Tech 2013: Through a Touchscreen Darkly

2013 in technology will be a strange, wonderful place, but pretty much like this past year

Feature by Alex Cole | 03 Jan 2013
  • 3D printed frogs

It’s an old New Year’s tradition to gather round the fire with loved ones, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and whinge about this past year’s tech and gadgets, with a wistful, almost child-like hope for something better in the future, something that would be so awesome if only you had a say in it.

Well, it wouldn’t because your last encounter with technology consisted of violently shaking the toaster before realising that the switch on the outlet wasn’t on. But that won’t stop you from making a call on the things to look out for in the year to come, since that went so well for my predictions last year.

Tech & TV: It was supposed to happen this year, with all the hoopla at CES, but there was too much faff and not enough substance, between YouView limping out of the gate and the Nexus Q not even making it off the starting block. But this year, everyone is starting to get their act together and actually make TV and tech make sense, from games to interactive ads to social updates with and without using tablets and mobiles. With Apple hinting that they’re getting into the game as well, this is the time for the last screen in the house to get sweet internet hookups.

4G: It’s been talked about enough, and EE has made its announcements to not-much fanfare, but if you buy a phone next year, chances are it’ll be all 4G-ified and be superfast at internetting. Mostly, this will mean faster YouTube downloads and mapping, since those are the most intensive tasks we do with mobiles, but the sticking point is the cost and the data caps, both of which are so far outlandish. 4G will probably feel more like a ‘this is how it should be’ upgrade, rather than a ‘why-oh-why have I waited so long for this’ upgrade.

3D Printing: It’s not quite ‘there’ yet, still out of reach of having a cheap desktop box churning out Kinder Egg toys, but it’s close enough that there are online services where you can submit a 3D model (or choose one you like), pick your material, and in a few days you’re sent a real-world printout you can hold in your hand. Have a cool jewelry or phone stand idea? Print away. Buying something that stored in a warehouse will stop mattering – for digital, you can download, and for physical, you can now download that too.

Ambient Tech: Another one that keeps evolving in little ways, but the truth is, your mobile and tablet will become enablers to everything you do. With NFC starting to appear in phones, your mobile will be able to respond to location-specific events, you can pay for a flight, pay for the food, and board said flight all without ever carrying a wallet. You’ll get offers when you walk by shops, get directions to the party as your phone reads through your calendar, and never scrounge for a fiver just to get a coffee. It’s still not a paperless society, but when it’s no longer as cool to get someone’s number than it is to just type it into your mobile, you know which way the wind is blowing.