Virtual reality (VR) has gotten unbelievable buzz this year, primarily thanks to the long-awaited rollout of Oculus Rift goggles. The hardware, along with the games and experiences that launched with them, are indeed terrific—but VR is still crazy-expensive.
Sure, the $600 price tag affixed to the Rifts sounds sort of reasonable, but those glasses require exceptionally powerful home computers to run them—the kinds that only hardcore gamers would have. So what seems like a $600 investment is more on the order of $1,500 once all is said and done. The same is true for the HTC Vive VR goggles (shown above), which are highly competitive with the Rifts.
Just wait. Within a few years, the hardware will come down in price while it goes up in capability. In particular, next-generation goggles will be smaller, less obtrusive, and generate wider fields-of-view than current iterations. (You do still tend to feel as though you’re looking through small tubes in the Rift and Vive.)
And the nature of the VR experience will evolve. Gaming can only carry the industry so far—there will need to be original, engaging, and flat-out stunning visual experiences (like movies) to support the medium.
Once that happens and the appeal broadens, the gear will become even more accessible, whether in home use or commercial experiences in dedicated VR theaters.
Yes, they’re here—predominantly in the Tesla Models S and X—but they remain expensive (prices starting at $70,000 and $80,000, respectively) and only marginally appealing to the average consumers.
Even the two electric cars that claim to be for the mass market—the forthcoming Tesla Model 3 (shown above) and the Chevy Bolt—will exceed $30,000. But once those prices come down to the $20,000 to $25,000 range, and once the charging infrastructure is faster and more ubiquitous, they’ll truly start to draw more eyes.
In fact, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that the electric-vehicle market will consume 35 percent of new car sales by 2040. With the continued widespread adoption of hybridization—even among the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, and McLaren—it’s a pretty good bet your own car will be at least “electrified,” if not fully electric, in 10 years.
While electric vehicles are huge investments with complicated infrastructure demands, electric scooters and skateboards (like those from Boosted, shown above) are the precise opposite—affordable, long-range, wildly practical, and readily adaptable to a variety of lifestyles.
Compact electric scooters, such as those from Uscooter and EcoReco, allow you to hop all around town (at up to 20 miles per hour) without paying for public transit or having to park your car.
Prices are in the $1,000 range for all of these, but they’ll come down—and if you replace vehicular or transit options with the tech, it’ll likely pay for itself in less than a year.
Tesla’s battery manufacturing facility, the Gigafactory in Nevada, is starting to manufacture batteries for its cars, which will bring down the pricing for electric vehicles. The collateral benefit, of course, is that more and better batteries available at more affordable prices will mean the technology will also grow in other areas.
Battery-powered generators (for camping trips, tailgating, and other mobile-power needs) will be more appealing than gasoline-powered generators—the Generatr 1200 from EnerPlex, for instance (shown above), can already be charged via solar panels and operate televisions and refrigerators—and home-power stations such as Tesla’s own Powerwall will keep juice flowing during power outages at home.
By some accounts, Apple’s long-awaited Watch was met with tepid response from consumers. On the other hand, the company’s revenues have skyrocketed since the product’s launch in 2014.
As Apple improves its own Watch—the new operating system is coming this fall—its competitors are continuing to hone their products. Fossil, Vector, Nixon (shown above), and Huawei are in the game hard with no sign of letting up.
So 5 years from now, as the second-gen products more seamlessly sync up with your digital world, we expect to see smart watches on everyone’s wrist.
Will you have a 3D printer like the one from Makerbot (shown above) sitting in your den, ready to churn out chess pieces and replacement parts for your dishwasher? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be using the technology in other ways.
Eventually, 3D printing technology will be available locally through retailers. In fact, Staples and the UPS Store have already begun offering the service. It’s something you may use just a few times a year, but when you do, it will be an unbelievably convenient and cool experience—just shoot over the file for what you need, then go pick it up when it’s ready.
Recently, Tesla has had a few high-profile accidents centered on its semi-autonomous drive technology—extremely isolated incidents, and not necessarily fully investigated yet—and Mercedes is taking heat for confusing aspects of its own semi-autonomous drive system in its new E-Class sedan (shown above).
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Autonomous driving, however, remains an unbelievably important—and completely unstoppable—milestone not only in automotive tech, but also in aviation, shipping, public transport, and trucking.
Pilot programs are already underway to advance semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicular technology across the board—not just in vehicle control, but in advanced sensing and decision-making—and it’s safe to say that within a decade, you’ll be using it in some form or another.
Yes, Google and Amazon are developing drones that will be able to deliver products within minutes of an order being placed. But there are lots of bugs to work out—like how to do this safely and how to actually deposit the product.
Our money is on a strategy like the pilot program DHL (shown above) recently implemented: a station-to-station autonomous drone delivery program in the German Alps. Customers come up to a robotic base station, insert their package, and it’s automatically loaded onto a vertical-lift drone that converts to a fixed-wing aircraft that can fly 5 miles over the mountains, in mixed weather conditions, to a matching base-station in another town.
Google Glass flopped big-time when it landed a few years ago. That’s partially because the augmented-reality glasses looked supremely dorky, and also because the company rolled out the glasses to tech-hipsters instead of people who could see immediate benefits to the tech, like pilots, military personnel, and doctors.
But augmented reality—systems that overlay digital data on real-world scenes, as opposed to the completely computer-generated virtual reality—is going to come back, first with Microsoft’s Hololens system (shown above). The recent, startling success of Pokemon Go shows that this tech can indeed capture our imaginations—if it’s done right and done well.
Right now, our long-awaited army of robotic man servants remains limited to small vacuums. Five or 10 years from now, there’s no guarantee that things will get that much better—but there’s also no guarantee that they won’t.
Just as Pokemon Go generated a surprise impact, robotics is ripe for one as well. Will we have robots patrolling our houses or watching our kids? Possibly—we already have them zipping around warehouses and keeping an eye on parking garages.
But the other thing to remember is that robots don’t have to be mobile, either. They can be stationary, like the laundry-folding bot being developed by FoldiMate (shown above), which could be available next year for $850.
And if you want a walking, talking buddy who you can arm-wrestle and you’ll put away the dishes? Ten years, max!