Future-gazing

The Memo’s predictions for 2017

By Alex Wood 3 January 2017
Summary

A glimpse of what lies ahead.

2016 threw a number of curveballs.

As we look ahead to 2017, we’re doing our own bit of future-gazing, looking at the worlds of business, finance and culture, and how these will all soon change and evolve.

Our team of reporters, associate editors and producers predict how our world will change in the upcoming year. 

Read our top predictions for 2017…

Kitty Knowles

Kitty is Senior Features Reporter at The Memo.

“2017 brings the start of a mixed reality era.”

2016 was a big year for virtual reality. But being taken somewhere else with your head in a headset isn’t the end game.

And, as we broach a new year, I’d love to see buzz grow around the idea of a new mixed reality.

Arguably, this has already started. The gaming phenomenon that was Pokemon Go! brought basic augmented reality to the public in an accessible way.

Just this month we spoke to other toy developers who explained why augmented reality will be huge in years to come, and there’s no limit to the wider potential of AR.

We also stepped through the HoloPortal to imagine a world where live hologram hologgers broadcast their yoga classes into your living room, or their personalised language lesson into your classroom.

What’s more exciting is this experimentation marks the beginning of a more interactive mixed reality – where digital images are not only merely displayed floating in our real-world environments, but start to react to them.

The Microsoft HoloLens is the closest we’ve got to this new mixed reality so far, and while CEO Satya Nadella says it could be a “five year journey” into consumer markets, we’re already seeing exciting applications from developers and businesses.

Today experts like Kazendi founder Maximilian Doelle, have explained how Hololens can already be used by businesses to sell more and be more productive: shops could show off hologram products in new engaging ways; insurance companies or architects could look beyond the walls of real-life buildings.

A city trader could, for example, drag and drop a limitless number of interactive data screens around their desk – or you could discuss a real-life prototype in a virtual Skype where you could draw notes live in mid-air.

We’re not there yet, but given time, it’s not ridiculous to predict a scenario where physical a surgeon could over overlay a live ultrasound on their patient which would change and update as they operate.

The classroom. The home. The design studio. It’s time to imagine them all mixed up.

Alex Wood

Alex is Editor in Chief of the Memo and a visiting lecturer at City University.

“Microsoft will win big.”

If you told me 3 years ago the most exciting hardware launch would be made by Microsoft I would have laughed in your face. But in 2016, with the launch of the Surface Studio it really happened. And I predict much more from the company that brought you Clippy in 2017.

Microsoft is sitting on a pile of cash and putting it in all the right places. Its Xbox gaming division will launch a new console with virtual reality and 4K video. And chat bots will also be a big focus as more of the digital services we use become “conversational”.

In 2016, Microsoft shed the crusty, grey workhorse image.

It will continue to take business from the creative classes away from overbearing Apple. In achingly-cool cafes in cities across the world, look out for growing numbers of Microsoft Surface computers alongside $5 coffees.

This is the company to watch in 2017.

Oliver Smith

Oliver is Senior Reporter at The Memo.

“The death of Facebook is nigh.”

No, Facebook will not disappear in 2017, its sheer ubiquity will ensure the social network is around for generations.

But just like MySpace’s missteps eventually led to its irrelevance, so too will Mark Zuckerberg’s lead to Facebook’s shrinking in people’s consciousness.

WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, even new video chat apps like Houseparty are where people are spending more and more of their time – indeed it’s no surprise that Facebook quickly bought two of those four apps and wanted to buy all of them.

That, combined with public opinion turning against Facebook’s fake news, its algorithm that is isolating rather than connecting people, and the social network’s constant embarrassments – whether it’s banning iconic war imagery on grounds of ‘nudity’ or messing up viewer metrics for advertisers – are leading to dwindling support and interest.

Facebook won’t disappear overnight, its billions of users will ensure that, but in 2017 it’s light won’t shine so brightly. Expect more missteps and embarrassments as Mark Zuckerberg’s social network is found to be increasingly out of touch with ordinary people.

But it is the beginning of the end.

Ashley Evans

Ashley is partnerships manager at The Memo.

