5 of the Biggest Tech Rumours 2017!

February 1, 2017

IP in the news

If we think back 10 years ago, we were being introduced cutting-edge products such as the first iPhone, Windows Vista and Blu Ray players. We see new technologies shape our world every year, whether it’s making our environment smarter, tasks easier or ground-breaking medical discoveries. With modern components and research becoming progressively more available it is no surprise that technology is developing faster than ever before. Intellectual property plays an increasingly important role when it comes to new inventions and innovations as our world becomes more digital and intangibles become vulnerable. Therefore, to give you some inspiration we have taken the liberty of finding you the juiciest tech rumours that could be hitting the market in 2017.

Foldable Smartphones

Foldable touchscreens are of the most talked about potential transformation of smartphones in the past few months. This innovation has been forthcoming for some time since Samsung announced plans in 2011. Now that this idea is coming to life, albeit six years later, there is certainly going to be a very carefully considered race for patents. There appears to be three major players here; Samsung, Apple and Microsoft. LG and Lenovo have also been rumoured to be planning similar concepts. So, what do we know so far?

Plans for the Samsung Galaxy X have been confirmed through the recent release of a patent, found by patently mobile. The patent expresses a touch-screen fold-out device that can be altered to be either a smartphone or a tablet. Microsoft have opted for a similar approach and are attempting to file a patent (discovered by MSPoweruser) that uses a hinged display to make the same transformation. Meanwhile Apple have just been granted a patent that describes devices with a flexible display using an OLED screen, the same used in the Apple Watch. It has been hinted that Apple are aiming to bring this to the market in 2018.

As with all phone innovations we will likely see many of the big brands begin experimenting, although it is still uncertain whether this will catch on to being a standard model, or just a phase that will die out in time (RIP flip phones).

Figure 1 Apple patent (USPTO)
Figure 2 Samsung patent (Patently Mobile)
Figure 1 Microsoft patent (MSPoweruser)

Advancements in Robotics

Traditionally when we think of robots, we picture a metal figure making beeping sounds and occasionally malfunctioning. However, modern day robotics has benefitted from plenty of research that branches into all the different paths and purposes. With so many innovations arising in this field it’s difficult to focus on one area, yet we can be certain that robotics will play a huge part in shaping the worlds technology. 

In the past year, we have seen many breakthroughs. Lifelike robots have shown remarkable progress in movement, balance and speed. At present the first steps are being taken to give them the ability to hunt and even feel pain. This technology has also contributed to such things as autonomous delivery bots and self-driving cars and trains. On the medical side, we now have robot exoskeletons that can assist paralyzed people with walking, robot pharmacists and robot-assisted surgery.

Put simply, the possibilities are endless, and robots are coming. We are already seeing commercialised ‘smart-home’ products such as the Amazon Echo with the Alexa digital assistant and Google Home powered by the Google assistant. They have the look of simple Bluetooth speakers, but don’t be fooled. The always listening, voice controlled assistants can perform multiple tasks for you such as schedule events, call a taxi and adjust heating and lighting. Amazon are rumoured to not only be looking at ways of controlling more aspects of your home, but also embedding ‘Alexa’ into more products or appliances. One of the main trends throughout CES 2017 was that many of the devices announced were Alexa-supported. This included the LG smart fridge, car systems such as Ford and Volkswagen, phones such as the Huawei Mate 9, one of Samsung’s robot vacuums models and whirlpool are claiming that they intend to use the technology in many of their appliances in the coming year.

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Sony Xperia Mobile Projector

The current generation of smartphones can be used for just about anything, whether it’s to watch TV, utilise virtual reality or monitor your health. They have many functions that generally make people’s lives easier. Therefore, it is understandable why many modern inventions are constructed around these devices.

In the past, we have seen smartphone projectors of all sizes and varieties. Yet Sony’s latest version of the Xperia prototype projector, which made its first public debut at CES 2017, aims to revolutionize this market. Whilst this can carry out the same functions as a traditional mobile projector such as producing an 80-inch image onto a wall, what sets it apart from competitor models is the surface projector. It will project a screen in front of the projector onto any table or surface and uses infrared sensors to turn this image into a 10-point multi-touch screen, giving you a deployable, spill-proof, touch monitor. This gives the projector a multitude of uses, such as a method of effortlessly monitoring a child’s activities without worrying about damage to the device. The touch controls also allow pinch and zoom functions on the projected surface, allowing the user to navigate maps comfortably.

The well-functioning prototype has Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity whilst also having the ability to connect to PS4 controllers for remote navigation. This product surely outlines the future of touch-screens, but it may be a while before this reaches the market at a reasonable price. It is still very much in development so look out for more appearances from it in the coming months.

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DNA phone sequencing

Another technology attempting to be incorporated with smartphones is DNA sequencing (used to obtain the nucleotide sequence of DNA), a formerly complex procedure used for accurately identifying cancer. Swedish researchers have teamed up with UCLA to build a microscope that uses a smartphone camera to undergo this procedure.

It requires an attachment to a smartphone camera that contains laser diodes to assist the camera in fluorescent imaging. It can then distinguish fluorescent products of DNA responses in cells and tissues, a process that you would usually need to be in a well-equipped hospital to perform. This can be used for an in-depth molecular analysis on things like tumours, but from any location and for a fraction of the cost.

Smartphones have been developing so rapidly in recent years that it is no surprise the technology within them can be applied for advanced purposes. This is only the first step in utilising this technology and researchers claim there is still a distance to go before being able to roll out this technology on larger scale. However, this potentially demonstrates a new era of medical technology that can be adapted to work with smartphones.

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Amazon going Airborne

Last, but certainly not least, are the latest innovations being developed at Amazon. They have recently been approved patents for two separate inventions, one being a collective UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and the other an airborne fulfilment centre, much like a floating warehouse.

Ever since they first started selling books online to capitalise on the internet business boom Amazon have been well known for their creativeness and influence in online markets. The issue of these patents comes shortly after Amazon have been implementing their first deliveries with standard unmanned drones. This has been recognised as a clever step in providing improved delivery service, although has raised concerns about reliability.

Nevertheless, these patents show that Amazon intend to take this one step further. The first patent dubbed ‘The Megadrone’ is a modular concept where multiple UAV’s co-operate with each other to support greater burdens, or in their case deliver heavier packages. The patent describes a vehicle that can rely on the cohesiveness of the group to share resources in order to function more efficiently. The idea is also that the individual modules will be able to detach themselves from the Megadrone to complete tasks independently without compromising the movement or functionality of the vehicle.

The second patent they have had approved follows a similar theme in attempting to capitalise on the aerial delivery market. As mentioned, the patent defines an ‘Airborne Fulfilment Centre’ which is essentially a flying warehouse. It pictures a blimp-like vehicle that relies on a system of smaller airships and drones to carry out all its delivery, fuelling and supply requirements. The main purpose for this appears to be focussed area events such as festivals and sports games as a method of distributing snacks and merchandise. Whether this will be a worthwhile investment is still yet to be seen, still we can be confident this is the direction delivery services are heading.

Figure 9 Amazon Collective UAV configuration
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Figure 11 Amazon Airborne Fulfilment Centre
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