May 27, 2022 5:33 am

What’s coming: the technology that will invade our lives in 2022

Every year, I look forward to seeing what’s new in technology to guide you as to what you might buy and warn you about what is sure to be a fad.

Many of the same “trends” appear again and again because, simply put, technology takes a long time to mature before most of us want to buy it. That is true also this year. Some 2022 trends that tech companies are pushing are things you may have already heard about.

A great example is the virtual reality, the technology that involves goofy-looking headsets and controls for manipulating 3D games. It’s expected to be back at the top of the trends this year, now that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other tech enthusiasts have revamped it for hype as “the metaverse”.

Another very striking category will be the so-called smart home, the technology that helps control home appliances with voice commands directed at a speaker or a button on a smartphone. The truth is that the technology industry has been trying to reach our homes with these innovations for more than a decade. This year the products will finally start to look practical.

A recurring technology on this list is also the digital health that monitors our physical state and helps us diagnose possible ailments. And the car manufacturers, who have been talking to us for a long time about the electric cars have begun to accelerate their plans to achieve a national plan that attempts to phase out gasoline-powered car production by 2030 in United States.

Here are four technology trends that will invade our lives this year.

For more than a decade, technologists have dreamed of an era in which our virtual lives play as big a role as our physical reality. In theory, we would spend a lot of time interacting with our friends and colleagues in virtual space and, as a result, spend money there to buy outfits and items for our digital avatars.

“We’re in a world where people broadcast an image that mirrors them several times a day,” said Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist who has written extensively on the metaverse. “The next phase takes that visual representation and gives it dimension. You enter an environment and express yourself through an avatar.”

That looks like something out of a science fiction movie. But throughout the second year of the pandemic, a critical mass of factors came together to make the metaverse more realistic, Ball said.

For one thing, technology improved. Last year, Facebook announced that it had renamed Meta after having sold ten million units of its virtual reality headset, the Quest 2, which was a milestone.

On the other hand, many of us were willing to splurge on our digital selves. Hordes of investors bought NFT, or non-fungible tokens, which are unique digital objects purchased with cryptocurrencies. Eminem and other investors invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to join a virtual yacht club.

This year there will be even more. Apple plans present your version of virtual reality device, which will resemble ski goggles and rely on a separate computing device worn elsewhere on the body for computational power. Apple declined to comment.

Google has also developed virtual reality products for years and Microsoft has offered a virtual reality headset for business 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 at consultancy Creative Strategies, said she was concerned it could become a reflection of the privileged few who can afford to indulge digitally.

“The yachting market is dominated by upper-middle-class white males,” he explained. “Will we move all that to the metaverse?”

Over the past few years, smart home products such as internet-connected thermostats, deadbolts, and robotic vacuum cleaners have made great strides. Devices became inexpensive and worked reliably with digital assistants like Alexa de Amazon, the google assistant Y Siri de Apple.

However the smart home, for the most part, it’s still chaotic. Many smart home products didn’t work well with other technologies. For example, some locks only worked with Apple phones and not Android; some thermostats were controlled by speaking to Google Assistant and not Siri.

The lack of compatibility has 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 convenient one day if our household devices could communicate, such as a washing machine telling the dryer that that heavy load of laundry is ready to dry.

This year, the tech industry’s biggest rivals —Apple, Samsung, Google y Amazon— are doing their best to make the smart home more practical. They plan to launch and update their home technology to work with Matter, a new standard that enables smart home devices to communicate, no matter what virtual assistant they have or what brand of phone. More than a hundred smart home products are expected to adhere to that standard.

“We’re all speaking a common language built on proven technologies,” said Samantha Osborne, vice president of marketing for SmartThings, the home automation company owned by Samsung.

This means that later this year, when buying a product like an automated door lock, look for a label that says the device is Matter-compatible. So in the future, your smart alarm clock will be able to tell your smart lights to turn on when you wake up.

Fitness devices like Apple Watch Y Fitbit, which help us track our movements and our heart rate, continue to become more popular. That’s why tech companies are experimenting this year with smaller wearable devices that gather more intimate data about our health.

Oura, a health technology company, recently introduced a new model of its Oura Ring, a ring that is embedded with sensors that track metrics like body temperature to accurately predict menstrual cycles. Last week at CES, a technology trade show in Las Vegas, Movano, another health startup, unveiled a similar ring that collects data on heart rate, temperature and other measurements to inform the user of potential chronic illnesses.

Medical experts have long warned about possible consequences of technology focused on health. Without the proper context, the data could possibly be used to misdiagnose diseases and cause people become hypochondriacs. However, if covid rapid test kits, so sold, they tell us something, is that more of us seem to be ready to act proactively in monitoring our health.

Last year, President Joe Biden announced an ambitious goal: half of the vehicles sold in the United States would be electricity instead of using fossil fuels by 2030.

In response, the big car companies are announcing their electric cars with great fanfare, as was the case at CES this week. On Tuesday, Ford announced plans to ramp up production of its electric pickup truck. F-150 Lightning. This week, General Motors plans to unveil a battery-powered version of its truck. Chevrolet Silverado. Other manufacturers, such as Mercedes-Benz, have laid out their plans for electric vehicles to be launched in the coming years.

While there’s a lot of hype surrounding electric cars, those of us looking for battery-powered vehicles this year may gravitate toward Tesla, Milanesi said. That’s because we have yet to see the widespread deployment of solar power and charging stations for electric cars, especially in more rural areas. Tesla has one foot ahead because it has been installing charging stations for years, Milanesi added.

“In terms of infrastructure, many things still need to be achieved,” he said. “A lot is being said for now, but I don’t know how much reality there is in those words.”

Brian X. Chen is a consumer technology columnist. Review products and write Tech Fix, a column on how to solve problems related to technology. Before joining The Times in 2011, he reported on Apple and the wireless industry for Wired. @bxchen

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