The future tech we’ll be gifting this holiday season
This year, futuristic technology is available to the public like never before. From headsets to housebots, innovative tech is attracting a mass audience via the high street. Not only is it available, but it’s affordable, with most high-end devices matching the price of a decent laptop. The consumer goods on offer this year are familiarising society with innovative technology, teaching them to exchange and adopt tech within domestic settings. In the run up to the festive season, developers and programmers will now have to share their hardware and software with the rest of the world as disruptive technology hits the mainstream. But which futuristic consumer devices will be available this year, and just how affordable will they be?
2016 has been hailed as the year of Virtual Reality, with 10% of British homes owning a VR device by Christmas. Next month will reveal exactly which company has produced the most popular, consumer-friendly headsets. It’s not a question of whether VR headsets will be a popular gift idea, it’s a question of which particular brand will come out on top. In the running are the Oculus Rift Consumer Version, PlayStation VR, HTC Vive and Gear VR, as well as cheaper options including Google’s Daydream View and the genius Google Cardboard.
Smart home gadgets
More and more tech giants are developing their own smart home systems with accessories to match, including Google, Amazon and Hive. Google’s artificially intelligent speaker, Google Home, was first announced in the summer of this year with pre-orders opening in October. It’s now going head to head with Echo, Amazon’s earlier equivalent. Google Home RRPs at$129, whereas Echo is pricier at$199. Set up by British Gas, Hive is creating smart home products from wireless thermostats to automated lighting. As society takes more of an interest in renewable, cost saving devices, accessories like this are perfect presents for tech enthusiasts.
After the success of 90s throwback Pokémon GO, Augmented Reality is a household term. This Christmas,Pokémon GO Plus will undoubtedly be a popular gift for Pokémon fans of all ages. The wearable links to the user’s smartphone and alerts them when a Pokémon is nearby. Other AR products (that don’t have anything to do with catching ‘em all) include Microsoft Hololens, which is yet to be released as a consumer version. The developer kit, however, can be pre-ordered for around $3000 (£2,700). There’s even AR-enabled t-shirts, but more on that later.
3D Printed gifts
Through sites like Shapeways, customers can create bespoke, personalised presents that can’t be found on the high street. At the same time as being completely unique, these products are also incredibly affordable . If you know anyone with an interest in emerging technologies, there’s a plethora of interesting products – 3D-printed vases, mobile phone cases you can even order a 3D printed lifelike model of yourself.
Desktop 3D printers
You could wrap up a cool 3D Printed product, but why not go the whole hog and gift a 3D printer itself? We’re not talking huge, expensive, industrial machines here – but desktop 3D printers are now available to buy for the equivalent price of a new laptop or iPad. You can even buy child-friendly 3D printers, built especially with the creation of toys in mind.
The smart toys of Christmas 2016 will be far more advanced than your average Furby. CogniToys have brought out an ‘educational Dino companion’, designed to look like a friendly (and slightly vacant) dinosaur. The Dino companion tells stories, plays games and responds to questions, gradually logging the child’s preferences. Nowhere in the product description does the company actually mention AI – but they do call the chatty dinosaur ‘emotionally intelligent’. Time will tell whether parents will be comfortable with smart toys, especially after allegations that Barbie’s smart home was spying on children.
As electronics merges with textiles, we can expect to see whole new tech-enabled wardrobes. Adidas have just revealed their new sustainable Biosteel trainers, which are made with 100% biodegradable material like natural silk. When put into contact with a certain enzyme, the trainers can dissolve within 36 hours. There’s been a lot of interest in sensor-embedded clothing too, including location-trackers and heart rate monitors. This is where Augmented Reality t-shirts come in – buy a t-shirt, download an app and suddenly the print on the shirt comes to life. Sound a bit far-fetched? Well, they’re already sold by well-known high street brands like Marks and Spencer’s.
Clothing aside, there’s a long list of wearable devices out there which are bound to make an appearance this winter. Samsung, Fitbit and Google have all released their own smartwatches, and others have been quick to follow. This year, Pebble revealed thePebble 2 smartwatch, and the Apple Watch Series 2 was announced in September. Costing over $400, the fitness-focused Apple watch is the most expensive choice, with most others retailing for under $200.
Robotics companies are fuelling advancements in social robotics, releasing competing models from table-top assistant Jibo to the mobile, 4-foot tall companion Pepper. They’re are built with the consumer in mind, fitting into the domestic environment and enhancing their owners’ daily lives. Housebots are just as applicable to a single homeowner as to a busy family, using AI to learn about their owners and respond in the most useful way. Sure, they might not be as cute as a puppy… But you won’t have to litter train them.
There can be no doubt that we’re living through the smartphone revolution, and there are some intriguing new models out there at the moment. Google revealed their new smartphone,Pixel, earlier this year. The phone comes with AI software as standard, and boasts the best camera that any smartphone has ever had. Samsung have also announced the new Galaxy S8. Just like Pixel, the S8 will be integrated with the company’s new digital assistant. It would hardly be surprising if Apple suddenly released a new product either, especially after the somewhat chilly response to the Apple EarPods.
It looks like we’ll be wishing each other a Merry Techmas this year, with an astounding amount of consumer technology flying off of the shelves and into our living rooms. Consumer technology is disrupting the festive season, whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Thanksgiving or all of them. Soon, marketers will see if they’ve done enough to take advantage of obligatory gift-giving, and society will take another step towards mass tech adoption.