12 tech trends that will define 2018

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Reuters/Noah Berger

No one can predict how the future will shake out, but we can make some educated guesses.

Global design and strategy firm frog has released its forecasts for the technologies that will define the upcoming year. Last year, the firm correctly predicted that buildings would harness the power of nature and that businesses would continue using artificially-intelligent bots to run efficiently.

Get ready to step into the future.


Artificial intelligence will inspire how products are designed

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Reuters/Yuya Shino

Companies like Airbnb and Netflix already infuse AI into their products in a host of ways, generally to the customer’s benefit.

Senior strategist Viral Shah and technology director Matteo Penzo believe 2018 will see far more companies centering their product design around the best use of AI.

“As AI becomes embedded into our products and services,” they wrote, “designers are tasked not just with creating machines for humans, but creating machines thatarehuman-like.”


Other companies will join Google in the ‘Algorithm Hall of Fame’

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Volvo

Google’s PageRank feature – the search engine’s ability to display the optimal results consistently at the top – may be the company’s greatest achievement using algorithms.

Frog’s principal solutions architect, Gonzalo Garcia-Perate, expects other companies to make similar leaps in 2018. They will join Google in the “Algorithm Hall of Fame,” he wrote.

He said likely candidates include the first company to achieve full vehicle autonomy or create platforms to make universal basic income a possibility.


Virtual and augmented reality will become communal experiences

Right now, virtual reality is a pretty isolating experience. You put on a headset and immerse yourself in a world that only you inhabit.

Going forward, says frog visual designer Seth Mach, VR (and its cousin, augmented reality, or AR) will allow people to explore untold worlds together. They’ll get to play, work, and explore communally – in alternate realities.

“Soon, instead of being lone travelers on our augmented and virtual journeys, we’ll have friends along for the ride,” he wrote.


Democracy will cozy up to the blockchain

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Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Frog strategists Kristina Phillips and Sally Darby believe the rise of blockchain technology won’t be limited to cryptocurrencies in 2018. They see it moving into much larger arenas of society, including government.

“Because it changes how votes are collected and minimizes the risk of fraud or manipulation, blockchain technology may be what helps more voices get heard in government matters and policy decisions,” they wrote. “By the 2018 midterm elections, we may just see an end to paper ballots altogether.”


Augmented reality will invite questions about intellectual property

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Nintendo/YouTube

Physical works of art are the property of their creators, but with augmented reality enabling consumers to add infinite changes, frog strategist Kristina Phillips wonders how this will change the nature of intellectual property in 2018.

“Enter a new age in contemporary art, one where people can express themselves collaboratively in the digital and physical realm,” she wrote. “Think mixed-media taken to a whole new dimension, one where people not only have access to public art, but the expectation they can add their own signature without leaving a mark.”


Consumer tech will feel even friendlier

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Today’s digital assistants and smartphones aren’t boxy with sharp edges. They’re rounded, soft, and inviting, notes frog strategist Sam Haddaway. That trend will only continue into 2018, as tech starts to play a more integrated role in our daily lives.

“Hardware will start to become more expressive,” he wrote, noting that “consumers will demand options that fit their style seamlessly and aid in self-expression.”


Tech will become inclusive for all

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The Microsoft Surface tablet
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Microsoft

Frog knowledge manager Justine Lee suspects 2018 will see a lot more innovation, allowing tech to become accessible to all.

She pointed to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella as a sign of good things to come: In October, Nadella emphasized his company would prioritize accessibility, having seen the difficulties firsthand in his son, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

“With a clear focus on empathetic, human-centered design,” Lee wrote, “more businesses will be able to share their best offerings with more customers from even more walks of life.”


Anonymous data will make life smarter but still private

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Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty

Frog CEO Harry West believes the emergent trend in 2018 will be low-fidelity audio and visual sensors that can provide vital information about people’s behavior without revealing any identifying information.

“We all know big data is big business,” he wrote. “It’s why our smartphones measure nearly every aspect of our existence, from how far we walk to how long we sleep.” The problem is, the data is too intrusive.

“Lo-fi sensors square our need for convenience with our desire for anonymity – better customer experiences without violating our privacy,” he wrote.


Ultra-tiny robots will replace medicine for certain patients

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Imagine you have a buildup of plaque in your arteries. Normally, you might take some vitamins to clear the blockage. In 2018, a doctor might slip a nanorobot down your throat to crawl through your system and eat the plaque itself, according to frog interaction designer Tingyu Chen and solutions architect Jona Moore.

“All the while, it will inform personalized, targeted, intelligent advice to help you get healthier,” they wrote of these nanorobots. “Trained to detect and treat different medical issues, edible health robots will also travel through the bloodstream to deliver important nutrients.”


The way we get around will fundamentally transform

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Tesla

Electric vehicles (EVs) and ride-sharing are taking over the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle market, and it could reach a tipping point in 2018, wrote strategist Sam Haddaway and vice president of strategy Timothy Morey.

“Those who buy used cars will buy their first used EV within just a few short years,” they wrote. “The economics are about to flip, making the purchase, maintenance and ownership of ICE cars more expensive than EVs. Car makers are lining up to meet demand.”


Businesses will use data and machine learning to cater to customers

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Getty/Leon Neal

There are already a slew of companies that cater your shopping experience specifically to you, including Amazon’s re-order feature and subscription services that curate items based on your past preferences.

Toshi Mogi, frog assistant vice president of strategy and innovation, along with Madhavi Rao, senior strategist, believe this customization trend will only increase in 2018.

“Companies will look to combining user data with new technologies like augmented reality and machine learning systems to help customers better engage with products both in their stores and in the world-at-large,” they wrote.


Social media will take on more corporate responsibility

Sheldon Pacotti, frog senior solution architect, believes the recent trend of social-media giants having to answer for small pockets of bad actors and malicious bots will come to a head in 2018.

Finally, they will answer for what their platforms have allowed. And, importantly, they will design fixes to those problems, Pacotti wrote. “The prevailing critique of social media as distracting, false and banal will force the medium to deliver on its true potential.”