Technologies such as bots, artificial intelligence and machine learning make the big leap to become fully mainstream. Here are the top picks of what consumers can expect to see from consumer technology in the New Year.

Rise of digital assistants

Donna Wright, marketing and communications director of Microsoft New Zealand, says 2018 will be the rise of digital assistants and applications.

"At Microsoft we think about this concept of the intelligent edge, and that's fuelled by cloud technology and the proliferation of devices in our homes, around our environment, that are just creating this information and so I think that will be a significant trend from next year on definitely," Wright said.

"We'll have applications in our life which are all about making our life easier because all of this information about our world, where we're going, what we're doing, what we're using and things in our houses, it's all going to be how that data can then be used to make life easier through applications and bots."


The world of business and consumer would also begin to blur this year, Wright said.

"If you think about the millennial perspective, by 2020, 50 per cent of the workforce are going to be millennials, and by 2025, 75 per cent of the workforce is going to be mobile," she said.

"There [will be] this whole merge of people bringing their life and work together."

Digital assistant bots such as Microsoft's Cortana, Samsung's Bixby and Apple's Siri will also start to pick up in popularity, she said.

"Cortana, and artificial intelligence around that, the future is that will become your personal assistant," Wright said. "It's all about making life easier and doing things for you to help your life be better."

2017 was the year of artificial intelligence, commercially, but it is set to become a lot more consumer-focused next year, Microsoft says.

"Bots leverage artificial intelligence so they learn about what you want, how you like things to be and they learn about you as a person."

Virtual reality advances

Daniel Crayford, director of Verso VR, says virtual reality (VR) will kick off in 2018, and consumers can expect to see new innovations.

"Most people's experience of VR has been passive viewing of 360° videos via a mobile phone, but that only scratches the surface of what virtual reality can do," Crayford said. "In 2018 this will change. The growth of VR arcades, simplification of motion tracking and the introduction of lighter, untethered headsets will enable more people to experience the intensity of full immersion in virtual worlds.

"People don't want to sit there - they want to participate. Imagine standing bat-in-hand at the Basin Reserve, facing a malevolent spin bowler, hitting a six and hearing the roar of the crowd. It's something few will ever achieve – but you can do it, and feel it, in VR."

Industrial, healthcare and education sectors will benefit the most from the efficiency and efficacy of fully interactive VR, Crayford said.

Consumers will also see shift from solitary to social VR experiences in 2018.

Artificial intelligence applications

Keeping with the theme of inventions making the leap to mainstream use, Darryn Melrose, chief executive of Media Design School, said consumers would see significant use of artificial intelligence (AI) applications next year.

"This will mainly be driven by companies looking to become more efficient with their communications and customer service, and to improve their business results by being more targeted and relevant," Melrose said.

"AI and the use of algorithms and bots can not only provide better solutions for customers, but they can also spawn new types of services too.

"We are likely to see new companies emerge [next year] who can better use these public and private sources of data that are available."

Advances in cyber security and other developments are also likely to emerge from the underlying blockchain tech, he said.

Samsung New Zealand head of mobile Todd Selwyn said 2018 will be the year AI becomes relevant for consumers through the smartphone.

"In an era where there's an increasing dependence on our smartphones, intelligent learning assistants will allow us to seamlessly interact with the world around us, anticipate our needs and demonstrate how useful these AI integrations can be. For example, Air New Zealand have launched integration with Google Assistant for customer queries," Selwyn said.

"Our homes and workplaces are becoming increasingly more connected and AI will play an important role in linking all of our connected devices seamlessly."

Selwyn said the key to making virtual and augmented reality (AR) successful was ensuring that it was accessible to everyday consumers.

"The ability to capture and create VR content on smartphones and 360 cameras, coupled with VR support from social platforms like Facebook and YouTube mean that there's greater scope for consumers to engage with VR and AR."