fantasy. This year, expect to encounter computers that can talk, robots that can learn, and virtual reality experiences that are incredibly immersive.
Here, MR PORTER predicts the (very near) future and rounds up the most important trends and cutting-edge technology that will literally change your world in the coming months. VR, IR, here you are.
The conversational computer
It’s finally happened – HAL 9000 from the 1968 Mr Stanley Kubrick film 2001, A Space Odyssey has arrived, albeit 16 years late. And not as a cold-eyed psychopathic killer, but as a conversational buddy you can ask to time you a boiled egg, do arithmetic for you, summarise the news or tell you a joke. We are increasingly talking to machinery. The device to go for is the Google Home. Unlike rival devices, it has access to Google’s massive brain and artificial intelligence – plus the changeable base comes in seven colours to match your own home. It’s $130 in the US and is likely to cost about £130 when it launches in the UK.
Headphones to sound engineer your world
Doppler Labs Here One
We’ve all heard of wearable technology. The new product category for 2017 is “hearable” technology, which will play music, relay phone calls, keep track of health indicators such as heart rate and blood pressure and so on. This hearable, from San Francisco startup Doppler Labs, expected to be released in March for £250, is called Here One. At root, it’s a pair of independently powered Bluetooth earphones. But it also allows you to control sound from the real world around you. So, you might use it to tune in its built-in microphones on the person sitting in front of you, while turning down the crying baby across the restaurant; or to turn down the engine noise on a flight, or the screech of an underground train. You heard it here first.
Fully immersive Virtual Reality
Many people have by now tried out a cardboard virtual reality headset, using a smartphone as the video source. And surprisingly impressive it is, too. But fully immersive VR is the same shock to the senses, but squared. Or rather cubed. The aficionado’s VR headset of choice is not actually the best known, the Oculus Rift, but the Vive, from Taiwanese phone manufacturer HTC. It’s about £800, although you will also need to buy a suitable muscly gaming PC – allow another £1,100 for that. But it’s well worth it. Believe the hype.
Social media for grown-ups
Social media apps are the centre of most over-sharing, over-excited teenagers’ lives – sometimes to the bafflement of their parents. But coming now are social apps for grown-ups. Vero is one of the more impressive and sophisticated launches because it allows you to better curate and control your feed and choose who sees what, so there is less danger of giving away Too Much Information. You can discuss things such as music, film and restaurant recommendations with selected groups who might actually be interested in them, rather than in scattergun fashion. Less social media, more social life.
The intelligent robot
UBTech Robotics Alpha 1S
One day robots will take over the world. For now, they’re just taking over your living room. The UBTech Robotics Alpha 1S won’t yet bring you a cup of tea or do the washing, but with 16 motors, its movements are amusingly lifelike. It’s an all-singing all-dancing piece of intelligent technology with some seriously impressive moves – it can breakdance, lead you in a bodyweight workout routine or just keep the kids occupied for a few hours, which makes it worth the £400 it costs. The little guy comes with a software program, so you can teach him to do more tricks. (And when you do: milk, no sugar. Thanks.)
The unlosable luggage
Raden A28 Check
The best technology is that which solves a genuine problem. Losing luggage is an enduring worry for anyone who flies regularly. The A28 Check from New York startup Raden is a beautifully constructed case that you can track with a smartphone app, so you’ll always know where it is – even when it is where it should be. It weighs itself, so you never suffer the ignominy of repacking at check-in to avoid excess baggage fees. And it’ll charge your phone up to four times. The range recently launched on MR PORTER, while the app will also help with other travel-related matters such as flight-time updates. Case proven.
The fixed-wing drone
Parrot Disco FPV
Drones are increasingly being used for everything from shooting films to surveying the tops of trees and, for the most part, they are all helicopter derivatives – choppers with four, six or eight rotorblades. Fixed-wing, more conventionally aeroplane-looking drones have until now been a military thing. But French company Parrot has brought out its first jet plane-style drone, the £1,150 Disco. It’s much faster than its rotorblade-bound rivals, flying at up to 50mph. It also comes with Parrot Cockpitglasses, a headset that streams and records HD video from the Disco, so you can effectively be the on-board pilot and feel like you are flying. A pure thrill machine with no immediate secondary purpose, but extraordinary technology for anyone brought up on model aeroplanes with a rubber band for an engine. Just try not to cause any international diplomatic incidents in no-fly zones.