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Tech Trends to Come in 2014: Drones, Wearables and Bendable TVs

Jennifer Starr

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Around Intouch, we all seem to thrive on the latest technology. While it improves our lives, technology continues to move so fast that we hardly have time to sit back and reflect on where it's taking us. Major shifts in the tech industry became more pronounced in 2013. Below are some key trends to keep an eye on in the coming year, including 4k TV, drones, wearable devices and remote healthcare.

4K TV    
4K HDTVs (also known as “Ultra HDTVs”) offer screen resolution approximately four times greater than a standard 1080p HDTV. Samsung just revealed a curved, bendable, 105-inch prototype 4K TV that claims to produce a truly immersive experience. In addition to the 105-inch curved TV, Samsung will offer 55-, 65- and 78-inch curved 4K LCD TVs as well. Pricing and availability for all four models isn't yet available.

Recently, YouTube demonstrated 4K video at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). YouTube is serving up 4K in a new format called VP9, a royalty-free codec that will also reportedly offer a better experience with Google Hangouts, according to GigaOm. VP9 consumes considerably less data than other, commercial codecs (such as H.265), YouTube said, letting the service stream higher quality with less bandwidth.

Some YouTube videos currently offer a 4K option (see below) under the video-quality menu, although those videos won’t benefit from the bandwidth savings of VP9 unless the hardware supports it.

While YouTube currently has a limited amount of 4K content, the amount is expected to increase once there are more devices able to view 4K video and content producers see there is a viable market for it. The VP9 codec and its lower bandwidth requirement will also increase the 4K market since it will mean more households will have the capability to stream 4K content.

Drones
In a well-timed public relations stunt around Christmas, Amazon unveiled plans for a new delivery service called Prime Air, which uses unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) that resemble toy helicopters. The goal of this new delivery system is to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

These drones aren’t ready to take flight just yet. During an interview with 60 Minutes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the drones would be ready in four to five years. However, an updated post on Amazon’s website indicated they are ready for aerial deliveries as soon as federal rules change, and these FAA rules could be determined as soon as 2015.

Wearable Devices
Wearable technologies — such as Google Glass and smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear — give brands new avenues to deliver experiences.

The concept of wearable devices is still in its early stages. Some smartwatches hit the market, but it will take years to hone the right combination of form, function, fashion and technology into the ideal smartwatch.

Kapture displayed their wearable audio recorder at CES. The Kapture appears as a futuristic watch, but it has no screen. Instead, it has an external interface for voice notes and instant recording needs.

While Google Glass employs most of a wearer’s field of vision to display information, most smartwatches limit the amount of information that can be viewed. The screen size of smartwatches makes them unsuitable for delivering long, text-heavy messages in apps. Since people don’t have the time or ability to read heavy text while on the move, messaging is reduced to simple notifications that prompt users to explore the details on secondary devices.

Health-Related Wearable Devices
Digital health and fitness was one of the hottest segments in the wearable technology market at CES this month. Popular devices include NikeFuel Bands, the Fitbit and the Jawbone UP.

Wireless, self-monitoring blood pressure kits by iHealth are also growing in popularity. iHealth’s integration with mobile technology allows users to measure their stats, track and share their data, and play a more active role in managing their health.

There are now even wearable health devices for your pet, such as the Whistle. The Whistle is an on-collar device that measures your dog’s activities, including walks, play and rest, and provides a new perspective on their day-to-day behavior and long-term health trends.

Nearly half of Americans are at least a little interested (46 percent) in owning a watch- or wristband-style wearable tech device, with more than one-quarter (27 percent) specifying that they are very or somewhat interested, according to an online survey of 2,577 U.S. adults by Harris Interactive.

Remote Healthcare
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, another wellness technology on the rise is remote healthcare. With this “telepresence medicine,” you can visit a virtual doctor anytime you want. Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens are already testing the technology. According to wikipedia.org, telepresence refers to a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present; to give the appearance of being present; or to have an effect, via telerobotics, at a place other than their true location.

“There has been a global focus on the use of telemedicine as a tool to cut down healthcare costs and bring about mammoth savings,” according to a recent BCC Research report. “Implementation of the new U.S. healthcare law will, if anything, intensify this focus. In the near- to mid-term, telemedicine technologies offer one of the few ways of enabling healthcare personnel to meet the increased demand without unacceptable delays or other forms of de facto rationing.”

The future can’t always be predicted, and the technological market is one that can often throw up surprises. However, technology we always dreamed of is fast becoming reality, and it’s worth keeping an eye on these trends as they are a good indication of what is in store for our future.

 

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