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The University of Alabama

Educated Guesses 2014

EduGuesses2014_largeFor the 33rd consecutive year, The University of Alabama’s Office of Media Relations offers predictions from faculty experts for the coming year. While these “educated guesses” don’t always come true, our track record over the years has been good.

So, what’s ahead for 2014? Look for an “augmented reality” social media craze, sports concussions to prompt federal legislation, luxury plug-in hybrids to accelerate, plant-based diets to strengthen, the NSA controversy to increase mobile phone encryption … and more.

MySpace Returns, AR Social Media Use to Spike 
Facebook turns 10 in 2014, and Twitter shows few signs of slowing its growth. But what will be new — or not-so-new — in social media for 2014? “Believe it or not, MySpace is back,” says University of Alabama advertising and public relations instructor Randall Huffaker. “Love or hate it, it will grow; Instagram and Snapchat will only get bigger. But the biggest social media movement in 2014 will be in “augmented reality,” from apps like Junaio and Aurasma, which puts the power of AR in individual’s hands; to medical AR apps, which enable surgeons to see inside the body before/during surgery; to military apps, which manipulate AR for enhanced views/terrain details, and so forth; to Playstation 4, which has integrated AR as plain old fun activities for kids. BMW and Audi are both testing ARs that work with car windshields to assist the driver with traffic and weather reports. Ultimately Google Glass is bringing augmented reality to a personal level, bringing our experience up and away from the smartphone to the world around us.”
Contact: Randall Huffaker,, 205/535-9470

Luxury Plug-in Hybrid Cars Takeoff in 2014
Makers of premium luxury cars will introduce plug-in hybrid vehicles with the performance consumers expect from top-of-the-line autos coupled with better fuel economy than the most-heralded green compact cars in 2014, says Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian, a University of Alabama professor with joint appointments in mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering. On average, a car could achieve 60-80 mpg on a 2.5 ton car with a top speed of 150 mph, he says. “They will have acceleration better than a Ferrari with the fuel consumption better than a Toyota Prius,” he says. “Is this having your cake and eating it too? You bet! Only the cake is a bit more expensive.” Balasubramanian, who is also executive director of UA’s Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies, was vice president of group research and advanced engineering at Daimler AG, responsible for product innovations and process technologies, before coming to the UA College of Engineering in fall 2012.
Contact: Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian, via Adam Jones in media relations,, 205/348-6444

Sports Concussions to Prompt Federal Legislation
Concerns over children suffering concussions while playing sports, particularly football, will prompt federal legislation in 2014, a University of Alabama expert predicts. Laws to prevent children from returning to a game or practice after showing signs of concussion already exist in 49 of 50 states, and the federal government soon will try to unify those rules, says Dr. James Robinson, endowed chair of sports medicine in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences. “If children show signs of a concussion, they should not go back into practice or a game until they’re cleared by a medical professional,” Robinson says. Robinson notes that most experts recommend limiting hitting in football practice for young athletes to two days a week, out of concern for children’s maturing brains, particularly among those younger than 13 or 14.
Contact: Dr. James Robinson,, 205/348-4804

Slip Dresses among Fashion Resurgences in 2014
It looks like the coming year will take fashion back to the future … or at least to the ’90s. If designs from the spring 2014 fashion month are any indicator, logo mania and slip dresses will have a resurgence, says Brian Taylor, an instructor in the department of clothing, textiles & interior design in The University of Alabama College of Human Environmental Sciences. Next year will be a year for longer skirt and dress lengths, fringe, sheer fabrics and floral appliqués. Influences from the sports and gym will also continue to be popular, as well as crop tops, metallics, pants worn under dresses, mixing florals with plaids and words/slogans splashed across sweatshirts, tees, jackets and dresses. Popular prints that may make an appearance include ginghams, bandana prints, artistic paintings, polka dots and Hawaiian florals, with neutrals, black and white combinations, yellows, blues and lavenders being the colors of choice, Taylor adds. Look for brands to mix pastels with bright saturated colors, a fresh approach to spring color combinations. As for shoes, expect a highly decorated flat sport sandal – an update to the 1990s version – to become fashionable.
Contact: Brian Taylor,, 205/348-6020

