Printers are for toys, not newspapers: 20 predictions for 2013

The design experts over at frog design have taken a look at the current accessibility of broadband, cheap electronics, tablets and the rise of 3-D printing and see a new world that we might recognize from science fiction, but is really just a year away. The firm released its 20 tech trends for 2013 on Thursday, and the surprise for me is how many of these things I already see happening and how many of them are familiar form my teenage (and yes, current) reading.

For example, the trend report says that the rise of 3-D printing will bring about a new re-mixing culture that enables real customization at the individual level of any device or product. It also will lead to a rise in more small-time, on-demand manufacturing operations. On the device side, things like tablets replacing the printed word in magazines and books may draw some criticism while the idea of ubiquitous facial scanning and image recognition may creep others out. Smarter smartphones that can be biometrically secured by scanning a fingerprint might be welcome for making mobile payments actually happen, while the idea of driverless cars will begin fundamentally changing how our society is developed.

Some of the trends are a bit silly, such as the idea of our mobile devices “developing a patina,” which the author explains isn’t a physical patina like a worn cover of a book or the softening of leather over time, but a digital patina that is composed of a “layered interaction model of touch,voice and gesture.” Others, like putting a human face on computing beg for longer and more detailed write ups. But either way, the report is a fun read. If you printed these on cards and used them as conversation starters among the TED-set I bet it would lead to fascinating conversations — and probably a startup idea or two.