The technology that will invade our lives in 2022 – The Denver Post
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By Brian X. Chen, The New York Times Company
Every year, I review what’s new in consumer technology to guide you in what you might expect to buy – and what will most likely be a fad.
Many of the same “trends” pop up over and over again because, to put it simply, technology takes a long time to mature before most of us want to buy it. This also applies this year. Some of the trends for 2022 that tech companies are pushing are things you’ve heard of before.
A prime example is virtual reality, the technology of wearing clunky headgear and swinging around controllers to play 3D games. It should be front and center again this year, remarketed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other techies as the “metaverse.”
Another hot category will be the so-called smart home, the technology for controlling home appliances by shouting voice commands over a speaker or pressing a button on a smartphone. The truth is, the tech industry has been trying to push this kind of technology into our homes for over a decade. This year, these products might finally start to be practical to own.
Another recurring technology on this list is digital health equipment that tracks our physical condition and helps us diagnose possible ailments. And automakers, which have long talked about electric cars, are beginning to accelerate their plans to meet the national goal of phasing out gas-powered car production by 2030.
Here are four tech trends that will invade our lives this year.
1. Welcome to the metaverse.
For more than a decade, technologists have dreamed of an era where our virtual lives will play as important a role as our physical realities. In theory, we would spend a lot of time interacting with our friends and colleagues in virtual space, and therefore we would also spend money there on outfits and items for our digital avatars.
“We’re in a world where people send in an image multiple times a day that reflects them,” said Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist who has written extensively on the metaverse. “The next phase takes that visual representation and scales it. You enter an environment and express yourself through an avatar.
It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. But throughout the second year of the pandemic, a critical mass of factors came together to make the metaverse more realistic, Ball said.
On the one hand, technology has improved. Last year, Facebook announced that it had rebranded itself as Meta after shipping 10 million units of its virtual reality headset, the Quest 2, in a milestone.
On the other hand, many of us were ready to splurge on our digital selves. Hordes of investors have purchased NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which are one-of-a-kind digital items purchased with cryptocurrency. Eminem and other celebrities have even invested in virtual yachts for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There’s more to come this year. Apple plans to unveil its version of a virtual reality headset, which will look like a pair of ski goggles and, for computing power, will rely on a separate computing device that will be worn elsewhere on the body. Apple declined to comment.
Google has also been developing virtual reality products for years, and Microsoft has offered a virtual reality headset for businesses and government agencies.
The metaverse could still turn out to be a fad, depending on what products emerge and who buys them. Carolina Milanesi, a consumer technology analyst for consulting firm Creative Strategies, said she fears this will become a reflection of the privileged few who can afford digital healthcare.
“The boating market is dominated by middle-aged, upper-class white men,” she said. “Are we just going to transfer all of this into the metaverse?”
2. The smart home.
In recent years, smart home products such as internet-connected thermostats, door locks, and robot vacuums have made major strides. Devices have become affordable and work reliably with digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri.
Yet the smart home, for the most part, has remained chaotic. Many smart home products did not work well with other technologies. Some door locks, for example, only worked with Apple phones and not Androids; some thermostats were controlled by talking to Google Assistant and not Siri.
The lack of compatibility created long term problems. An Apple-compatible lock is not useful for the family member or future tenant who prefers Android. It would also be more practical one day if our home devices could actually talk to each other, like a washing machine telling a dryer that a large load is ready to be dried.
This year, the tech industry’s biggest rivals – Apple, Samsung, Google and Amazon – are playing well to make the smart home more convenient. They plan to release and update the home tech to work with Matter, a new standard that allows smart home devices to talk to each other, regardless of virtual assistant or phone brand. Over 100 smart home products are expected to adhere to the standard.
“We all speak a common language based on already proven technologies,” said Samantha Osborne, vice president of marketing for SmartThings, the Samsung-owned home automation company.
This means that later this year, when shopping for a product like an automated door lock, look for a label that says the device is Matter compatible. Then, in the future, your smart alarm clock may be able to tell your smart lights to turn on when you wake up.
3. Connected health.
Fitness gadgets like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, which help us track our movements and heart rate, are becoming increasingly popular. So tech companies are experimenting this year with smaller wearable devices that collect more intimate data about our health.
Oura, a health technology company, recently introduced a new model of its Oura ring, which is integrated with sensors that track measurements, including body temperature, to accurately predict menstrual cycles. This week at CES, a tech trade show in Las Vegas, Movano, another health tech startup, unveiled a similar ring that gathers data on your heart rate, temperature, and other metrics to inform a wearer about potential chronic diseases.
Medical experts have long warned of the potential consequences of health technologies. Without proper context, the data could potentially be used to misdiagnose diseases and turn people into hypochondriacs. But if widely sold out COVID rapid test kits are any measure, more of us seem ready to be proactive in monitoring our health.
4. Electric cars.
Last year, President Joe Biden announced an ambitious goal: half of all vehicles sold in the United States would be electric rather than gasoline-powered by 2030.
In response, major automakers are promoting their electric cars, including at CES this week. On Tuesday, Ford announced plans to ramp up production of its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck. Later this week, General Motors plans to unveil a battery-powered version of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. Other automakers, like Mercedes-Benz, have shared plans for releasing electric cars in the coming years.
While there’s a lot of hype around electric cars, those of us looking for battery-powered vehicles this year will likely still gravitate towards Tesla, Milanesi said. Indeed, we have yet to see the widespread deployment of solar power and charging stations for electric cars, especially in more rural areas. Tesla has a head start because it has been rolling out charging stations for years, she said.
“There’s so much to do from an infrastructure perspective,” she said. “So it’s a lot of talk, but I don’t know how much of a reality it is.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
The technology that will invade our lives in 2022 – The Denver Post
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