“2017 will be a new Chinese year.”

This will be the year Chinese tech goes mainstream.

As relations with the EU cool, the US goes insular under Trump and the British pound continues a post-Brexit decline, it seems a no-brainer the UK’s mobile operators will turn to the most logical source of cheap, innovative tech: China.

In recent years we’ve become accustomed to seeing brands like Xiaomi, OnePlus and Huawei lurking around the outskirts of the US & UK markets.

However, the lustre of cheap, good quality handsets to rival anything from Apple or Samsung was offset by our fear of baked-in spyware and a lack of recourse for faulty products.

We need to be able to trust our technology – and as we’ve seen with Samsung’s explosive year – that can be difficult to do.

Huawei, for one, has moved to put these fears to bed by working with GCHQ on an initiative to screen their phones for nefarious spyware, and their flagship P9 is now available through most major carriers.

The hotly anticipated OnePlus 3T has just become exclusively available through O2, and even Xiaomi (widely known as China’s Apple) now has made it a bit easier for UK residents to buy its products, launching a .co.uk website this year.

2016 was the year Chinese manufacturers stepped out of the shadows and, though not taking centre stage, have made their presence known.

I, for one, am excited to see more phones from less well-known Chinese manufacturers such as Oppo, Elephone and Vivo through 2017 and perhaps (perhaps!) a few more Chinese 4K TVs available in the UK.

Molly Flatt

Molly is Associate Editor at The Memo and The Bookseller – and Digital Editor at Phoenix Magazine.

“Lovers of books, newspapers and mags will go back to browser.”

Last year, publishers fell out of love with the app: At the FutureBook 2016 conference, Hachette UK’s CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson declared that he was yet to see a single app that looked or felt like the future of the book.

Instead, publishers are looking to more immersive tech: in June Hachette acquired games studio Neon Play to work on tie-in gaming projects, while October saw the first ever acquisition of world VR rights for a YA novel trilogy.

Newspapers and magazines realised that an ‘app wrapper’ for content simply creates another barrier to entry – for readers and search engines alike.

Now, in 2017, the smart ones will be going back to the browser, as forward thinkers use web software like Shorthand to create stunning, multimedia, scrolling stories that automatically adapt to any device.

In the coming year, we’ll also increasingly see digital journalism returning to this sort of emphasis on print-quality design, longer form writing and factual rigour.

Facebook continues to struggle to combat fake news stories and once-hot viral content sites are cooling off.

As we enter an officially ‘post-truth world’, a trusted media source is a rare and valuable commodity.

Adam Westbrook

Adam is an independent video artist and The Memo’s Head of Video.

“After Brexit and Trump, the progressive left will reemerge from the ashes using technology to mobilise and unite.”

2016 was a crappy year, I think we can all agree on that. And if your politics is anywhere left of centre, you’ve had plenty to feel down about.

But the year ended with an exciting development, a small spark of hope that I think will grow in 2017.

Just before Christmas, the political campaign group More United raised £274,000 in a month long crowdfunding campaign.

The movement was started over the summer of 2016 in the tumultuous and divisive aftermath of Brexit. It aims to use technology to inject something new into Britain’s broken democracy.

The group is progressive, but not aligned to a particular party. Instead, it asks its members to choose which candidate in an election is most aligned to their values. The winner gets financial and on-the-ground support from More United members.

In November its supporters voted to back Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney in the Richmond-upon-Thames by-election, and managed to mobilise hundreds of volunteers in the week before the vote. As a result, she unseated Conservative Zac Goldsmith by a narrow margin. In her victory speech, Olney acknowledged the difference More United’s support had made.

With more by-elections likely, and the possibility of a general election still in the air this year, More United’s tech-savvy approach to politics could give progressive politics the energy and direction it’s so desperately lacking. I’m inspired enough by the idea to sign up myself.

And I think we’ll see more people using the network power of  technology to inspire, mobilise and campaign in 2017.

2016 felt like a year of victory for fear and for those who seek to divide us, and a total collapse in liberal leadership. But in its final moments, maybe 2016 delivered a spark of hope; a spark that will glow brighter in the year ahead.