Tech trends for 2018: digital servants, smarter homes and better TVs

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For years all the talk has been about new smartphones, virtual reality headsets and voice-activated speakers. But all that looks set to change with the hyped tech items of 2018.

Digital servants

Voice-activated smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant have by now penetrated smartphones, laptops and living rooms everywhere.

In future they’re likely to be found in all networked devices – and they’re getting smarter. They’ll react more reliably to direct commands and will also understand indirect wishes.

“In principle you will be able to say ‘I’m cold’ and then the heating goes on,” says Sven Hansen from German computer magazine c’t.

Houses with ears

At the moment Alexa, Siri and co-listen via smartphones or smart speakers, but sooner or later special hardware probably will no longer be required because even everyday appliances such as microwaves will have intelligent assistants aboard. “The trend is to have more than one microphone in the house,” Hansen says.

In the end, three to five dominant intelligent assistants will prevail, according to telecommunications consultant Alexander Henschel.

However, the smart home of the future won’t rely solely on voice-controlled technology. Instead there will be a combination of sensors, intelligent camera systems and screens, says innovation consultant Christoph Loeffler.

In addition to helping with shopping and entertainment, the networked home could play a part in assuring the safety of its residents – for example, by interpreting unusual movement patterns or noises as a possible emergency situation.

Bigger and better TVs

Every new television today seems to be smashing picture resolution records. First there was HD (1280 x 720 pixels), then Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) which was followed by 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels). Now 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels) TVs have hit the market. New OLED technology also promises better picture contrast.

However, the added value of all this for customers is questionable. “Even with HD you have very good pictures,” Henschel says.

One for all

The smartphone, the notebook and the tablet – these are still all separate devices but if you look at new models, the classic categories are blurring more and more.

Thanks to high-performance chips and docking solutions, smartphones in future will become the engine of a work computer. There are also an increasing number of hybrid formats that can turn a tablet into a notebook when a keyboard is attached.

Augmented reality

The hype over virtual reality, which reached its high point with the release of the Oculus Rift headset, has abated somewhat. The coming thing today is augmented reality (AR), the projection of virtual content onto the real world.

That can be used, for example, as a supplement to navigation devices – driving instructions can be projected directly onto a car’s windshield – or you could use it to see how new furniture would look in your living room. — dpa