Driverless cars? 5G? The big tech that will actually make it in 2020


  • Technology
  • Sunday, 26 Jan 2020

Manufacturers are hoping augmented reality will make factory work faster and more precise for humans who can see additional information on top of what they are working on. — dpa

Silicon Valley's giants may be struggling with a growing animosity towards their innovations, which some have called techlash, but 2020's tech will continue to bring major changes to mobility, communication and entertainment.

Between the promises of 5G smartphones to self-driving cars, there is potentially massive societal change on the horizon – but how much further will we really be come January 2021?

Self-driving cars: Waiting for a green light

2020 was supposed to be the year self-driving cars hit the roads. — dpa2020 was supposed to be the year self-driving cars hit the roads. — dpa

Although 2020 was supposed to be the year when self-driving cars hit the roads, the developers now concede that it's going to take considerably longer.

The main problem continues to be how to accurately predict the behaviour of other road users. Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google, is currently the only company conducting extensive tests of a robotaxi service.

The coming year will show whether other players are ready or, as experts expect, whether it's time to winnow out the less successful ones.

Virtual reality: From hype to niche

Despite billions of dollars in investment, virtual reality has remained a niche market. — dpaDespite billions of dollars in investment, virtual reality has remained a niche market. — dpa

Despite billions of dollars in investment, the technology, which requires users to wear a special headset so they can immerse themselves in a virtual reality (VR) has remained a niche market. Will that change in 2020?

Facebook-owned Oculus VR in particular has paved the way with its stand-alone headset Quest, which offers a high-quality, wireless VR experience – so a user doesn't need to be plugged into an expensive PC.

Oculus plans to take a further step forward in the coming year: using hand tracking, instead of requiring the usual controller system.

Super-fast 5G : Widespread at last

2020 could be the first with widespread 5G.  — dpa2020 could be the first with widespread 5G. — dpa

Spectrum blocks for super-fast, fifth-generation wireless technology were auctioned off around the world in recent months, and the first networks are up and running.

2020 could be the first with widespread 5G. The chipmaker Qualcomm, whose technology can be found in the vast majority of smartphones, is projecting sales of up to 225 million 5G handsets.

An interesting question is whether the industry pivots to 5G first, as expected, or consumers do. Meanwhile, the controversy is likely to continue about whether the Chinese hardware company Huawei should be allowed to participate in the development of 5G networks.

Ambient computing: Tiny smartphone helpers everywhere

Several functions usually accessed via Apple's iPhone are now on the AirPods. — dpaSeveral functions usually accessed via Apple's iPhone are now on the AirPods. — dpa

The idea of interacting with the computers found in many devices in a user's surroundings isn't new. Now, however, the proliferation of voice assistants and miniaturisation of computer technology have finally made the concept of "ambient computing" a reality.

Amazon recently introduced an experimental ring and set of spectacles, both outfitted with its voice assistant, Alexa. And several functions usually accessed via Apple's iPhone are either on the Apple Watch or AirPods, Apple's wireless Bluetooth earbuds.

AR: Real meets virtual, but only for games?

Apple is among the companies that swear by the technology known as augmented reality (AR), in which virtual elements on an electronic display are made to appear as if they are in real environments.

With its AR platform ARKit, Apple wants to make it possible for app developers to easily integrate the technology into their apps.

Meanwhile manufacturers are hoping it will make factory work faster and more precise for humans who can see additional information projected onto what they see.

Perhaps the most famous instance of AR came back in 2016 with the launch of Pokemon GO. Today, the focus continues to be on games, as well as learning and job-related apps. According to media reports, Apple – along with other companies – is working on AR glasses.

The software development company Niantic behind Pokemon Go is already gearing up for a future with AR glasses. – dpa

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