3-D Printing More Available, Widespread Consumer Use Still a Few Years Away
Additive manufacturing, commonly called 3-D printing, will be more available to those outside of research and industrial applications as prices on printers drop, but 3-D printers will not be a must-have product for consumers in 2014, predicts Dr. Andrew Graettinger, director of The University of Alabama 3-D Printing Lab and associate professor in the department of civil, construction and environmental engineering. “We’re seeing really nice printers come down in price, but it’s not quite there yet for the general consumer,” Graettinger says. Stores are carrying 3-D printers for as low at $2,000, and tech-savvy people who need them for projects will continue to be early adopters, he says. Still, it is a few years, at least, before quality printers are inexpensive enough for most people to have. “Household printing is going to take more time to take off, but we may see some stores offering 3-D Printing services in the coming year,” Graettinger says.
Contact: Dr. Andrew Graettinger, director of the UA 3-D Printing Lab,, 205/348-1707

Pressure to Change Name Will Grow, but ‘Redskins’ Remain Resolute
One of the hottest topics in professional sports in 2013 has been the name of Washington’s National Football League team. With many sources pressuring team owners, could 2014 see a name change? “My guess would be that the Redskins do not change their name in the next year, but that pressure will build as some other entities will choose to change their Native-American oriented names,” says Dr. Andrew Billings, a University of Alabama professor of telecommunication and film and director of the Alabama Program in Sports Communication. “Debate over the Redskins name will be higher than ever a year from now, but I don’t see change coming until economic interests are threatened, which will happen, but will take some additional time.”
Contact: Dr. Andrew Billings,, 864-650-8900

Film Industry to Increasingly Look to Georgia
With big-name movies and television shows now choosing to shoot outside of California, the decentralization of the film industry almost seems inevitable. But Dr. Glenda Cantrell Williams, chair of The University of Alabama’s telecommunication and film department, says to expect a big swing in 2014. “Next year, I foresee 80 percent of television dramas being shot outside of Los Angeles,” Williams says. “Production will also migrate toward the sunny South, away from Vancouver and New York. I believe Georgia will become the most production-heavy state outside of California. They have great incentives, good climate, a solid crew base, and a film office that recruits. Louisiana is still slightly ahead of Georgia right now, North Carolina is doing great, and Mississippi just passed new incentives and is starting to recruit. The state of Alabama has a good incentives program, and could also reap the benefits of the decentralization.”
Contact: Dr. Glenda Cantrell Williams,, 205/348-6350

Plant-Based Diet Trends to Strengthen
Next year will prove to be another year of trendy eating that avoids certain food groups in aims of better health, says one University of Alabama registered dietitian. The Paleo diet will continue to be popular, but a large focus of 2014 will center on plant-based diets that are gluten-free and non-GMO, says Sheena Quizon Gregg, assistant director of health education and prevention for Health Promotion and Wellness at UA. Food manufacturers will pick up on this trend and provide anything from almond-based yogurts to meat-free barbecue options. This “natural” focus will also include food products made with natural, low calorie sweeteners versus their artificial counterparts, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. “But don’t worry,” Gregg says. “These new plant-based diet trends will not affect the bacon industry.”
Contact: Sheena Quizon Gregg,, 205/348-0205

Health Reform-Exacerbated Physician Shortages Milder in Alabama than Elsewhere
Rural Alabamians may not be as impacted by primary care physician shortages in 2014 as other medically-underserved states dealing with the impact of health reform, says Dr. Lea Yerby, a University of Alabama rural medicine expert. Yerby, an assistant professor in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences’ department of community and rural medicine, says the population of people newly insured under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will exacerbate the state’s primary care physician shortage; however, this stress may not be as dramatic in Alabama as in other areas. Since the state is not expanding Medicaid Enrollment, a large portion of uninsured Alabamians will not have options for insurance coverage and, therefore, will not be seeking a new primary care home.  Economically, more residents in rural Alabama will qualify for tax subsidies to purchase insurance in the state marketplace given their lower median income. Nationally, utilizing midlevel or nonphysician providers will address the workforce shortage, but legislative changes would be required to facilitate this in Alabama, and that will not happen for a few more years, she says.
Contact: Dr. Lea Yerby,, 205/348-4693

