Through a pessimistic lens, 2013 looked like the dystopian future we’ve been warned about. We learned the NSA can spy on our every word, right as Google shared a breakthrough product that could put a camera and microphone on everyone’s face. Amazon wanted to replace UPS with autonomous drones, but the humans who weren’t downsized would soon be driven door to door by an emasculating robot chauffeur. So what will 2014 bring? Frog design expects that this is the year of technological kickback, when privacy goes mainstream and we take the reins on our own quantified self, when artists tame 3-D printers and we learn to unplug. And yes…when drones, driverless cars, and the digital dragon that is China rise to change our economy, and our lives, forever.
The age of indiscriminate sharing on social networks is rapidly changing. In 2013 we learned of NSA leaks, privacy debacles, and massive inquiries into our digital lives. Simultaneously, a social platform based on transmitting communications with minimal digital tracks was valued at $4 billion. This isn’t a coincidence; scrutiny is playing an important role in how we sculpt our digital personas. In 2014 we’ll see an influx of platforms catering to a digital experience grounded in anonymity. The rise of “The Snapchats” is going mainstream.–John Leonard, Adam Silver, and Carlos Elena-Lenz
Autonomous, miniature flying machines are nothing new. But they are more common than ever before. Soon, advancements in drone technology will make the sky a place ripe for innovation, leading to a proliferation of airborne applications. The design implications are huge, from the drones themselves down to the ecosystems that support them.–Adam Pruden, Eric Boam, and Carlos Elena-Lenz
You will step into a library and disconnect. The theater will hush and your GPS will shut off. The dark zone in your home will allow you to sink into a chair, web-free, and muse. Faraday Zones, as frog strategist Timothy Morey calls them, will become a ubiquity in 2014. From these dodgy origins, they will find mainstream acceptance on trains, planes, and automobiles, as well as certain public spaces such as libraries and cinemas. Back-to-nature resorts and vacation spots will pile on, offering the opportunity to be “beyond reach.”–Timothy Morey
In 2014, the world will discover WeChat. With its user base of 300 million and an innovative offering, including instant messaging, group chat, content sharing, payments, and e-commerce, WeChat has evolved from a messaging application to a truly integrated mobile Internet platform. Not only will they unseat Facebook, WeChat will also disrupt the enterprise communications, financial services, and retail industries on a large scale. —Steve Boswell
If someone from the 1500s came to us now and looked at what technology has enabled us to do, they’d think we were superhuman. In 2014, we’ll make even greater advancements. Our ability to control objects with our minds will be within reach as more companies look toward experiences that directly harness electrical signals from our brain. —Kenji Huang
Technology has always helped us solve problems and extend our potential. Until now our technological tools were external add-ons, largely separate from our bodies. Today they are evolving on a new path integrating with our physiology; we are “hacking” the human body and the senses. Wearable technology, such as Google Glass, is an example of the first generation of consumer products that is changing the way we think about technology extending our potential. But it’s only the beginning: system-powered exoskeletons, and bionic arms, feet, and eyes, are the next phase. —Antonio De Pasquale
Our cars will tuck themselves into a driveway or garage with precision, leading to the convenience of being able to begin the ritual exit of the vehicle–gathering belongings, checking smartphones, looking for sunglasses–early. Self-driving cars are on the horizon in 2014, with practical elements like self-parking paving the way.
Everything around us is getting smarter. As the Internet of Things becomes ubiquitous, smart technology will move beyond “practical” uses (medical, fitness, security, etc.) and into more subjective, artistic scenarios. Riding the wave of connecting sensors, devices, and people, digitally augmenting live music performances will enhance the audience experience and deliver more entertainment value. —Robert Tuttle
The technology we use creates an abundance of data. That “digital exhaust” can take myriad forms, from descriptive data to data about product use and compatibility. In 2014, the quality and richness of this data will be the most refined and top-notch it has ever been. —Patrick Kalaher
At a time when every new piece of tech or service seems to be an app or digital entity, we’re craving the tangible. Nike is a leader in reviving craft and skill, by combining advanced materials and 3-D printing. Next year will fundamentally change the way we think of mass-produced objects, with the rise of emotionally driven customizations and stylized “imperfections.” —Mark Wheedon
For years it was a common industry belief that very few people would shell out more than $100 for a pair of headphones. Then Beats by Dre dropped in and recalibrated an industry. They showed the world that people were willing to pay for a premium design and bass heavy sound all wrapped in an outstanding aspirational brand. Industries are waking up to the fact that people are eager to purchase products at prices never before considered, provided those products deliver excellent design and user experience. Good design involves envisioning a product and user experience from the ground up. For disruptive companies that can do that effectively, the sky’s the limit. —Cormac Eubanks
San Francisco startup Uber has led the revolution of personal transportation: Click to order, and minutes later your personal, quality-checked driver arrives, with the payment taken care of behind the scenes. 2014 will see this “on-demand” model extend across other personal services, from home maintenance to dog walking. Appliance repair person? Your device says they’re only three minutes away. —Michael Robertson
With companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter making billions of dollars from what is essentially aggregated and analyzed user data, there will be a counter-movement of user-controlled data ownership (and even user-controlled data monetization) growing stronger over time. To quote a colleague here, ”If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer–you’re the product being sold.” 2014 will be the year of data reclamation! —Annie Hsu
How long you slept and how fast you ran won’t be the only quantified elements of your life. Quantifying your time at work will become the norm: How, when, and where you spend your time at work will be automatically captured and translated into timesheets, project management software, and analytics dashboards. Expect debates about privacy rights and coercive versus caring uses of the technology–Clint Rule
Device manufacturers are primarily focusing their innovation on the high-volume mobile device market and the booming sales numbers of smartphones and tablets. But these consumption/communication-optimized devices aren’t a good replacement for the PC when it comes to creation and productivity tasks. And yet no one is investing in its future. A reinvigorated interest in computing tools to make things will be news in 2014. —Tjeerd Hoek