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

T3 - - Contents -

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…

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