A race into the ‘metaverse’
Facebook parent company Meta may have generated the most buzz with its foray into the metaverse — a theoretical shared space where people can hang out in virtual reality — but the other tech giants won’t be far behind.
2022 will be a “race into the metaverse” as large tech companies wrestle for slices of an emerging market, according to Rolf Illenberger, CEO of virtual reality software maker VRdirect. Google, Microsoft and Apple may introduce their own headsets and operating systems for the metaverse, like their equivalents for PCs and smartphones.
The giants aren’t alone, either: In recent years, parts of the CES floor have become a playground for start-ups building augmented and virtual reality headsets, and many are eager to make their mark on the metaverse. Meanwhile, there’s another hurdle the industry will need to clear. Companies developing software that runs in the metaverse would have to make sure those programs play nicely with different operating systems.
As for the rest of us, our first steps into the metaverse will probably be for our jobs. The pandemic is pushing companies toward virtual reality for onboarding, training and meetings. As consumer tech catches up, though, the metaverse will seep out of the workplace and into our everyday lives — but don’t get too excited. There’s a long way to go and lots of questions to answer before what tech companies are pitching as “the metaverse” becomes a reality.
The smart home will make a lot more sense
If you walk into a big-box retailer or hardware store, it probably wouldn’t take you long to find smart-home goodies like connected lightbulbs and thermostats. What can take awhile is finding stuff that works with the products you already have — but that might not be the case for much longer.
Some of the biggest names in Big Tech, including Apple, Amazon, Google and Samsung, have teamed up to develop a new smart-home standard called Matter. The aim: to ensure that the home gadgets you buy in the future all play nice with one another, regardless of who made them or what virtual assistant you want to use when interacting with them.
“Today when you look at a smart-home-connected device, you have to look at what ecosystem it works with,” said Erik Kay, a vice president of engineering at Google. “Where we’re going with Matter is that you don’t have to think about any of that.”
When you consider how territorial some of these companies can be, it can be tough to imagine all of them working together on a project like this. But for once things will be different, they claim, and with any luck we’ll get our first glimpse at Matter-compatible gear during CES.
Electric vehicles are inching toward the mainstream
Some 2022 tech trends are all about what’s not new. This year, electric vehicles will transition from cutting edge to standard issue — if you live somewhere with the infrastructure to support EV charging.
Electric models from household names including Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen will make EVs accessible to more people at lower prices. Market leader Tesla will continue expanding, and start-ups like Lucid and Rivian will elbow their way into the fray.
And shoppers will be able to choose from electric vehicles beyond the traditional sedan, with Volkswagen expanding the availability of its family-size ID.4 and Ford introducing an electric F-150 truck. Tesla’s divisive Cybertruck could even hit the market in 2022. Whatever your transportation needs, 2022 could bring an electric vehicle that suits you — as well as better batteries and charging options. But one thing could delay these mainstream moves.
Chips will still be hard to come by
A prolonged chip shortage has upended the way automakers churn out new vehicles, driven up prices of televisions and made hot products like Sony’s PlayStation 5 nearly impossible to buy. And unfortunately, all signs suggest we’re still not out of the woods.
The effects of the shortage probably won’t start to fade until the back half of 2022, said Syed Alam, managing director at Accenture Strategy. And that’s the best case scenario — he also believes it’s possible that the industries reeling from the shortage right now won’t completely bounce back until early 2023.
The reason it’s hard to predict just when the chip shortage will finally ease is because there’s still so much left up in the air. The onset of a pandemic helped throw the chip industry into disarray in the first place, so sudden changes — like, say, the emergence of a new variant — could throw a wrench into recovery plans. And because different products require different kinds of chips, it’s hard to tell which companies will start to bounce back first.
In the meantime, Intel, Samsung and the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. have announced plans to build chip plants in the United States, and they should help protect these companies — plus others that rely on them — from wild swings in chip availability. The problem is, these kinds of facilities take years to go live, so it’s unlikely they’ll be able to make a dent in the situation anytime soon.
Source: Tatum Hunter&Chris Velazco, The Washington Post