Technology has invaded every facet of our lives, with Apple launches becoming a sort of quarterly Super Bowl for our tech fetishism. But as we lurch ever forward into more of a science fiction present, here are three of the biggest winners in the crowded technology field from this past year.
It is a company that has been around for almost a decade, but Netflix’s star continues to rise. With the addition of original content, massive worldwide expansion and the rush of other companies attempting to emulate its model with other media such as music and books, Netflix has become a powerhouse of an entertainment company with considerable influence.
Regular broadcasters are watching, and seeing a powerful competitor that they need to copy and compete with. By making on-demand streaming a viable choice for many consumers, it’s forcing the transition from traditional means of scheduled watching to new consumption models. The company just released a study saying that Canadians binge-watch TV shows even more than our American counterparts.
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Sure, the company will have its detractors — its library isn’t that great, especially in Canada — but in a world where all broadcasters are going to eventually have to join the stream, being the first and best known gives Netflix a huge advantage for the future.
This was the year that crowdfunding broke — in both the best and worst sense of the word. Kickstarter came to Canada, joining Indiegogo as the two best-known crowdfunding platforms to help passionate entrepreneurs bring new stuff to market.
We also saw the first wave of many of last year’s huge successes make it to market, like the Pebble Watch and Ouya, the first Android-based game console. Early reviews, particularly for the latter, were not very kind. Perhaps the lesson is that there is a big divide between what sounds like a good idea and a final, consumer-ready product.
Still, in an age when software has been king, crowdfunding is responsible for a new home-brewed hardware boom, which is a good thing, and creating a new wave of inventors. Several other crowd-funded products will be getting into people’s hands in 2014, and we will start to see the first wave of crowd-funded media, like the much hyped Veronica Mars movie. Crowd funding is still nascent, but it needs more successes to prove itself as a truly great way to get new products into consumers’ hands. In the meantime, it sure is fun to watch.
The smart watch is here. Google Glass and several other heads-up display competitors are on their way. Smart socks, bras and many more wearable computing devices have been announced, with only more to follow.
Bring on the new wave of wearable devices that will help monitor, manage and hopefully improve many aspects of our daily lives. It is starting with fitness trackers, like Nike’s Fuelband or Fitbit’s Force. There is also the Mio, a watch that can monitor a wearer’s heart rate.
Samsung launched the Galaxy Gear, becoming the first big manufacturer to release a smart watch, and despite only working with select phones, the company said it shipped 800,000. Sony has followed suit. Watches that hook up to phones are a good sign that we’re entering the science-fiction future we’ve been waiting for, even if the results are not all that revelatory just yet.
But it’s a step. Google Glass brings us closer to an augmented reality future. Just as we’ve become comfortable with our phones being our computers, the next wave is our jacket, tie, belts and everything else weaving technology even further into the fabric of our lives.