The voice takes control
Get ready for annoyingly calm navigation alerts and unprompted reminders that you’re running late. Voice is the future. But beyond shouting at Alexa/Siri/etc to tell us the time or find a song, that future still feels more sci-fi, less reality. Bringing voice commands to the car so we can all channel Michael Knight may change that.
Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Kia, BMW and Honda are all bringing AI to cars this year and next, while Ford, Lexus, Toyota and others have chosen to use Amazon’s Alexa. Capabilities vary; in general, you can change the temperature and music, as well as request directions and recommendations for nearby services. SoundHound’s offerings can respond to subtle commands: ‘I feel tired’ leads to environmental adjustments to help the driver feel more alert.
In the long term, voice control should make driving safer and prepare us for a future of driverless cars. In the short term, however, expect debates over data privacy and the threat of driver distraction to abound in 2019.
The virtual reality (VR) revolution is underway, but while we’ve enjoyed people looking shocked while wearing hilariously clunky headgear, sales have dwindled. Given Oculus owner Facebook has already announced it will increase spending in 2019 by around 50 per cent, with a focus on augmented reality (AR) and VR, don’t expect that to spell the end. Enter Oculus Quest. The all-in-one wireless VR headset requires no console or PC, and will be priced at $399. Users will be able to move freely (and safely) thanks to its object and boundary tracking.
Gaming is just part of it. Mark Zuckerberg ultimately wants us to all talk to each other in his virtual world. The firm is researching ‘simulated eye and mouth movement and microexpressions’ to make interactions more lifelike. The end game? Brain-to-brain interfaces that let you communicate with only your thoughts and share ‘full sensory and emotional experiences’ online.
No more couch potatoes
Startups are capitalising on a convergence of wellbeing, ‘big data’, fitness tracking and group exercise colliding to create a series of highly precise (and highly priced) at-home gyms. New York-based Mirror raised $38m in funding this year for its proposition: a huge LCD panel that connects to live and on-demand fitness classes. A camera and microphone let you interact with an instructor, with optimised instruction in real time based on your biometric data. For $1,494 plus $39 per month for classes, it can also be used as an incredibly pricey mirror. The fitness market is part of a wider trend to personalisation and convenience. US-based bike Peloton’s on-demand, live-streamed cycling classes are now in the UK, and more are sure to follow suit.