AI is yet to validate itself. The expectation of both investors and average users are high, so it is almost impossible to live up to them, let alone shift them. However, AI must be paired with a massive amount of data to work as it is intended. Therefore, it is possible that when already existing startups have collected enough data, they will be able to prove the efficiency of their engines at all kinds of problem-solving.

AI technology

Some startups and big enterprises are already using AI to enhance their customer service (chatbots), logistics and other aspects of their businesses. Which is a great success at least because this way AI has a chance to grow on the users and make them comfortable with the concept.

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With the gloomy anti-utopian views on Artificial Intelligence that we have inherited from the 20th-century pop-culture, it is already an improvement.

IoT and connectivity

It seems that stuffing electronics into everything is a favorite pastime of many young startuppers. It is relatively cheap and becomes even cheaper yet, so today we have smart water bottles, Wi-Fi connected pitchers, smart toothbrushes and floss dispensers, Bluetooth-enabled forks and even egg trays that can go online (I do not make it up as I go – these are real things). However, do all these smart things constitute an IoT? Perhaps not, as they are all in their separate networks and they aren’t really connected to each other. Rather, they are all connected to your phone (each one via its own dedicated app). Some of them are nothing but toys and you will get bored with them in a week.

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They do, however, constitute a basis for future connectivity. By trial and error, developers perfect ergonomics and functionality of the “smart things”. The process has already begun. Smart speakers lifted the load of home automation from people’s smartphones. They are considerably versatile, have “assistant” AI built inside them, and are capable of ruling over connected devices (locks, thermostats, lights, outlets, security systems). Although they cannot exactly be named “smart”, “connected” is good enough.

Maybe next year will see a smart home with an ecosystem of smart interconnected gadgets controlled by AI that has your comfort in mind and performs all the menial household tasks instead of you. You know - the thing sci-fi has been promising us for ages.

Bridging the gap between tech and non-tech

This trend deserves nothing but cheers. It promotes inclusiveness, which is what #tech community needs. Some years ago, Wordpress and later drag-and-drop site builders revolutionized the Web and made it possible for anyone to own a site, start their blog or internet store, without having any skills in web development.

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Raspberry Pi did a similar thing for tech enthusiasts, who did not know much coding but had great ideas they were empowered to implement with this affordable piece of hardware.

Nowadays startups keep doing similar things for every aspect of digital life: DIY app building, big data analysis, software maintenance, etc. Which is great. Technology becomes not only user-friendly but also user-centric. You no longer have to be well-versed in coding to clean up leftovers from Mac computer or create an application for your school. Most startups aim to create a friendlier and more comprehensive “skin” for amazing functions that are already there. They strive to provide concrete examples of specific implementations: hey, people, look what you can do with big data/geofencing/smartphone sensors! Look how easy it is. It’s like Wizard of Oz but in reverse. Technology incites creativity and provides tools unveiling the mystery, instead of issuing ready-made products that work their magic in an obscure and mysterious way.

VR/AR

If you saw the previous heading and thought immediately about assistive technology, you are right again, as this is always in demand. Apps and devices for the visually impaired, for instance, gained a second breath with the great comeback or AR/VR. Today small startups and big companies alike are trying to win the ground here, aiming to improve the #Quality Of Life for people with serious impairment and give them independence and better quality of life.

Of course, VR/AR for entertainment is here to stay as well. Although we have not heard anything as resonant as the last years’ AR gaming mania [VIDEO], it is simply because the technology went mainstream and the wow-effect started to wear off. Still, the hype keeps high: the number of games, 360” tours and even music videos that appeared this year is impressive. We can safely presume innovative technologies enabling creation and consumption of such content will keep emerging.

Charity

Another amazing trend is charity. Many startups – tech and non-tech alike – focus on helping disadvantaged people or at least have some charitable aspect to them. Far from being simple tech toys, they solve more than “first-world problems.” From shoes that grow together with the child to Wi-Fi distributing drones, big and small enterprises have at least one project that is not about making money, but about giving something to the world.

It is not always an invention or product. Sometimes it is an inventive and fun way of raising money for medical research, like the popular game/lottery/fundraising charity from Singapore. However, the impulse to make a difference and have a meaningful impact on the world is what lies at heart of many startups and movements today.

Unmanned systems

Some claim drones are disappearing from the sky, but then again, as with AV, it is only the wow-effect wearing off. Everyone has got one – to take selfies or to walk the dog. However, the potential of unmanned systems is not limited to amusement at family parties and low-cost aerial filming for amateur filmmakers.

Surveillance, rescuing missions during natural disasters, firefighting, and plain old delivery – to say nothing of the dark side of drone usage in a warfare. All this is less conspicuous and probably does not gain much public attention, but it is a highly perspective branch of tech.

There is a chance drones will be at the center of public attention once again. Dubai is still to launch a drone passenger service that they originally scheduled to start this July but later postponed. Still, there are other passenger drones projects. Who can say the future is not here yet?

What trends will shape the future in 2018? Is it body backing that will bring us closer to the cyberpunk reality? Or is it green technology and a return to nature? Share your prognosis in the comments!