Things to Watch in 2011

A 100-item laundry list of predictions of what will be popular in tech for the year 2011. There are some interesting trends emerging. Many items in that list are predicting a significant trend of technologies merging and going mainstream. Take for example Facebook’s growing ability to provide value to retail/e-commerce industry (big reason for Facebook enormous valuation at $50billion), e-book/tablet industry branching out to deliver education content and smarter (adaptive) learning environment, combination of growth in mobile devices and dead-simple blogging platforms increasing number of people blogging/journaling, growing area of physical goods being connected to each other and tracked…. etc. 

I am especially fascinated by the acceleration of interaction among different platforms that are taking advantage of each other’s strengths (Facebook + Bing + NYT + JCPenney + Foursquare + Groupon + Hunch). Slowly everything online is becoming personal and even the good ol’ offline world is becoming simpler to navigate and decide via technologies that connect people to their peers who are not there physically but have left a digital mark (ie review, check-in). We’re already seeing a ton of things changing how we experience them: from what articles you read online, to what music you listen to, what t-shirt or book you decide to buy in-store or online, which restaurant you pick for dinner and even how you research/browse information online.

Emergence of these hybrid services will make our world look more and more like a futuristic movie. A word of caution: while I have a fairly open view on privacy, the possibility that at some point the government will command ability to monitor every single step you take in this blurred universe of physical and virtual worlds, can make crime almost impossible – a clear hint at Minority Report. Not that crime is a good thing, but wouldn’t trying to prevent 100% of it results in death of free will? Even in George Orwell’s 1984 there was a way to avoid being constantly tracked by the “big brother”.  

Overall, I see two interesting themes starting to really take off: 

  1. Technology will accelerate the speed at which it allows us to modify real-world experience (ie. virtual mirrors that let you preview items that may not even be there in the physical world) and it will be done with unimaginable levels of personalization, which leads to the second point ->
  2. The gap between physical and digital is narrowing – 3D printing will allow to make physical goods faster, easier and cheaper. Also, we buy physical world experiences and goods through digital marketplaces like Amazon and Groupon. Or alternatively we use real world money to buy virtual good on domains like SecondeLife and Zynga’s games. 

Closing thought: when many think that all has been discovered, invented and achieved, we’re only beginning to see the possibilities, the tip of the iceberg. 

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