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AI will be hot in 2017

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be a central theme for 2017, according to the sixth edition of  Ericsson Consumer Lab’s annual trend report, The 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2017 and beyond.

Consumers see AI playing a much more prominent role than before – both in society and at work. In fact, 35 percent of advanced Internet users want an AI advisor at work, and one in four would like an AI as their manager.

These are the 10 trends for 2017 and beyond, according to the new report:

1.    AI Everywhere: 35 percent of advanced internet users want an AI advisor at work, and one in four would like an AI as their manager. At the same time, almost half are concerned that AI robots will soon make a lot of people lose their jobs.

2.    Setting the Pace for Internet of Things: Consumers are increasingly using automated applications, encouraging IoT adoption. Two in five believe smartphones will learn their habits and perform activities on their behalf automatically.

3.    Pedestrians Drive Autonomous Cars: Car drivers may not exist in the future. One in four pedestrians would feel safer crossing a street if all cars were autonomous, and 65 percent of them would prefer to have an autonomous car.

4.    Merged Reality: Almost four out of five virtual reality users believe VR will be indistinguishable from reality in only three years. Half of respondents are already interested in gloves or shoes that allow you to interact with virtual objects.

5.    Bodies Out of Sync: As autonomous cars become reality, car sickness issues will increase, and three in ten foresee needing sickness pills. One in three also want motion sickness pills for use with virtual and augmented reality technology.

6.    The Smart Device Safety Paradox: More than half already use emergency alarms, tracking or notifications on their smartphones. Of those who say their smartphone makes them feel safer, three in five say they take more risks because they rely on their phone.

7.    Social Silos: Today, people willingly turn their social networks into silos. One in three says social networks are their main source of news. And more than one in four value their contacts’ opinions more than politicians’ viewpoints.

8.    Augmented Personal Reality: Over half of people would like to use augmented reality glasses to illuminate dark surroundings and highlight dangers. More than one in three would also like to edit out disturbing elements around them.

9.    The Privacy Divide: Two in five advanced internet users want to use only encrypted services, but people are divided. Almost half would like to have just reasonably good privacy across all services, and more than one out of three believes privacy no longer exists.

10.  Big Tech for All: More than two out of five advanced internet users would like to get all their products from the biggest five IT companies. Of those, three in four believe this will happen only five years from now.

Reflecting on the rise of virtual reality, Michael Björn, Head of Research, Ericsson ConsumerLab, says: “Beyond real time, I believe we should be talking about reality time. In fact, what we call reality becomes ever more personal and subjective. Consumers not only surround themselves with the like-minded on social networks, but also are also starting to customize the way they experience the world with augmented and virtual reality technologies.

“Consumers also want the future to remain fully mobile, implying that demand for battery-friendly, instant and fast connectivity is set to grow rapidly. In that sense, reality time means it is time for 5G networks.”

The insights in the 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2017 report are based on Ericsson ConsumerLab’s global research activities over more than 20 years, as well as data points from an online survey of advanced internet users in 14 major cities across the world, performed in October 2016. Although the study only represents 27 million citizens, their early adopter profile makes them important to understand when exploring future trends.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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