App Insights

Team interview: 2017 app trends

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From Nostradamus to Biff’s copy of the Grays Sports Almanac in Back to the Future (II), humans have long been fascinated by predictions of the future. And while our crystal balls are no more effectual than Mystic Meg’s, when you work in an industry, you can certainly see trends on the horizon (although we must admit we never saw Pokemon Go coming last year).

Still, we sent the word around the team at the start of the year as to what they think the big trends of 2017 will be, and this is the (only slightly edited) transcript of that roundtable discussion.

We’ll revisit this in 12 months time to see how we did.

So guys, what are the big trends of the year? Where do we go from here?

Brian: I’m hoping for something cool using Google’s upgraded translate function and AI in general. The New York Times describe it as the ‘Great AI Awakening’ which sounds very grand, but the AI in Translate is certainly astounding. Google CEO Sundar Pichai is a huge advocate of AI, and the future of all their products is artificial intelligence. We’re already seeing machine learning and AI filter into everyday use with Skype bots and the like, but we’re really at the beginning of something really quite exciting. And we’ll see further huge AI breakthroughs this year

Tom: The app will continue to leave the app. By which I mean, rich notifications, deep links, lock screen widgets, instant apps, Siri integration (and the Android equivalent) are going to continue to blur what it means to install an app and then run it. React Native will grow in popularity significantly.

More and more apps that aren’t “about AI” will also start to use AI and people won’t really notice or care. People are going to get more used to paying for things with Apple Pay, but it still won’t go mainstream. Privacy and security are going to become even bigger issues this year.

I’d also like to add a small wishlist item. My wishlist thing is: the idea of Instant Apps (as in Android Instant Apps) becoming mainstream and something like it also coming to iOS. This would mean that you could open a browser, Google something to find what you care about and then when you click on a link you get the quality of experience of a native app.

Charlie: VR and AR will continue to find an audience, but the huge leap this year will be mixed reality (MR). The Hololens demo (below) from 2015 touched on the possibilities of overlaying the virtual with landscapes in real time, but you can be sure they’ve developed the tech even further since then and the results are going to blow us away.

The Hololens developer kit is already available, with a wider launch pencilled in for this year, while the general public may also get their first glimpse of Magic Leap, the much heralded Silicon Valley MR startup. Magic Leap has attracted investment from the biggest tech players, from Facebook to Google, and although recent rumours suggest they’ve been presenting fake demos, if it lives up to 50% of the hype, it’s still going to blow us away.

There’s likely to be a merging of VR and MR technology too. As this piece from Engadget says: “[Developers and creatives] can decide to mix or augment our surroundings, like we’ve already seen with Magic Leap and HoloLens, or completely scrap that environment and put us in a virtual space, like with a VR headset. It should only take a few taps to send us to an augmented reality, a virtual one and back to our own.”

Hanna: Jack Ma and the Alibaba team seem to have a knack for turning investments into gold, so my tip for the year is to keep an eye on the businesses they invested in last year, including Magic Leap.

There is also a rising trend among youngsters swapping out text for voice communication. WeChat, Asia’s largest messaging app, is huge on voice messaging, and the next big app in Europe might well be the one that adds a nice feature of synthesising and voice recognition. That feature might nicely influence the augmented/virtual reality and placemaking market, as people will be more open to leaving geolocated messages at places they visited.

Jo: I think the conversation will move on from apps to ecosystems and there will be some great vertical applications that demonstrate use of smart technologies. With apps in healthcare and smart homes – you can predict another “betamax” versus “VHS” kind of scenario as different smart product eco-systems play off against each other e.g. Amazon versus Google versus Apple.  And of course we expect Digital Placemaking to establish itself as a great thing in 2017.

Tom: Last one from me! Amazon Alexa (that is the voice stuff inside of Amazon Echo) is going to be even bigger than the Echo itself and you’ll start to find it in other places such as cars, offices and more. Someone is going to build it into a toilet and get loads of cheap publicity out of it.

So there we have it: mixed reality, AI, and a talking toilet. You heard it here first folks (well, certainly the last one).

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Featured image credit:

Crystal Ball And River, from PublicDomainPictures.net