Small Planet

Blog Post

7 Things That Will (Very Probably) Happen in 2018

HQ knockoffs, AR breakthroughs, Voice User Interfaces, and more.

Small Planet

Small Planet

1. Portrait Mode Gets A Close-Up

I take a lot of pictures of my dog. I mean a LOT. And recently they all look like I take him to a professional photographer for outdoor shoots every week. Why? Because my new phone has Portrait Mode.

2018 will also be the year that Portrait Mode seriously ups its game. Everyone looks so good (especially my dog) against a blurry background, that surely there will be a backlash. I expect to see way more Portrait Mode selfies with the Studio Lighting effect as LinkedIn profile photos until then. People want to be able to change their profile pictures easily, often, and with a level of definition that can easily translate into professional contexts.

Joana Lehman, Executive Producer

2. Hey, Cortana! (Or How I learned to love VUIs)

Has this ever happened to you? You’re Citi Biking your way to work (you might even be running a little late) and you wonder if there’s space at the bike station closest to the office. Maybe you’ll have to settle for the station that’s 4 blocks up the hill, which would force you to call in for your important 10am meeting, even though the night before, in the middle of compulsively binge-watching Stranger Things, you swore to yourself you’d be in on time.

There are two things you can do here. You can stop your bike, pull off your gloves, take out your iPhone, pray it recognizes your fingerprint, navigate to the Citibike app, go to the map tab, and find out if the universe is for or against you that morning, wasting precious minutes.

Or, you risk bodily harm … or worse, your phone … and continue biking, going through the same process with one hand while avoiding crazy New York drivers. Not ideal. Those are the only options we Citi Bikers have in late 2017. But there is hope for us on the digital horizon in the shape of Voice User Interfaces, or VUIs.

Though the term hasn’t caught on (and maybe never will, it does sound alarmingly close to the acronym DUI), VUI is something UX designers will probably need to pay close attention to in 2018. We’ve all used these VUIs at some point with Siri, Ok Google, Alexa, or Cortana (Corwhat? I know, it’s Microsoft’s brave attempt) with varying levels of success.

While Alexa probably won’t achieve HAL-like levels of humanity any time soon, daily voice interaction over the next year will probably make this technology a clear alternative (or in some cases a full replacement) to graphical user interfaces (GUIs). By some estimates, 30% of our daily interactions with technology in 2018 will happen through conversations with voice-controlled systems.

This will not make UI designers obsolete. In fact, in many instances, VUI and GUI will have to live side by side. After all, chatting with your watch in the middle of a crowded elevator might get weird, and there are still voice recognition improvements that need to happen before we can have full voice interactions with our phones. But it does mean that you should be able to ask your device, “Hey, Cortana (yes, we’re giving her a chance!) where’s the closest Citi Bike location?”

Julian Damy, Creative Director

3.  HQ Spin/Knock-Offs

Just as 2017 was the year of replicating Pokemon Go, 2018 will give us multiple attempts to copy the growing success of HQ (as of today, it’s still a phenomenon). It does feel like there is more room for exploration in synchronous mobile television, so it will likely be more fun to watch than another knock off Pikachu.

Perhaps Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu will find ways to experiment with their audiences here, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Facebook push some of their heavy investment in live video in this direction.

Drew Cogbill, Executive Producer

4.  No Future

Tech predictions are tricky. I have no doubt that plenty of mind-blowing ideas will be born in 2018, planting the seeds for future disruption and untold riches. And cool technologies we’ve already heard of will hit the next level — they’ll get faster, more scalable, cheaper, more practical, monetizable, etc. — and become breakout successes.

But it’s unlikely that entirely new technologies will be conceived, hit the market, and start changing lives in the course of the next twelve months. Even if they do, who would be able to predict it? If you’ve got that kind of prescience, you should be in the creation game, not the prognostication game.

So most tech predictions are really guesses about degree. Will a certain technology make the leap from alluring promise to unstoppable juggernaut? Or will a massively hyped, can’t-miss technology stall out? This isn’t to meant to belittle the exercise. Careers can be made on the ability to predict which technologies will advance and at what rate.

