April 30, 2015

8 Products Demonstrating the Future of Tech

A few weeks ago, New York Magazine’s Kyle Chayka asked me to share eight products that demonstrate the future of technology.

Yesterday he summarized my email reply in Product Hunt Predicts the Tech Hits of 2016 so I thought I would share my full response here.


Meerkat launched just over a month ago, immediately capturing the attention of the tech industry and several mainstream celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Tony Hawk, Jim Gaffigan, and others. Livestreaming has existed for over a decade with predecessors like Justin.tv, YouNow, and Twitch (which was recently acquired by Amazon for nearly $1B) and more recently, Twitter entered the space with Periscope.

Today, everyone has a livestreaming device in their pocket. Mobile bandwidth speeds are faster, camera quality has improved, and established social graphs like Twitter enable broadcasters to quickly find an audience on nascent platforms. But it’s also important to recognize a shift in behavior. I believe “regular” people are more willing to broadcast than before as they’ve become accustomed to sharing everyday moments on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and elsewhere. Josh Constine wrote a good piece on this shortly after Meerkat’s launch.

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes quickly became one of the most upvoted products on Product Hunt when it launched. The app connects the blind to someone with sight via their mobile phone to help them see in real-time. This is a fascinating example of how technology can be used to connect people and build empathy among strangers.


Magic’s pitch: “Text 83489 to get whatever you want on demand with no hassle.” A bold claim that has yet to be proven as a scaleable business model, Magic is one example of many on-demand virtual assistant services that use a combination of humans and machines to perform micro-tasks. These platforms have an opportunity to become a middle man between 3rd party services and API’s like Uber, Postmates, Instacart, and other on-demand services, satisfying one’s desires through a text message.


Snapchat’s launch of Snapcash came as a surprise to most people. Now its millions of photo and video-sharing snappers can quickly send people money via text. This becomes particularly interesting as it relates to the future of media and monetization for content creators. Many have tried creating a platform enable writers, video broadcasters, and other independent creators to generate revenue online through microtransactions but this model rarely works outside some niches like gaming. Snapchat’s context and movement toward media with the launch of Discover, is well-positioned to make this work for a large, mainstream audience. Notable competitors, Facebook Pay and $Cashtags by Square recently entered the market.


On-demand services like Uber, Sprig, and Instacart save us time and make life more convenient. Similarly, there’s an increasing number of services designed to simplify workflows and eliminate busywork. Clara schedules your meetings, taking on the time-consuming and frustrating process of coordinating with someone’s calendar over email. For many, it replaces much of the work of an Executive Assistant, increasing productivity and reducing possible headcount. Services that provide direct, measurable monetary ROI have a high likelihood of gaining traction and the increasing connectedness of the Internet (often through API’s) opens new opportunities for scaleable, machine-driven solutions.

Business for Messenger

Facebook recently announced Business for Messenger, giving its 600M+ monthly active users the ability to text messages businesses. Path Talk, RealTalk, Operator, and others are also in this space but there has been relatively little innovation in consumer-to-business communications. We still turn to old-fashion and inefficient phone calls that lack the convenience of asynchronous texting, personalization, historical knowledge, or flexibility of modern day messaging.


Digit is an example of an invisible app (view more in this collection) that automatically transfers money between your savings and checking account to save you money. Frugal Digit consumers simply use SMS to check the status and transfer money on-demand. Once setup, Digit doesn’t compete for attention like the overwhelming sea of apps we discover and use every day. There is no app to install or task to do. It just works.


Teleport, an app for digital nomads and those evaluating where to live, just launched. Increasingly, companies are more accepting of remote teams and thanks to tools like Slack, GitHub, and others, it’s now much easier to work anywhere in the world. This is a trend that I believe will continue as “software eats the world” and people become more accustomed to this way of working. Teleport is one of many recent products built for this lifestyle and I expect to see many more build for this mark.

More Writing by Ryan