In the last few weeks, I’ve attended several conferences, presentations, workshops, some face to face, others virtually — you know, all of that stuff we do to keep up. Here are a few trends and products that I find interesting (and some of which my library will be supporting in their technology lab):

  • Wearables – I’ve written about wearables a bit previously (here and here). With Apple Watch launching, wearables are one of the trends to watch this year. Not only for techies, some wearable devices serve as a watch, phone, AND health monitors.  So, it is likely that our patrons are already starting to use these. For GPS watches, it might be fun to do a library tour following a map online or maybe a “walking” class using them.  If we offer playstation and gaming, why not a fitness class (with appropriate waivers, of course!)
  • POV Cameras – While Google Glass  is in limbo, GoPros continue to remain strong. Not only does GoPro now have name recognition thanks to their use in sports and heavy PR, but the variety of accessories, ease of use, rugged box (waterproof!) and low price point, make it very attractive for educational uses. Students can use GoPros to capture project or class work, faculty can use it to record classroom lectures (especially those out in the field), staff can use it to record and narrate tours, the list is endless.
  • Nearables/Beacons – Again, I’ve talked about these little Bluetooth devices that communicate with mobile devices. Recently, I’veattended presentations by museums and libraries about how they are doing tours or pushing out content using nearables. A beacon could even be put on the hours sign, providing a means for a patron to get more information or email the library. So many ideas for these little and relatively inexpensive devices.
  • 3D printing – Whoa is 3D printing huge at the moment! 3D printing is no longer limited to plastic like filament with some printers capable of printing fabric, wood, and metal (Although for metal – perhaps a laser cutter or CNC machine is not out of scope?) However, the biggest impact in 3D printing technology is the dropping price points. Will we move to a culture of make your own ___________ ? It seems likely, if prices keep dropping and printers continue to expand their variety of material.  If you are looking at 3D printing, do not forget to check out the handheld scanners. We scanned a conference attendee (yes a real person!) at a recent conference.  Libraries could use a scanner and 3D printer to replace things like pencil cups, paper clips, book ends/easels, or use them to create new items for marketing (like bookmarks). 3D printed objects can also help address accessibility issues, providing tactile experiences. Finally, 3D printing combined with opensource software (SketchUp; Thingiverse) can help faciliate invention, innovation, and problemsolving by patrons!
  • 3D digital/Virtual Reality – It depends upon who you talk to as to what 3D digital is actually called. In order to distinguish 3D digital from older 3D which is passive technology (think Creature from the Black Lagoon), 3D digital is being folded into what we think of as virtual reality. Ocolus is still around (and was purchased by Facebook earlier in the year), but there are other technologies.  Although we often think of virtual reality as being a single user immersion experience, there are technologies which are group experiences (interactive projectors like a movie theatre or virtual lab stations like Zspace); others work with mobile like the inexpensive Google Cardboard.

While there are pros/cons with accessibility, resources (bandwidth, equipment, filament, etc.), staff training, etc., it is an exciting time for libraries and educational institutions.