Duncan Bell can tell you exactly what the best gadget you’ve ever owned is
Will next year be the best ever year for tech? The chances look good… and yet not
The most significant bit of ‘tech’ for most of the population will be clips of Carpool Karaoke
At a legendary gathering, a great thinker once made a profound observation: “In most fields, there is endless debate about what is ‘the greatest of all time’. In tech, there’s no debate: whatever the most recent version of a device is, is the greatest of all time.”
Okay, it was Richard Bacon, at the T3 Awards of 2015, but it was still a good line. And Richard Bacon liked a good line.
So I think I can say with some confidence that in terms of products, services and shiny new things, 2018 was the best year ever for tech. Furthermore, 2019 is shaping up to be even better, just by virtue of the fact that it hasn’t happened yet. But what will happen? Oh lots. Lot of new stuff.
This is where you can start to vanish down the rabbit hole, when you work in tech. If I was giving a speech right now, I’d say this:
“2019 will see the arrival of 5G connectivity, which will surely revolutionise all our lives, allowing things like 24/7 AR overlays on everything, everywhere, until we cannot differentiate between reality and cyberspace.
“The smart home will become mainstream, and our home AI assistants will become more like human friends. And there will be nanobots killing bacteria in our kitchens, and we’ll all have jetpacks… and commute on drones… and the new Prime Minister will be Darth Vader!”
It will be good, though
Of course, the reality is that the ‘hottest’ devices of next year will probably be the iPhone XII, Samsung Galaxy S10 and whatever new colour schemes or box shape Sony and
Microsoft decide to put their respective consoles out in.
Probably the most significant bit of ‘tech’ for the largest proportion of the population will be Fortnite and clips of Carpool Karaoke on YouTube. It’s just that with 5G, they’ll be able to play more and download faster.
I actually did give a speech recently about the current cutting edge of tech. Well, I stood up and rambled, and tried to play some amusing video clips but PowerPoint wasn’t set up right, or something. It was not dissimilar to a speech.
I concluded by saying that the current state of the art in home tech is using single commands to your home AI of choice to activate a whole set of actions. So the example I gave was, ‘you say ‘bath time’ to Alexa and it runs your bath, checks the temperature of the water and the room, adjusts the lighting to a suitably soothing setting, and starts playing Pan Pipe Melodies of the Andes. Everyone said, “Ooh, that’s nice, I’d like that.”
Afterwards, I thought to myself, ‘I wonder if you can actually do that with existing tech?’ And a short spurt of research later, I concluded you could not, unless you were willing to invest an awful lot of money, and had a very great amount of expertise (or could hire someone who did).
Still, I expect the smart home will gradually, gradually continue to become more of a thing in 2019. The main driver for that will be Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s, er, Google, but I don’t think we should get carried away with the likelihood of a tech revolution, there.
Home and Echo are great products but I hear the same story over and over again from users who aren’t tech journalists. They get one as a gift and use it as a kitchen timer that can play Radio 4, or Classic FM, or whatever their radio station of choice happens to be.
Yes, there’s this huge wealth of features at their fingertips, and they essentially treat it as a clock radio.
2019 will bring us many shiny, new, new treats, but it will only be a small step down the road to a future where we wield virtual devices viewed via VR contact lenses and created and managed from the OmniCloud, before going home to have sex with robots.
Personally I would happily just settle for Apple putting out a phone that isn’t so slippery, it keeps hurling itself, lemming-like, from any surface on which it is placed, but that’s another story…