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Tech trends to watch closely in 2022

At the beginning of every year, trend forecasters wave their magic wand and try to predict what the future holds. 

Inventions and improvements to older ideas take time to brainstorm, design, create, and perfect. That’s why you hear about technology years before it’s available to use, download, or pick up in a store.

Some of the biggest tech trends in 2022 include the metaverse, augmented reality, 5G networks, electric cars, and androgynous robots.

So if you want to learn about technology that will drop this year, you’ve come to the right place.

Meta pins its hopes on the metaverse

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook) called the metaverse “the successor of the mobile Internet” and is looking to invest $10 billion to make it a reality. 

The metaverse is a digital experience that combines virtual and physical reality, offering you the chance to buy land, play games, and interact with other people across different platforms. 

You enter the metaverse by putting on augmented reality (AR) glasses, where you’ll see computer-generated images layered over everyday life, like Pokémon Go. 

But no one should think that Meta is the only player in this $1 trillion market. Apple and other tech giants are building new hardware and software products, and startups are likely to join them.

Chicken using Apple glass

Apple glasses are coming

Apple hopes to release an AR headset in late 2022 with the same computing power as a MacBook. Analysts expect it to cost around $3,000, with 8K displays, eye tracking, and cameras that can scan the world and combine AR and VR technology.

In May 2020, Apple bought the streaming sports company NextVR, signaling their intent to create an immersive headset, which would make its first significant new product category since the Apple Watch in 2014.

Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities, says Apple’s goal is to replace the ‌iPhone‌ with AR glasses within ten years. 

Shopping in the metaverse

It’s easy to forget that online shopping was a high concept only a few decades ago. Getting groceries and clothes delivered to your door has changed our lives and created thousands of new businesses. However, if there’s one area where e-commerce falls short, it’s managing customer expectations.

Who hasn’t bought something off Amazon only to receive something unimpressive in the post?

With augmented reality, online retailers can create virtual models of products and services, allowing customers to experience them in the metaverse before buying. 

When the laws of physics no longer bind you, the possibilities of the metaverse are endless. A small business could set up a virtual clothes store from anywhere, from the Maldives to Mars. 

You don’t have to consider geography in the metaverse. The virtual world is, theoretically speaking, limitless, and that has profound implications for the economy.

5G improving speeds

5G connectivity will be everywhere

If the metaverse is to be successful, it will require significantly faster Internet speeds than we have.

With 4K movies already streaming on YouTube and Netflix, a speedier and more stable connection is necessary to watch content with no buffering

5G (fifth-generation mobile network) is significantly faster than 4G, delivering 20Gbps at its peak and averaging over 100Mbps. It’s already powering the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution, connecting our smartphones, TVs, and Fitbit devices into harmonious networks.

From an IoT perspective, “smart” means powered by artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning algorithms, whether that’s a fridge that knows you’ve run out of eggs or a wellness toilet that analyzes your stool samples.

Consumers hungry for IoT conveniences will demand faster 5G coverage, and its impact will stretch far beyond your bathroom, disrupting everything from our roads to mobility patterns.  

Why 5G is crucial for driverless cars

Only a few years ago, self-driving cars were science fiction stories. Today, partially automated vehicles are available, including Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ driver-assistance system that steers, brakes, and accelerates electric vehicles on our highways.

5G networks will supply these vehicles with data for navigation purposes, such as road maps and traffic reports.

Driverless cars have been a dream for Elon Musk’s Tesla for some time, but one tech giant is gearing up to challenge them.

Chicken driving an Apple car

Introducing the Apple car: iCar?

There’s been speculation about Apple’s car plans for several years now, with an estimated 5,000 employees working on its Project Titan since 2018.

Apple has explored two options: creating a car with limited self-driving capabilities, focusing on steering and acceleration, like Tesla, or one with full autonomy that doesn’t require human assistance.

The tech giant is supposedly prioritizing the driverless option and exploring an “infotainment system” in the middle of the vehicle. That would operate as an iPad-style touch screen, letting users interact with Apple services while enjoying the ride. 

The iCar would have no steering wheel and pedals, and passengers could end up sitting along the sides of the vehicle, facing each other as you do in a limousine.

In trying to colonize the self-driving market before Tesla and everyone else, Apple is looking to patent a game-changer. However, there’s yet to be a successful breakthrough.

For it’s still early days in the automotive industry — electric cars only account for a tiny proportion of overall sales and represent a fraction of the total number of the planet’s vehicles.

The technology is still young, and it will be many years before robots drive you to Walmart.

Will ‘Tesla Bot’ take your boring job?

If driverless cars don’t take off this year, what’s the chance of an androgynous robot stacking your supermarket’s shelves? 

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, wants to make dull, repetitive work optional by releasing a slick humanoid machine. 

Tesla Bot is 5ft 8” (1.7m) tall, weighs 125 pounds (57kg) and can attach bolts with a wrench, collect your groceries, plus a host of routine tasks. 

If you were to enter a time machine and arrive in 2030, you’d expect to see lots of robots powered by artificial intelligence. Given that AI may well replace human workers this century, we might as well ask them to stack the dishwasher until they take over.

2022: A stepping stone to the future?

With Tesla Bot launching and Meta pouring billions of dollars into the metaverse, we’re all set for an exciting year in tech. 

Like all new technology, inventions require time to evolve to change our lives — the iPhone didn’t happen overnight. So, whenever AR glasses become mainstream, it’ll result from decades of painstaking work and multiple failures. 

It took over 400 years from Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Aerial Screw,’ an early vision of the helicopter first designed in 1509, to lead to the Sikorsky R-4, the first chopper to reach full-scale production in 1942.

It won’t take that long for the metaverse to transform our lives, which, if successful, will overturn norms in how we shop, work, and socialize. In that respect, 2022 could become the threshold where the AI world begins — when humanity considers its future, present, and past.

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Daniel Agnew

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