Pot Legalization Details to Delay Additional Movement  
Don’t expect marijuana-legalization floodgates to open in 2014. Despite citizens in Washington and Colorado voting to legalize small amounts of the drug for recreational use in their respective states in 2012, numerous hurdles remain for both states to effectively regulate the drug. “These two states now have to decide how much you can legally possess, what the concentration level will be of THC you can have in marijuana that’s purchased, and the amount of THC that can be in your system and still operate a vehicle,” says Dr. Diana Dolliver, University of Alabama assistant professor of criminal justice, who previously worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “These issues have to be reasonably hashed out before other states try to legalize it.” Additionally, legalization in Colorado and Washington violates international treaties, she says, and other countries have been critical of the lack of response from the U.S. federal government.
Contact: Dr. Diana Dolliver,,  205/348-2062

NSA Controversy to Increase Mobile Phone Encryption 
As technology expands, so do the efforts of those hacking into databases, bank accounts and files. And after the federal government’s domestic spying program was made public by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, expect more people to encrypt their mobile phones in 2014, says Dr. Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar, University of Alabama assistant professor of criminal justice. “Due to concerns with privacy, we will see an increase in mobile phones being password protected or encrypted by the general public. This increase will cause a legal battle between our Fifth Amendment rights (right against self-incrimination) and the ability of law enforcement to compel a suspect to provide passwords or encryption keys.” Seigfried-Spellar says we haven’t heard the last from Snowden. “There will be more secret files leaked, and because of his notoriety and success, insider threat is even more inauspicious in the coming year.”
Contact: Dr. Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar,, 205/348-5489

Open Kitchen-Shelving, Walk-In Showers among Design Trends
Bold, artistic colors in the fashion world will also make their way to the interior design realm in the coming year, says Stephanie Sickler, a University of Alabama assistant professor of clothing, textiles and interior design. “I would expect to see bold colors with unexpected and new color combinations, with cobalt blue making a significant impact this year,” she says. “It would also not be a surprise to see these rich colors paired with raw and natural materials in the home.” In addition to color trends, Neil Kelly, an award-winning design-build remodeling firm, predicts a continued shift toward downsizing, eco-friendly materials, and multi-generational living, Sickler says.  “We could see more open shelving in kitchens, walk-in showers rather than deep stand-alone tubs and relaxed living spaces as a result,” she adds. “While I believe there is still a growing trend toward the advance of technology in the home, these are fun predictions that will present consumers with new, bold choices while maintaining their stewardship toward the environment in 2014.”
Contact: Stephanie Sickler,, 205/348-4262

Slow, but Growing Alabama Economy
Overall, Alabama’s economic growth should be relatively better in 2014 compared to 2013 according to Ahmad Ijaz, an economic analyst for The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. Ijaz says the state’s inflation adjusted GDP, a key indicator of the state’s standard of living, is expected to grow by 2.0 to 2.5 percent in 2014. Transportation equipment manufacturing is predicted to be the fastest growing industry. Other sectors of the economy expected to see relatively strong growth include professional and business services (mainly administrative services, waste management, etc.), healthcare related services (primarily elderly care, social assistance etc.), and leisure and hospitality (food services, restaurants, etc.). Ijaz says the U.S. economy is forecasted to grow by around 2.5 percent in 2014, compared to 1.7 percent growth seen in 2013, while spending on durable goods will rise by 2.3 percent, just slightly above the 2.0 percent rate of growth in 2013.
Contact: Ahmad Ijaz,, 205-348-2955

