Tech Detoxed: Only the good bits

Friday 30 January AD2015. After a voyage to the near future (CES 2015) and deepest cyberspace, our two tech smoothies, Ross and Dan, boldly returned to a packed Pepper HQ to bring our clients the juiciest tech trends for 2015. With pips of hype filtered out, here are their ingredients for a nourishing dose of tech in the year ahead:

1. Nvidia Tegra X1: More power to your mobile

When Ross first heard of this, he spat his cornflakes all over his Mac. It’s the first mobile chip with a teraflop of processing power. For the benefit of those like me who think a teraflop sounds like a lethal Olympic dive, this is 10 times the power of a 2-year-old Mac. IN YOUR MOBILE.

 Amazing things this chip will let us do:

  • Gaze at incredible Unreal Engine graphics – it’s the equivalent of a PS4
    or Xbox One in your pocket 
  • Connect our mobiles to our work screens with full desktop functionality
  • Drive cars with HD screens instead of instrument panels and mirrors
  • Don’t drive cars at all. They can do it themselves. Commercially,
    this is still some way off. But the processing power is there!


 2. Modular mobile phones are coming soon

These are mobile phones that you pretty much put together like Lego bricks. Fun. But there’s a serious side to it. For one, you can add or remove individual elements of the phone as and when you wish – like a better lens for your camera. The hope being that these small, incremental upgrades will reduce the unnecessary costs and environmental waste associated with buying the latest smartphone every two years.

 Examples to check out:

  • Google’s Project ARA, set to be released anytime now.
  • Phonebloks. A pretty collection of cubes that was actually announced before Google, no release date as yet.
  • PuzzlePhone, allowing us to re-use old processors to run a modular computer. You could do some good and donate your old phone processor to power a computer in a developing country.


 3. Wearables: The Apple Watch 

Do we want one device that controls everything? Or many little devices controlling many little things? At the moment, you, I and everyone else prefer lots of little devices. But this is all about to change with the upcoming launch of the Apple Watch. Research tells us customisation is key to attracting people to wearable tech. The Apple Watch answers just that, with its many different strap and face combinations giving you around 2 million ways to wear it. And you can even pay for real life things in real life shops with a double click of the watch face – another key trend we see taking off this year.

The Apple Watch is coming soon. Don’t forget to set your alarm.


 4. Connected homes’ clever use of big data

Remember when Wallace (from Wallace and Gromit) wakes up, his bed lifts, tipping him through a trapdoor into the kitchen, mechanical arms clothe him and a jam shooter fires jam onto his mid-air slice of toast? Don’t expect anything like that for connected homes in 2015. Sorry. However, the likes of Nest and Hive are giving their partners access to their customers’ data, so expect to see more of the following:

  • Phillips Hue lighting. Your lights turn on when you get home – off when you leave. In the event of a fire or CO2 leak, they flash red to warn you.
  • Automatic. This plugs into the port of your car and tells your heating to turn on when you’re nearly home.
  • Kēvo. A Bluetooth lock with all sorts of smart security settings. You can unlock your front door with your smartphone and it turns your heating on when you get home.
  • Whirlpool washing machines. Using data from your energy tariff, they do your washing when your electricity is at its cheapest (off peak times, for example). 
  • Jawbone. Monitors your sleep to turn on your heating just before you wake up.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s Wallace and Gromit’s connected home.


 5. It’s all set to get a bit talky talky touchy feely 

Is this the year we can truly talk to our tech? We already have Siri. Okay Google seems to be doing more than okay. Microsoft is about to release Cortana. And Amazon Echo is in its BETA stage. It’s the Echo, at a very modest £200, that we’re particularly excited about. As a standalone product for the home, you can ask it to play your favourite song, search the internet, turn on the TV and more. Amazon are currently looking for BETA testers. You can apply online now.

On the touchy side of things, Fujitsu are working on a prototype tablet that simulates the textures of different surfaces – fun for feeling a crocodile’s scaly skin, useful for typing and playing virtual instruments. The Taptic engine for the Apple Watch uses haptic sensations to differentiate all your alerts. And Myo is a gesture control band that lets you control things like your TV, drone and Powerpoint presentation by pointing, swiping and waving your arm.

Amazon Echo.


6. Do not underestimate the importance of user experience  

4K TVs
Dan has a 4K TV. He ‘bloody’ loves it. And due to the steep price drop – you can now pick one up for £600 – we’re going to start seeing more and more of them in homes and offices in 2015. There is, however, one problem. Websites are not yet 4K compatible and therefore have a rubbish user experience – it takes Dan 3 minutes to log into Netflix. Although not critical just yet, brands don’t want to be left behind when their competitors are making apps and websites that are 4K compatible. Because people are more and more likely to switch brands due to a poor user experience.

The brand barrier killing decent apps
This year’s breakout app will most probably launch from a teenager’s musty lair. Why? Because year nines don’t have brands sacrificing user experience in return for a logo and a headache. Last year’s example was Impossible Rush, a simple yet very addictive game. It was developed by a 15-year-old from Australia. It peaked with more downloads than Vine, Google, Gmail and Twitter.

