(Pocket-lint) - What's going to be the next big thing after the Internet of Things? It might be a massive trend right now, but once the standards have been cracked and every device and appliance you own is connected to the cloud and each other, eyes will be looking to the future.
Indeed, company research and developments labs are already working on exactly that, even though it seems that we're only at the beginning of the Internet of Things revolution. For consumers at least.
Intel's Genevieve Bell is already thinking about the next step.
She is an Intel fellow and vice president of Intel Labs, as well as director of User Experience Research at the company, so is clearly on the cutting edge of trying to figure out what's next.
Leading a team of social and computer scientists, interaction designers, and human factors engineers, she has a good view of the world of tech, not only from a traditional technology standpoint, but also from a humanistic stance as well.
With that in mind, we asked her what she believed was coming after the Internet of Things. And while she didn't say "killer robots" as we'd hoped, a la Terminator, robotics was actually a big element in her answer. As were virtual reality and the overall tech experience.
Of all the possible "next big things" Bell believes they will be the three main categories that will dominate future technological trends.
Job seeking, not killer robots
The first is really about how we see robots and how they will adapt and fit into our lives. We aren't talking Nexus 6 androids from Bladerunner, but more like those helpful service droids that are popular in science fiction movies, such as Star Wars, Fifth Element and iRobot. They will be doing the jobs we hate or find dull.
In reality, many of us already have robots in our houses; a robotic vacuum cleaner, for example. That number is only likely to grow further (Dyson is launching its robot vacuum cleaner later this year). And machine learning is advancing rapidly. So while your household robot might not be a cleaner per se, the concept of robots replacing menial tasks in the home and the workplace is to be expected.
"Machine learning will play a big part," explained Bell. "The robot piece becomes interesting when you don't look at androids, but about things doing things for you physically."
It's no wonder then that Google is quietly buying up robotic and artificial intelligence start-ups around the world. Companies like Intel are investing heavily in the area too. But while it might seem exciting to have your housework done by a mechanoid, there are some that highlight potential issues too. Bell points towards research by management company McKinsey that will make some stand up and panic.
According to McKinsey anywhere up to 140 million full time jobs could be replaced by cognitive computing by 2025, with an economic impact of $5 - $7 trillion (£4.6 trillion).
Robots might not kill you, therefore, but they might steal our jobs.
The second theme that could be significant is virtual reality, although Bell thinks it could just be a flash in the pan based on the excitement of the industry at the moment.
The anthropologist believes that the interesting play here is the content and gaming aspect, but acknowledged that we've been talking about VR for a long time and there are worries over the fact that it still hasn't taken off.
From the early Hollywood versions seen in films like Lawnmower Man to more recent examples, such as the head-up displays in Tony Stark's Iron Man helmet, the studios' love affair with VR has fuelled technology companies' eagerness to make it a reality. But while they have been in development for several years now, Oculus Rift, Sony Morpheus and the rest are still to bring the concept to market for consumers. At least in significant fashion.
Perhaps the most interesting response from Bell about future tech trends is that rather than a completely new genre, the Internet of Things will mutate into something far bigger.
"What do you do with the data?" mused Bell over the current application of the Internet of Things. "How you can go about the next making sense of the data?"
Basically, if you can create algorithms that use the data gleaned from connected devices in a meaningful fashion, the future looks exciting.
We aren't just talking about enhancing and developing the simple recommendation algorithms used by services like Netflix, where when you watch something it recommends something you'd also like. Nor are we talking about enabling Amazon to give you better "also buy this" results. The future of tech that will influence each and every one of our lives will rely on systems that use data that is already being created. It is about how that data can reveal our wants needs and daily routines. And be used to improve our lives in a good way.
"I'm not convinced what is the next big thing is an 'object', it is increasingly about experiences," said Bell.
She has a strong point, after all, we love our phones because they do something for us, not simply because of the phone itself. It will be the companies that can capture and deliver experiences above and beyond what is on offer now that will win in the long run. It's all well and good knowing how far you ran, what you ate for tea or how many times you've flushed your toilet today. It is about how the devices you subsequently use improve those activities.
Bell summed it up nicely. "The interesting question isn't what's next, it is what we can do with what we've got right now," she said.