21st Century Technologies that are Yet to Boom
In just one decade, smartphones have spread at the speed of the flu virus all over the world. Today, more than half of the world’s population uses a smartphone, and almost half of the world’s internet traffic comes from these multi-functional, pocket-sized supercomputers. Smartphones had an enormous impact on society – today, we are far more connected than ever thanks to smartphones, and they are also to thank for the fast evolution of mobile broadband connections. Back when the first smartphone – the iPhone – was presented a decade ago, it was credited as being the “next big thing” by the ever-enthusiastic tech media, and indeed, its spread and growth was spectacular. Over the years, there were quite a few other products that received the same praise by the same media, yet they failed to achieve the widespread success of the smartphone – at this point, at least. Let’s take a look at a few technologies that have been credited as being a significant innovation yet failed to achieve the mainstream status of the smartphone today.
Pebble Technology’s innovative product, the Pebble – a smartwatch with an e-ink display – was a crowdfunded project that was surprisingly successful. Its Kickstarter campaign is, to this day, the most successful ever recorded, raising over $10 million in 2012. Its success prompted other companies, such as Apple, LG, Google, Microsoft, and Qualcomm to invest in the development of such wearable devices, prompting the media to call 2013 “the year of the smartwatch.” Software developers were also quick to jump the bandwagon: we’ve seen the release of many smartwatch apps, from the first smartwatch casino to various games and other useful and entertaining pieces of software. Yet smart watches never reached the popularity of the smartphone. While they still have a dedicated fan base, and their sales are slowly growing, they never became the “next big thing.” Last year, only 21.1 smart watches were sold on the global market. Smart watch sales are slowly growing – soon, they might become as widespread as smart phones. But they are unlikely to see an explosion like smartphones have in the last decade.
When Oculus made its debut on Kickstarter in 2012, everybody rejoiced the return of virtual reality to the market. It took the company years to produce its first commercial model, released in 2016. Over these years, everyone – especially the media – was really excited about the possibilities of the product, and many companies were quick to jump the bandwagon, either developing their own VR hardware or software for the brand new platform. Yet when it comes to sold units, VR has proven not to be the big hit everyone expected it to be. Samsung’s untethered Gear VR (that needs a smartphone to function) was the most popular choice for users, with over 4.5 million units sold last year, followed by PlayStation VR with 0.75 million, HTC Vive with 0.42 million, Google Daydream VR with 0.26 million, and Oculus with 0.24 million, with total shipments of VR headsets reaching 6.3 million in 2016. Those who expected VR to boom like smartphones did back in the day were disappointed – yet all hope is not lost. Despite what enthusiasts kept saying, VR was never meant to be a sprint but a marathon. An analyst compared the state of the VR market to that of the pre-iPhone smartphone market: there is yet to be a product that will boom before the technology gets widespread acceptance. And this time might be closer than we think.