What I’m looking forward to in 2015

A lot of people/organisations have made their bets on 2015 – predicting, in most instances, the obvious ‘buzz’ words. Here are a fews of things I’m looking forward to in 2015.

Smart Agents

There was a trend in 2014 that saw the rise of more intelligent applications, some examples included:

  • Acorns – Intelligent investment agent
  • x.ai – Appointment/Calendar coordinating agent
  • Google Now / Cortana
  • Cover Screen

We’ve started seeing hints of academias study on ubiquitous computing, 5 years ago, finally come out into industry – but only recently possible thanks to the convergence of our digital behaviour and technology (connectivity and computation) coming together. As our world becomes more virtual, so will the rise of intelligent agents capable of carrying out tasks on our behalf, and in some instances, breaking down barriers to what was previously not possible.

What exciting is that as mobile devices become more capable, a lot of computational tasks (required for processing dense datasets) can be done locally and near real-time, example of one technology is Compute Shaders, essentially providing a door into leveraging the GPU (parallel processing) for non-graphical tasks (such as running a Naive Bayes classifier).

Empathetic Computing

Computers are becoming more social and human – best illustrated in Daniele Quercia’s TED talk on Happy Maps where Daniele explains how himself and his team at YahooLabs! ‘enhanced’ maps to show the most scenic route as opposed to the most optimised route. I see Empathetic (or Affective) Computing the next era in HCI, first we had a command prompt, then moved to a graphical interface, were we have been refining over the years with increasingly attractive graphics and responsive animations. We will now shift to an era where computers will better understand our moods and context and adapt themselves accordingly – only now possibly thanks to the disposal computing power available.

Power Apps / Horizontal Integration

If you use Gmail/Google Now (Google Services), Slack, Emu, … you start becoming reliant on their ability pull and push information when required. Email is a perfect example of what could (will) be improved given the user permission. Imagine being in conversation with a friend about a holiday, in the current environment you require the user to copy and paste details from one application into the email (very difficult on a mobile device), imagine that the composer identifiers the entity and asks if you want to pull into the details (prices, location/maps, free dates (calendar), …). Google are well positioned but I imagine we’ll see a influx of other services (and already are) providing such solutions.

Machine and Man Working Together

Similar to my first point about Smart Agents but highlighting that A.I. is not about to take over our jobs (well, not all of them) but rather enhance us. The IBM Watson team illustrate a great example of this where they describe a scenario where an intelligent agent listening to a exec meeting in the boardroom. Using some from of ‘intelligence’ the agent is able to understand what is being talked about and in doing so pulls in (and presents) relevant data and information (and potentially forecasting), giving the execs the best possible chance to make the best possible decision(s) – even more exciting if you imagine them to be medical professionals.

Continue Value Shift From Content Acquisition to Content Discovery and Filtering

Up until recently, content acquisition was expensive and slow – thanks to the reduction in barriers for creation and distribution we’re seeing the reverse. We don’t have the problem of finding content but rather finding ‘good’ content. From news, movies, music, presents, events, food, apps, … this year we’ll see the (increasing) rise of personalised recommendation engines.

Biometric Authentication

Technology is disrupting most industries, but how does an industry become disrupted – you simply break down barriers. Take away time and cost to the process(es), making it cheaper, quicker, and more accessible to people. Biometric authentication is a technology becoming ubiquitous that can be used to remove some old, inefficient, processes. It means information can be moved around more freely (as it can be more trusted than before), similarly obtaining and accessing information will, hopefully, become less of a burden.

Final Words

These are things that I’m interested in, things I study and follow, things I design and build. So I can say confidently that the above is happening and will affect how we interact with computers over the next few years. The most common tread to this is the disruption of our own industry (technology), we’re seeing tools and platforms that make machine learning (complicated algorithms and massive computing power) become accessible and the increasing in digital footprint of users giving us the fuel (data) we need to feed these machines.

I’m excited, are you?