Forecasting New Tech: A Short Guide
Updated: Jul 28
Today, I saw this article:
And I knew I could not postpone writing the article that you're hopefully about to read, and which I have been annoyingly reciting to good friends for some time now. Friends who had the patience to hear me ramble about the same topic over and over. Here we go.
Projecting the next tech game-changer, similar to the iPhone's debut in 2007, might seem challenging. However, careful analysis of leading tech innovators and their active projects simplifies what appears a formidable task. In this article, we investigate this methodology's past wins and apply it to the current tech scene.
Journey to 1080p: Insights from TV's Evolution
The transition to 1080p, a display resolution with progressive scanning, was a multifaceted process, marked by tech breakthroughs, regulatory obstacles, and industry competition. This journey started in the 1970s with Japan's national television system, which offered a resolution significantly superior to the existing standards. However, this early HDTV concept didn't immediately morph into today's 1080p.
The 1990s Transition: In the 1990s, the US television industry proposed its HDTV standards to the FCC. Pushback occurred due to compatibility issues with computer displays, leading to intricate negotiations. The result was a consensus recognizing a spectrum of standard variations, including distinct resolutions, aspect ratios, and frame rates. Initially, the apex image quality suggested was 1080i (1080 interlaced lines), given the then-existing technical constraints. The idea of progressive scanning was viewed as revolutionary, as the required technology and infrastructure were still under development.
The Arrival of 1080p: Fast forward to 1996, 2006 and 2016, it took about one to three decades post-adoption of these standards for HDTV and 1080p to become mainstream. This progress was driven by the rise of new, large, thin, and affordable display technologies, along with enhancements in TV displays and compression techniques that made interlacing redundant, leading to the acceptance of once-thought impossible 1080p images.
This underscores how innovation can be a cumulative, slow-burning process, merging various tech advancements into something transformative.
Lessons from the Past
This example serves as a guide to tech forecasting. Similar to how 1080p's wide-scale availability hinged on the concurrent evolution of various technologies, future tech breakthroughs will also depend on interlinked technologies evolving together, often without a clear vision of the bigger picture.
Apple Vision Pro: Decoding Future Tech
A look at recent advancements in Apple's products, like the Vision Pro, offers crucial insights into high-tech's trajectory. These suggest a focus on funding the development of more compact, efficient tech. Apple's gesture and eye-tracking accessibility features hint at the future integration of these capabilities. The success of AR games and applications, combined with screen tech advancements, suggests a potential market domination by AR/VR and immersive experiences, protected by biometric ID.
Beyond Apple: Emerging High-Tech Trends
Looking past Apple, several key technologies are set to leave a significant footprint in the high-tech industry:
Smart Fabric: The fusion of tech and textiles hints at interactive, adaptive clothing that combines comfort with advanced functionality.
Device Casting: With an increasing number of casting-capable devices, personalized entertainment experiences could transcend traditional platforms, granting users greater content consumption control. Who cares about owning TVs or screens if the paint in your house makes your walls casting-capable?
Device Convergence: The infusion of smartphone tech into various gadgets like watches and tablets blurs traditional device boundaries, facilitating seamless internet connectivity and access.
Wireless Everything: The growing demand for wireless solutions, from wireless charging to NFC-enabled devices, points toa wire-free future. Exploring contactless charging and integrating wireless charging stations along highways could reinvent electric vehicle infrastructure, decreasing dependency on high-capacity batteries and limiting the need for governments and contractors to embark on large infrastructure projects (e.g.: re-making all roads from a material capable of harnessing solar power).
Envisioning the Future:
Predicting the future involves more than asking, "will this technology be the next iPhone?". The real question is, "what groundbreaking product could result from combining the best aspects of each technology that is actually being developed today, no matter how insignificant it seems?"
MicroLED Display Technology: For instance, microLED display technology being integrated into smartphones might not spark much interest currently. However, if this becomes the standard, it will inevitably spur competition, leading to a decrease in price. Before long, you could find yourself purchasing an ultra-light, foldable, casting-enabled 60-inch microLED “sheet” that you can effortlessly move to any desired location. Additionally, you'll even have the option to order a compact 7-inch version from Amazon - a perfect fit for those Netflix sessions during your shower.
Smart Fabric & Tracking: Imagine every object embedded with a tracking smart fabric or sticker. You would never lose anything again. Given the keen interest of Apple and other manufacturers in developing a network of third-party "Find My" compatible tech, the idea of "everything can be located" doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Smartphone & Clothing Integration: Considering smartwatches already perform most basic smartphone functions, increasing miniaturization and smart fabric integration could hint at clothing-compatible smartphones. Could your next iPhone not be a phone at all, but a smart fabric clothing piece?
Affordable Spatial-Computing UI: The once-failed Google glasses or the current Vision Pro are expensive hardware to experience spatial-computing UI. But if we draw from the past, when we transitioned from antenna-broadcasted TV to portable 4K-enabled devices in less than three decades, the day where Vision Pro becomes a simple sticker for your regular glasses might not be far off.
Embracing the Future
Predicting future high-tech products requires astute observation, pattern identification, and visualizing the potential of ongoing advancements. Analyzing industry leaders and emerging trends provides invaluable insight into the next big innovations. As technology advances, both consumers and industry players must adopt a forward-thinking mindset to stay relevant.
While predicting the future is not an exact science (I laughed, writing that sentence), a proactive approach and leveraging existing tech trends can greatly enhance our ability to foresee the next groundbreaking products. By paying attention to current developments and imagining potential outcomes, we can reveal the exciting opportunities awaiting us in the high-tech industry.
P.S. Before I conclude, there's an important caveat you should bear in mind: the predictions I've shared in this article may already be verging on the obsolete. You might ask: why? Well, there's an emerging technology gaining momentum, which I've deliberately omitted from this discussion. Isn't that right, ChatGPT?
Written by: Lorenzo Colombani