Campaign India Team
Dec 13, 2012

2013 tech trends: Invisible apps, smarter phone ecosystems, facial recognition

From branding and design technology agency Frog's tech trends that will impact the way we do business in 2013, Campaign picks ones that will impact marketing.

Interacting with devices as humans, not button-pushers
Interacting with devices as humans, not button-pushers

Smartphone accessories become smarter

The advantages of a small, powerful, mobile personal computer are only starting to dawn for consumers. Timothy Morey, assistant vice-president of strategy for Frog San Francisco sees a future beyond 2013 where smartphones are a centre of a network linking bodies, offices, homes, cars and someday cities and spaces we live in. Next year however, will see a rise in the production of devices such as AliveCor’s iPhone ECG which, according to Morey, a doctor used to diagnose a fellow airplane traveller with a heart attack (the patient lived).

A new type of “patina”

An increasingly digitised experience means we are leaving fewer footprints on the sand. Journals are blogs, dog-eared paperbacks are immortal digital tomes, the CD box worn out with too much love is now an untouchable MP3 file.

Paul Pugh, vice-president of creative, software innovation in Austin, believes that these slight degradations are part of the story and part of our culture. To answer this craving, mobile technology and the intelligent accessories that surround it will become our mark on the world.

“A new layered interaction model of touch, voice, and gesture will emerge as important as consumption: the continuous exchange of what we are doing, where we are, and who we are with. This will again work into the collective memory, attaching to our legacy—bringing in a new type of patina effect,” Pugh said.

Human-computer interaction gets more humanistic

“In 2013 we will come to the conclusion that the technology industry is overdue to create the next model for human-computer interaction,” said chief creative officer Mark Rolston, based in Austin. Bored of devices, people will look for the integration of seamless, natural-gesture interfaces that fit naturally into everyday life.

As a result, gesture will become the new technology driving shopping experiences in malls, said Frog ‘Fellow’ Jared Ficklin. “The proliferation of high-dollar marketing experiences will quickly yield to many more gesture-based, brochureware kiosks—where the person-as-controller will find life beyond living room dancing games.”

Apps become invisible

A consequence of a more natural interface is dissolution of app-icons, plugging in and switching programmes. Thomas Sutton, ECD in Milan, believes that computers are dissolving in three directions—into the cloud, into the environment, and into our bodies.

Siri, pointed out Sutton, is an early glimpse of this concept. While still flawed, when perfected, Siri is potentially the natural interface to everything a smartphone has to offer. You chat to it, and it calls up what you need.

“In 2013 I expect to see an increasing number of services that follow this paradigm while exploiting today’s mobile phones. I call these “invisible apps,” because they shun flashy infographics and rich GUIs in favor of minimal, timely, personal, and humanised content,” said Sutton.

Faces become interfaces

Real-time recognition is about to become reality, said Jan Chipchase, ECD of global insights based in San Francisco. “Soon, algorithms will match them with photos, and then connect us with related personal and professional information on us available online.”

Chipchase theorised that new careers or forms of brand advocacy will be created by this technology with “new legions of people becoming true 'faces' of brands”.

Tablet tipping point

Ever lower price points for tablets will shift the devices from being mini-computers to a widespread replacement of printed media, from receipts to newspapers to textbooks, said Shanghai creative director Mario Van Der Meulen.

“Lower prices will prompt people to buy numerous tablets, each optimized for different purposes. Lower prices will also make tablets a game-changing device in emerging economies in Africa, South America, and Asia, and will bring new challenges to the interaction model worldwide,” he said.

The experience economy comes of age

Apple no longer stands alone on its pedestal as an exemplar of experience-driven technology and retail. Big ecosystem players Google, Microsoft and Amazon have all been redesigning their touch points to optimise and differentiate customer experience, pointed out Munich senior interaction designer Kalle Bushmann.

None of these product ecosystems focus on technology as a key differentiator anymore, he said. “Customer experience has become the only source of long-term competitive advantages, and today the main barrier to great experiences isn’t the tech. It’s business cases, company cultures, and the capabilities to deliver and orchestrate the intended experience through all touchpoints over time.”
As a result, Bushmann expects to see more CXOs (chief experience officers) named in 2013. McCann Erickson already has one, he added, with a graduate degree in interaction design.

3D printing goes mainstream

Six years ago, the cheapest 3D printer was US$30,000. Today you can find one for US$550, which means the next generation of instant gratification is here, said San Francisco senior strategist Annie Hsu.

“The killer app is going to put the power of ultimate customization in consumers’ hands in 2013, unleashing the new standard for creativity plus utility,” said Hsu.

Already, small-scale unit manufacturing has sprung up off the back of 3D printing, as have services such as Shapeways, Ponoko and Sculpteo, which operate as shared factories for hire.

“Amateur as well as professional designers and makers will essentially be able to print objects to specification any time, without having to buy printers and factory space,” said Boston-based assistant vice-president of strategy, Patrick Kalaher.

Micro-networks rise

Micro-networks are often private and rarely visible to the designer or trend spotter, but they are a growing movement. Social platforms such as Quora and Facebook have exploited the budding micro-network trend, allowing knowledge to surface from these communities, said SF-based principal designer David Sherwin.

“Identifying micro-networks and ethically researching how people participate in them will be an important part of how we design any product or service that’s meant to collect and share knowledge in 2013,” said Sherwin. The value of these networks is the ability to peer into trends that are happening that aren’t always in public view.

“It can also point us to new and growing private communities that help illuminate for us emerging shifts in customer behaviour,” he said.

Read Frog’s full report here.

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