2014 NMC Horizon Report – Higher Education Edition

Posted by Hugh on February 6, 2014 in Annotated, References, Trends in eLearning |

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.


The Horizon Report is an internationally recognised report that identifies and describes emerging technologies. The research is done online amongst a panel of 53 experts in many fields including education and technology.

This report identifies key trends, significant challenges and important developments for technology in Higher Education. In the trends category it lists key drivers that will effect change in the next one to two year, three to five years and five or more years. In the significant challenges category it lists challenges that are solvable, difficult and wicked i.e. need a lot of work. The important developments look at the time-to-adoption horizon and which technologies will be adopted in  the next one to two year, three to five years and five or more years. There is a significant amount of information in this report and due to word count restriction I will only look at Virtual Assistants as I have based my three minute video project on this area.

Virtual [Digital] Assistants are voice or gesture recognising tools that help users to interact with technology hands free. The devices need to employ a certain level of artificial intelligence to allow interaction. Devices are increasing including speech recognition tools that activate functions, such as Apple’s SIRI – Android’s   JellyBean – Google Now, allowing users to leverage a conversational interface.  These applications use a voice controlled widgets that track users suggestions over time and can tailor recommendations based on them, such as mapping request that will avoid tolls if that is the normal. Several other systems are analysed in an article published in Information Today (Aquino, 2012).

The artificial intelligence argument is linked to an article that states it will only be truly intelligent what it can not merely respond to request but can also make decisions  (Bajarin, 2014). The example used was when two calendar events are entered for meetings that the device knows the time in-between straddles lunch time and suggests suitable venues en route between the two locations.

I believe that for the digital assistant to be able to replace the real life Virtual Assistant it will require a lot of technological advancements and believe it will be significant more than five years. However the Gartner Hype Cycle for emergent technologies for 2014 states Virtual Assistants will take between two to five years to plateau which concurs with this report.

I have a smartphone but do not use these features. However I also have an XBOX with the Kinects sensor which allows both voice and gesture recognition to perform functions such as navigating menus and even playing games. I was interested in the reference to Microsoft’s Richard Rashid demonstration of an interface that not only recognises his speech and converts to text but then translates that into Mandarin Chinese. Both the translation system and the XBOX system are built on Microsoft connect platform.


Aquino, J. (2012). Virtual Assistants Enter the Enterprise. Information Today Inc, 16, 30-33.

Bajarin, B. (2014). Tech Finds Its Voice: The Future of Virtual Assistants. Time.com.



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