Unemployment Rate to Remain High  
Despite recent gains in payrolls in recent months, the unemployment rate is expected to remain relatively high in 2014 as more workers enter the labor force with a gradually improving economy. With consumer and business spending still remaining sluggish, most employers are expected to remain cautious about hiring new workers and making new investments.  “The U.S. unemployment rate, currently at 7.3 percent will remain around 7.0 percent in 2014, maybe 6.9 percent,” says Ahmad Ijaz, economic analyst at The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. “Alabama’s unemployment rate is already below 7.0 percent (6.3 percent), but if the economy begins to improve significantly, the unemployment rate will go up as more and more people who have given up on looking for a job enter the labor force.  The U.S. unemployment rate, currently at 7.3 percent will remain around 7.0 percent in 2014, maybe 6.9 percent.”
Contact: Ahmad Ijaz,, 205-348-2955

News to Grow More Customized in Coming Year
The changes in the newspaper business in recent years have been fast and furious, particularly in 2013 with multiple large newspapers changing owners. Dr. Wilson Lowrey, chair of The University of Alabama’s journalism department, expects those new owners to be trendsetters in 2014, which will be a positive for the industry as a whole but will present challenges for journalists. “The news industry will follow the lead of Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and new owner of the Washington Post, by marketing news as a customized product,” Lowrey says. “More than ever before, news outlets will connect readers to information and services that are personally relevant, and the news you see will be less about the world and more about you and your own private circle. Technology that makes it easier to drill down to the details of peoples’ personal lives will drive this, as will the desires of advertisers to target individuals based on where they go, the things they buy, the media they use, and the people they interact with online. This trend will be good news for the news business, but it will further challenge journalists’ professional ethics and journalism’s public service mission. It will also encourage our growing tendencies to seek fragmented, ‘nichified’ and ideological camps.”
Contact: Dr. Wilson Lowrey,, 205/348-8608

Political Battle to Continue Over State’s Version of ‘Common Core’
The Alabama College and Career Ready Standards — love them or hate them — have been the most divisive topics in K-12 education over the last year. Misinformation and misperceptions about the federal government’s involvement made the adoption of the new Alabama standards, which were derived from the Common Core Standards, a politicized tug-of-war. Don’t expect that aspect to change, at least not completely, in 2014. Dr. Jeremy Zelkowski, professor of math education at The University of Alabama, says the narrative has started to shift with the help of groups like Alabama GRIT (Graduate Ready. Impact Tomorrow), which, through K-12 teachers and higher-ed professors, has worked to clear mistruths about the standards. While a total repeal of the standards is highly unlikely, expect other efforts to halt progress, Zelkowski says. “There may be attempts to do what those who are against it have already been trying to do, like defunding costs for assessments in the state’s education budget. And if you don’t have the funds for that, you won’t have data. That political battle could continue to be there.”
Contact: Dr. Jeremy Zelkowski,, 205/348-9499

Targeted Advertising Made Easier in 2014
In the past year, the popularity of targeted advertising through platforms like Facebook and Google has grown exponentially. This is simply the tip of the iceberg. Social media users often consent to having their personal information used in such a way when they sign up for an account, and it’s likely this will only increase in 2014, according to Dr. Joseph Phelps, chair of the department of advertising and public relations at The University of Alabama. “There will continue to be an uninterrupted increase in the amount of information that marketers and our government capture and use about each of us,” Phelps said. “Much of that information will be easily collected from social media posts that citizens offer for public consumption. Other information, of a more personal nature, will also continue to be collected and used with the only difference being the increasing ability to do so. As the ability to gather, store and manipulate huge amounts of data on individuals continues to increase, so too will the use of that data for developing persuasive messages and for efficiently delivering those messages. The only deterrent strong enough to inhibit this action lies in the voices and behavior of citizens and consumers, and, barring some trigger event, it is unlikely we will see such a mass movement in the coming year.”
Contact: Dr. Joseph Phelps,, 205/348-8646

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

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