This time last year we did some crystal ball gazing, making our predictions about the direction in which the tech scene would head in 2019.
This year, we’re doing the same, picking out products and developments in the industry that we believe best illustrate what will be key themes in the year ahead. We reckon:
- Video piracy will rocket again
- Foldable phone formats will flop, but 5G will succeed
- SpaceX’s Starship rockets to success
- Samsung will launch next-gen AR glasses we’ll actually want to buy
- There will be a major “deepfake” incident in the US presidential election
Read on for our reasons – but before that, how did we do with last year’s predictions?
We predicted that an AI label would be slapped on all manner of products, whether deserving or not. We did see Alexa and Google Assistant integration with plenty of devices, from third-party speakers, to TVs and cars – although it was Amazon and Google’s brands that took the lead, rather than “AI”.
On the actual technology side, Deep Mind’s AI became a top StarCraft player and Google added yet more machine-learning into Search with BERT. But we saw some of the limits of AI, too. The quest for driverless cars threw up more issues than anyone had originally thought, and even the “good” new Terminator movie flopped… So we’ll give ourselves a half-win on this one.
We predicted a UK CEO would get sacked over a major data breach. Well, there were a ton of breaches in 2019… but no CEO heads rolled that we know of. That’s a huge loss for proponents of data integrity (and our predictive powers). We also envisioned that everyone would try to sell you an 8K TV. Well, there are a few 8K TVs around now – but to be fair, the big brands aren’t really trying to ram them down our throats just yet, with 4K models looking strong for a while longer. That’s another miss, then.
Our fourth prediction was you’d have 5G phones before you had 5G services. Well, we saw a number of 5G phones unveiled this year – but not from Apple – and some 5G-enabled locations, too, but few usable for the vast majority of people. So we’ll put this one down as a win.
Our fifth and final prediction was the appearance of age verification for online porn. We definitely called this wrong – the government delayed and then dropped it like the political hot potato we suggested it was. While it’s tempting to give ourselves a bonus point for recognising at least that much, it’s another loss for us.
So now that you’re aware of the extent of our predictive powers, you’ll definitely want to dive straight into our five tech predictions for 2020. Here we go:
1. Video piracy rockets again
Piracy has been in decline recently as a result of the fact that streaming services offer great libraries, easy-to-use interfaces and simple pricing mechanisms. But as new services such as Disney Plus appear, and shows that might have been bundled with one service disappear behind the paywall of another, our pockets are increasingly being expected to stretch further for content. Plus, there’s having to figure out which service will be showing what movie in the first place? We believe this increasing fragmentation, and the extra costs it places onto consumers, is a problem that will lead to piracy being on the rise once again.
2. Foldable phone formats will fail, but 5G will succeed
Foldable phones received plenty of media attention in 2019, right from the start of the year, but it isn’t clear that consumers were paying attention. The first phones brought to market were beset by technical problems, which isn’t surprising at this early stage.
Perhaps what we weren’t prepared for was the bulkiness and weight of the devices – which people may overlook if there’s a super-compelling use for them, but we’re not sure what that is… Perhaps Microsoft will have the answer when it launches its Surface Duo foldable in 2020 – but we remain unconvinced. On the other hand, 5G phones are likely to fall sharply in price next year as production volume ramps up to take advantage of more widely available 5G services. 5G, not foldable, will be the story in 2020.
3. SpaceX’s Starship has first successful test flight
This is in here because, ultimately, we’re technology fans, and despite an early setback, we believe Starship could be a very big deal. Starship is Elon Musk’s large, reusable steel spaceship – the first of many planned. Flying on its own, or mounted onto a reusable booster, it will take off and land in similar vein to Musk’s existing Falcon rockets, potentially carrying huge quantities of cargo into orbit at a fraction of current prices. But it’s also a design that could reach, land – and take off – from the surface of the Moon. Musks says a test flight will take place in 2020 – let’s see if it happens.
4. Samsung launches next-gen AR glasses that people want to buy
Remember Google Glass? Thankfully, we were spared the rise of the privacy-invading “glasshole”. However, we believe it’s time for a second attempt, with a company such as Samsung – although not Apple – trying its hand at augmented reality glasses, a number of years after first declaring an interest. Applying the lessons of the Apple Watch, which succeeded due to its focus on health and fitness, how about a proper pair of smart shades? These could sync with a phone, enable music and phone audio via bone conduction, and show heart rate data, maps, workout plans, GPS data and other competitors, via a heads-up display, for cyclists and runners. Will it become a reality? We’ll have to wait and see.
5. There will be a major “deepfake” crisis in the US presidential election
This one is inspired by the “In Event of Moon Disaster” deepfake project, and the approaching US presidential election. We predict there will be a significant deepfake incident during the US presidential election in 2020, although probably quite an unsophisticated one, bringing the technology sharply into the mainstream for the first time. It will lead to calls for regulation and spark efforts to improve deepfake – and other fake media – detection and regulation among web platforms and media companies.
Those are our predictions for 2020. What do you think? Write to the firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll publish your own.