For a futurist, the religious significance of the Christmas period and its attachment to gift-giving from lands afar is also a great time to canvas cutting edge products to see how the technological trends we like to observe are making their way into mainstream use. Here, we can explore our subservience to the consumer impulse in a way that makes us feel like we are at least putting it to some intellectual use – which is always a good way to frame asking for the latest piece of technological kit that will be obsolete by the time it is unwrapped…it’s for science!
So, in no particular order, here are ten of my favourite futurist products for 2012:
Wonderbook: Book of Spells (PS3)
I’m constantly amazed by how many people continue to dismiss the videogame sector as irrelevant. Given that it has overtaken both music and film in market share, this is not just a trend but a new cultural medium that demands attention. Combine this with the rapidly approaching augmented reality era (for better or worse) and Wonderbook: Book of Spells showcases how far augmented reality in your living room has come in the last year.
Despite having a rather embarrassing and comical showing at E3 this year – in which its flaws were more apparent than any ‘wonder’ – the reviews of the finished product show that enough progress has been made since the demo to recommend it and this really is the best way to introduce kids of all ages to the coming world of augmented reality. With the involvement of JK Rowling this becomes an obvious choice for all those Harry Potter lovers out there (judging by the book and movie takings, there’s a few of you). Now we just need to get some comfortable glasses to enhance the experience…but that’s for next year.
Project Diva F (PS Vita)
Another videogame on the list, but this one more because of its subject matter than anything else. If you haven’t come across ‘her’ before Hatsune Miku come onto the scene in 2007 with the use of a vocal synthesis technology from Yamaha. Just a few years later and we saw a holographic representation of the ‘pop star’ singing to a live crowd in a surrealist mix of futurist aesthetic and j-pop kitsch.
With word stirring that we’re soon to see an English version of the vocaloid emerge, the time is right to get acquainted with our new virtual pop overlords and embrace the wonder that is Hatsune Miku, and Project Diva F is a fun way to do so (with the PS Vita you can even have her perform on your living room table via the augmented reality capability).
Pebble E-Paper Watch
There’s countless technological wonders to be found on Kickstarter, but here’s a great one that is seeing the light of day after raising a staggering US$10million in just over a month and becoming the most successful crowdsourced funding campaign on the platform to date. Combining cutting edge technology, utility and design this product showcases the future of the trusty wristwatch – an item that many had presumed would fade out in the shadow of the smartphone but has proven once again that game-changing innovation is usually just around the corner for every category of product.
Modular Robotics Cubelets
There are many who say that the future of robotics is modular, and the Modular Robotics Cubelets is an accessible look at how this might come about…and suitable for your kids to have a play with at that! With each cube having a different function, the scope of possibility for your creations is considerable and I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with.
What I really like about a number of the entries in this list is how they allow us all to experience our technological future regardless of age or capability, and these modular cubes are a fantastic and affordable way to bring some of the wonder of futurist thinking into your home. Plus with a promotional video like this how can you go wrong!
There’s no denying that this high-end product rules the roost when it comes to cool factor. I don’t think there’s a sci-fi lover out there who’s not intrigued by the idea of driving around their very own Mechwarrior – and all for the very cheap price of 1.5million!! (plus a bit extra if you want an internal cup holder…)
The whole promotion of the product come across with a very cheesy, art project feel to it and in the end whether it’s a real consumer product or not is irrelevant as none of us will be able to afford one any time soon. But with all the worry and paranoia around an artificial intelligence doomsday scenario or singularity among certain aspects of the futurist community it’s great to see a light-hearted approach to the concept that reminds us all that, given the opportunity, we’d drive one of these around in a heartbeat.
The next wave of response from the music industry to effortless piracy must surely be to promote affordable streaming services right into your home. Sonos has been around for a few years now, but there’s no better time to jump on board the wireless, streaming music bandwagon and pick up a Play:5. The longevity of all physical entertainment media is coming to an end (unfortunately for those of us who like our retro formats…) and systems like this allow you to update your home in preparation. If you’re looking for a higher-end wireless audio experience, minus some of the immediate streaming capacity, then direct your attention to the B&W A5 system.
Possibly falling more into the practical over aesthetically astounding category of futurist products for 2012, Liquipel ™ highlights how far our manufacturing processes have become that waterproofing can now be done on a molecular level at minimal cost. Showcasing the everyday utility of nanotechnology, this is the kind of product that should become so common place in the near future as to not even require a service. Before too long, everything sensitive to water will be treated this way as standard.
Now we come to something that I’m hesitant to procure myself for obvious reasons, but it’s hard to deny that the near future of our television sets is connected and pseudo-sentient. The combination of internet connection with audio, gesture and facial recognition brings up plenty of literal comparisons to Orwell’s 1984, and the possibility for abuse of the technology is substantial. Having said this, I’m sure at some point I’m going to succumb to the allure of whatever new utility this technology brings…but it’s going to take a lot to cross that barrier for somebody who still puts a band-aid over their laptop’s webcam. You know, just in case.
Sony HMZ-T1 Virtual Headset
The heyday of virtual and augmented reality has not quite arrived, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t get a very good glimpse of the future of these products right now. Coming from Sony, the HMZ-T1 headset represents probably the best option for the everyday user that is currently available. Finally getting over issues of image latency and weight (just…), and including necessary functionality such as head-tracking, wireless and Bluetooth we’ve finally found a worthy champion to put forwards in the new era of virtual reality. Thankfully this time around we’re not relying on the likes of the Virtual Boy!
Parrot AR Drone 2.0
One of the many interesting aspects of the Occupy protests in 2011 was a battle for the skies above the New York city streets. Protesters responded to the use of surveillance drones by law enforcement by procuring their very own drone surveillance technology to monitor the monitors in a beautifully recursive display of citizen engagement. The Parrot AR Drone was the commercial product of choice, and now we’ve got a more advanced version which adds an HD camera and vastly improved functionality to allow us all to bring about the dystopian surveillance future together.
So there have it, some great futurist products for 2012 – what have I missed? Let us all know by adding a comment below!