Predicting future consumer trends is a helpful strategy for designing new inventions. It’s about as easy as inventing a personal computer; however, which is why we don’t encounter innovative minds such as Steve Jobs’ every day. Luckily, we can learn from examples like his and attempt to predict future consumer trends by keeping our knowledge of new and emerging technologies current.

In an article published on the Technology Review website, online editor, Will Knight, explores some possibilities about what might come after the touch screen. In order to do this, he cites examples of new technologies for computer interaction, which were showcased at this week’s ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Massachusetts.

Knight exhibits how learning about new technologies can enable everyday inventors to envision the future. As an example, he highlights a new interface, called Digits, which combines a motion sensor, an infrared light and a camera into one compact device that can be worn around the wrist. It functions like Microsoft’s motion-sensing device for the Xbox Kinect, allowing for accurate control of complex computer games, but it’s portable. This portability feature, which allows for a broader application of the technology, may provide “a glimpse into the future of mobile computing,” writes Knight. In fact, several teams at the conference exhibited various modifications of existing mobile interfaces based on new technological capabilities, of which there are many.

Highlighting some of the most interesting and promising examples, Knight provides details about a new design that makes a flat piece of ordinary glass feel as though it has physical buttons and sliders with actual resistance. Another project developed a way for devices to recognize the swipe and press action of specific people. A malleable touch screen that bends and transforms under finger pressure is another, almost unbelievable, new reality.

Without knowledge of these new technologies and mobile capabilities, the market remains stagnant and it becomes difficult for inventors to generate new ideas for products. On the other hand, by closely following these new discoveries and ideas, inventors may envision how they can be utilized in new products or innovations, thus predicting future trends. A wide knowledge of these new technologies also allows an inventor to imagine other technological achievements that may be possible, thus keeping ahead of others by predicting the future.

Before the iPhone, motion and touch sensor screens would have seemed virtually impossible to most people. And yet, these technologies were not discovered and integrated by accident. By keeping your knowledge of new technologies current and actually using that information to make predictions, it becomes more possible to anticipate successful new product ideas and, hopefully, come up with some of your own.

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