Each year, I look ahead at what’s new in technology to predict the tech that may affect your life in a big way — and the tech that will most likely be a fad.
Before we get into that, though, let’s take a quick look back at 2022.
Hardware was very “meh.” This year’s iPhone, with mostly unnoticeable improvements, was an even more incremental upgrade than last year’s model. Separately, Meta released a $1,500 virtual-reality headset that Mark Zuckerberg envisioned would change the way that people worked — though with two hours of battery life, most people will probably use it only to play games.
Social media became very weird. Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, bought Twitter for $44 billion, gutted the staff and suspended the accounts of some journalists and techies, which sent droves of Twitter users to seek alternative sites.
And the fate of TikTok is in jeopardy, as more than a dozen states, citing national security concerns, have banned the app’s use on government-issued devices.
Then, toward the end of the year, came something truly remarkable. OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research company, released ChatGPT, a chatbot that can generate seemingly intelligent responses to questions. People prodding the bot with requests quickly realized it could compose essays, write code and draft business proposals.
All of this is just a sample of what’s in store for us next year. We can expect lots of interesting advancements in A.I.-powered, language-processing tech, along with the same trends that have endured in the past few years, including advances in electric cars and the metaverse. Perhaps there may even be a rebirth of social media.
Here are the tech developments that will invade our lives in 2023.
1. New chatty assistants
Early adopters who have been wowed by the linguistic competence of ChatGPT have just as quickly been stunned by how wrong it can be, particularly with simple arithmetic. Flaws aside, we can realistically expect A.I. companies to improve on the strengths of these chatbots with tools that streamline how we write and read text, A.I. experts say.
The Rise of Electric Vehicles
- Battery Recycling: As sales of electric cars and trucks take off, the race is on to recycle used lithium-ion batteries — but few will be available to reuse for a decade or more.
- Mail Trucks: In a win for the Biden administration, the United States Postal Service said it would spend nearly $10 billion to create one of the largest electric truck fleets in the nation.
- Going Mainstream: U.S. sales of battery-powered cars jumped 70 percent in the first nine months of the year, as non-affluent buyers are choosing electric vehicles to save money on gas.
- A Bonanza for Red States: No Republican in Congress voted for the Inflation Reduction Act. But their states will greatly benefit from the investments in electric vehicles spurred by the law.
For one, it’s very likely that next year you could have a chatbot that acts as a research assistant. Imagine that you are writing a research paper and want to add some historical facts about World War II. You could share a 100-page document with the bot and ask it to sum up the highlights related to a certain aspect of the war. The bot will then read the document and generate a summary for you.
“If you want to enrich your writing with a historical fact, you won’t need to go and search the web and find it,” said Yoav Shoham, a professor emeritus at Stanford University who helps compile the AI Index, an annual report on the progress of artificial intelligence. “It’ll be right there with a click of a button.”
That doesn’t mean that we’ll see a flood of stand-alone A.I. apps in 2023. It may be more the case that many tools we already use for work will begin building automatic language generation into their apps. Rowan Curran, a technology analyst at the research firm Forrester, said apps like Microsoft Word and Google Sheets could soon embed A.I. tools to streamline people’s work flows.
2. Virtual reality, a.k.a. the metaverse
For much of the past decade, tech companies have been promoting virtual-reality headsets, such as the Quest 2, HTC Vive and Sony PlayStation VR, for playing games. Now that the technology has evolved to become more powerful and wireless, tech companies are making lofty promises that these headsets will eventually reshape our lives similar to the ways that smartphones have changed us.
Meta, for one, imagines that the metaverse could be a virtual space where we work, collaborate and create. In its unveiling of the Quest Pro headset this year, the company envisioned that the tech could become a multitasking tool for workers juggling meetings while scrolling through emails and other tasks. Yet upon release, the device received lukewarm reviews, and it remains to be seen whether Meta can bring to life its vision for the metaverse.
In 2023, the V.R. drumbeat will go on. Apple, which has publicly said it will never use the word “metaverse,” is widely expected to release its first headset. Though the company has yet to share details about the product, Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, has laid out clues, expressing his excitement about using augmented reality to take advantage of digital data in the physical world.
“You’ll wonder how you lived your life without augmented reality, just like today you wonder: How did people like me grow up without the internet?” Mr. Cook said in September to students in Naples.
He added, however, that the technology was not something that would become profound overnight. Wireless headsets remain bulky and used indoors, which means that the first iteration of Apple’s headgear will, similar to many others that preceded it, most likely be used for games.
In other words, there will continue to be lots of chatter about the metaverse and virtual (augmented, mixed, whatever-you-want-to-call-dorky-looking) goggles in 2023, but it most likely still won’t be the year that these headsets become widely popular, said Carolina Milanesi, a consumer tech analyst for the research firm Creative Strategies.
“From a consumer perspective, it’s still very uncertain what you’re spending your thousand bucks on when you’re buying a headset,” she said. “Do I have to do a meeting with V.R.? With or without legs, it’s not a necessity.”
3. Electric cars beyond Tesla
Tesla continued to dominate electric vehicle sales this year, but 2023 may prove to be a turning point for the industry. Tesla’s shares have plunged this year, and its brand has taken a beating since Mr. Musk’s takeover of Twitter. At the same time, competition in the market is intensifying as E.V. makers like Ford Motor, Kia, General Motors, Audi and Rivian ramp up production of their electric cars.
Also, Tesla said in November that it would open up its charging connector design to other electric cars. That would enable drivers of other types of cars to replenish their batteries at Tesla’s charging stations, which are far more prolific than other types of chargers.
On top of that, both California and New York have moved to ban sales of gas-powered cars by 2035. This all adds up to a perfect storm for the electric car industry to become much bigger than one brand in 2023.
4. More options for social media
Twitter was in chaos for much of 2022, and this will most likely continue this coming year. In response to the backlash, Mr. Musk asked his followers on Twitter in a “poll” this month whether he should step down as the company’s leader. A majority, roughly 10 million users, voted yes, but Mr. Musk said he would step down only after finding someone “foolish enough to take the job.”
TikTok, too, is in hot water after ByteDance, its Chinese parent company, said an internal investigation found that employees had inappropriately obtained the data of U.S. users, including that of two journalists. The revelation puts pressure on the Biden administration to consider more extreme restrictions for the app in the United States.
Regardless of what happens to Twitter and TikTok, it’s clear that a big shift is underway in social media. Many journalists, techies and influencers have migrated to Mastodon, a social network that looks similar to Twitter. And lots of younger people have already moved on to newer apps like BeReal, where groups of friends stay in touch by taking and sharing selfies at the same time.
It’s unclear which new social media app will be a big deal in 2023. (Mastodon servers are struggling to handle the surge in users.) But one thing is certain: People who feel burned by Twitter are looking for a safe, fun place to hang out.