So how can brands develop successful apps? Make user experience the priority. Spend more time on making it fun, interesting and genuinely useful. And less time on ‘we need a strapline that’s gonna sell this shit’.


7. Virtual reality has come a long way

All you need to do is watch the reactions of people wearing virtual reality headsets to see just how much it’s advanced. Last year, SXSW showcased the Game of Thrones ‘Ascend the Wall’ experience that had people clinging to the nearest sturdy object and soiling their braies. The hardware used for ‘Ascend the Wall’ was Oculus Rift, which is due to be released this year. Gaming and movies are the obvious benefactors of this advancement (and porn, depending on who you speak to). But we’ve seen brands take advantage of the tech already. And we expect to see more in 2015. These include:

  • Topshop virtual reality in-store catwalk
  • Audi test drive
  • Travel agent hotel tours
  • Estate agent home tours

Game of Thrones Ascend the Wall.


To conclude

‘It is very difficult to predict – especially the future.’ Niels Bohr, physicist.

It’s impossible to know exactly what’s going to happen this year. We can tell you what tech is set to be released and what’s being developed. But predicting how people will interact with it is like trying to predict what direction a rugby ball will bounce on ploughed farmland.

What we do know is people are demanding a better experience – whether in a shop using their mobile or at home browsing the internet on their TV. So brands need to go beyond using exciting new technology just because it’s available, and focus on creating the best user experience possible.

If you’d like a more detailed rundown of our tech trends for 2015 (there’s only so much that fits in a sensibly-sized blog post), or are interested in attending a future PepperLab talk, drop Crissie Craig a line at

Content by Ross Peet and Dan Owen
Written by Dan Simpson

What did I learn talking to a hall of thirteen year olds?

I remember the phone call clearly.

‘It’s motivation week at Chase High School and we’d love it if you could spare us some time and tell the kids about your career during our year 8 assembly’.

Here I was a week later, sitting through the hub-bub and murmur of a school hall filling up with 12–13 year olds.

I had already decided what the school was after was going to be almost as boring to talk about as it was to listen to.

I made one request of myself. Whatever I presented had to either get me escorted from the building or invited back for more.

Anything in-between would be a failure.

Where do you start when it comes to motivating a school year? You certainly don’t spend too much time talking about yourself.

So after spending a minute or two on my career to date. I spent another minute or so describing life as a very average school ghost, haunting the corridors and classrooms invisible to most of my year.

Lets face it, not every kid is a jock, a chic geek or just plain cool.

With the consistent feedback filling my young ears ‘Must try harder’, I left School with little in qualifications and an overwhelming desire to design film posters.

Already I’m starting to question my ability or even my experience to make a difference to these kids.

And if you can’t make a difference (or at least you’re not going to try) then what’s the point in standing up in the first place?

So the rest of the presentation (about 15 minutes) was used as a social experiment.

I wanted to see if the stuff I believed in, loved and loathed was the same as what kids today believed in, loved and loathed.

I also wanted to know if this stuff still had any resonance with the ‘me’ right here, right now and what bearing it had on my career.

In a nutshell the answer was a resounding ‘yes’.

Speedier expectations apart, the kids of today are no different from the kids of yesterday.

We all hate going to bed and hate getting up even more.

Most of us love films.

We all love video games.

Everyone hated apples (ok, ok only a smattering of us agreed that apples are vile).

Rude words are still funny no matter how old you are.

And there was a definite leaning towards the thought that you learn as much in the playground as the classroom.

I admitted that I still dilly-dally between wanting to kiss girls or kick footballs more. That question was probably a year too soon for this bunch.

I find sad songs sadder than sad films – that was a room splitter with the majority disagreeing.

We all love pop music.

And finally we spoke about being scared of horror films but still watching them, which surprisingly quite a few agreed with. Especially at their age.

But what was the point of those questions? What did I learn?

Quite a bit was the short answer.

There wasn’t much to learn from whether they shared my hatred of apples, but it did lighten the mood.

And the whole bedtime/wake-up debacle was really just a lesson in some things just are, you just have to get on with your day, no matter how tiring.

What we did learn from my love of films, or more importantly film posters was the importance of finding something that helped carry me through school. It gave me a purpose that led me to better things. Something that double physics could never do.

A love for pop music taught me that things move on. Don’t get left behind. Horror films helped me understand things are scary but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t face them.

To kick or to kiss?

Well life is full of decisions, don’t leave them to other people and don’t worry if you get them wrong. We all do, it’s part of life. But don’t kiss footballs and kick girls. That is behaviour to be frowned upon.

Video games, well gaming can give you focus. Especially if like the younger me you’re saving up for 6 months to get a Spectrum 48k. This taught me about endurance and that great stuff doesn’t just happen straight away.

The playground taught me social skills that have been invaluable to me throughout my life.

But finally at the end of it, no matter what chances and successes I have enjoyed throughout my career, I learnt that ‘Must try harder’ wasn’t a curse or a moan.

‘Must try harder’ was in fact a way to live everyday, no matter what it might bring or how successful you are.

Andy Bolter
Creative Director