That isn’t me, though, so I’ll only predict that we’ll see a very familiar cast of characters in the next round of tech predictions: AR/VR, AI/ML, cryptocurrency, autonomous cars, voice UI, bots, some sort of ad tech breakthrough, and IoT (still) will all make an appearance.

I have no doubt there will be advances in most of these areas. There will be some hard fought gains and increased adoption. There will be competition and churn. There will be surprises and outliers. We will be disgruntled and delighted. And I’m looking forward to seeing all of it.

Fred Lee, Chief Experience Officer

5. Augmented Reality: The Next Generation

Augmented Reality, although not a new concept, has recently started popping up on mobile devices. This welcome addition has yet to be cracked in a capacity that I would qualify as an “innovative phenomenon”. Sure, there are AR apps and games that have hit the app stores and some are quite interesting, but they’re not there yet. Feel free to call me out on the explosion of Pokémon GO, but AR is such a small part of the game and most people turned that feature off after the first day.

But this is just the first wave! Developers are barely getting their hands dirty with the new frameworks and more importantly the mobile industry as a whole is lacking that idea that cracks AR wide open! The void is there to be filled and I think we’re in store for a good year of new realities to explore or even build.

Bold Prediction 2018: we will have a mobile AR app or game that everyone is talking about, one that will truly find an innovative way to awe users. My money is on a game. That being said there are many applications in which AR could simply help with everyday life. Whether it’s a HUD (heads up display) in the windshield of your car or a mapping of the veins on a body to help nurses properly place IVs in patients, the opportunities are there. Honestly, I feel like I should be calling it, Obvious Prediction 2018, but that doesn’t sound nearly as exciting.

We are on the verge of some very cool stuff! Just look at what’s happening in the world of VR, AR’s older sibling. Virtual Reality has come a long way in the past 5 or so years with respect to PC and console games. VR is hitting its virtual stride and AR is reaping the benefits as younger siblings often do. Let’s use this momentum and augment our reality with something so cool that everyone’s talking about it!

Taylor Plimpton, Senior Developer

6. 2018 Is The Year App 2.0 Kicks Into High Gear

Back in the early aughts, the Web went through a fairly dramatic evolution, popularly referred to as Web 2.0. This broadly-adopted iteration on what the Web could be came (for the most part) nine years after the web became a mass medium.

Web 2.0 brought more emphasis to user-generated content and virtual communities, usability, data, video, and other major pillars of the online experience that are common today.   

Mobile applications are undergoing a similar iteration, after the first nine years of the App Store and five years of Google Play. This transformation from what we first experienced through apps, to what we will experience in the years to come, will accelerate strongly in 2018.

Companies have learned a lot about the mobile space in the last nine years, and we have all become knowledgeable and opinionated users of mobile applications. Add to the mix increasingly powerful data tools, augmented reality, machine learning, broad consumer acceptance of mobile commerce, and a powerful user-centric design perspective, and the mobile space is ripe for some dramatic product improvements. App 2.0 is upon us.

Gavin Fraser, CEO

7. Taking the Fight to Amazon

Retailers of all sizes will continue to fight for their lives against Amazon. Shoppers will continue their use of physical stores as showrooms and destinations for special events or entertainment. The retail industry is already grappling with the reality that the internet has officially changed everything, but we expect slow-to-learn traditional retailers will finally embrace technology in 2018 to re-imagine their sales strategy.

Brands without apps will get on board, online-only retailers will get storefronts (welcome, Everlane), and a massive shuffle of jobs will take place as some stores close but more online-shopping logistics are embraced. Brands have more channels available now than ever to reach consumers and close a sale, so 2018 will the year to make it big or die trying in retail.

Brands will focus on digital payments (e.g. ApplePay via Face ID) in store and in app/web that make it painless to purchase. Those that succeed will make in-store experiences special and the purchasing process seamless.

Joana Lehman, Executive Producer
Drew Cogbill, Executive Producer