Here’s what excites us – and worries us – about tech in 2018
After such a hectic year for tech, here’s what The Post’s Geoffrey A. Fowler expects in 2018. (Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)
Is the outlook for technology in 2018 exciting — or slightly terrifying? Flip a coin. You’d be right either way.
As I look into my crystal ball at what new technologies are most likely to shape our lives in the next 12 months, I see science-fiction dreams coming to life: glasses that mix reality and imagination, an electric car in my driveway and gadgets that charge without plugs.
But coming out of a year where most Americans were hacked and Silicon Valley got scolded by Congress, there’s plenty to worry about. How many ways will artificial intelligence make decisions without us? And how long should we remain panicked about cybersecurity lapses?
Tech’s not just about shiny new gadgets anymore. So I put together this list of 10 technologies to look out for in 2018, for better and worse.
5 reasons to be excited
Tesla’s Model 3 has been preordered by 450,000 people. Will 2018 be the year Tesla’s able to deliver them in mass? (Tesla)
1) Tesla moves the car forward
Whether you’re an Elon Musk skeptic or true believer, it’s hard to deny the Tesla Model 3 has generated iPhone-level buzz about electric cars. Since this “affordable luxury” $35,000-and-up sedan was unveiled in 2016, roughly 450,000 people have preordered one. Now if only Tesla could make them. Significant manufacturing issues keep pushing back the Model 3 delivery timeline, but there’s a good chance you’ll see some on the road in 2018. What’s the big deal? Tesla is forcing all car companies to act more like consumer tech companies, pushing into electric and making standard such capabilities as accident prevention and connectivity. My favorite Model 3 idea: It comes with the cameras, sensors and computing power it needs to eventually allow the car to drive itself.
The HomePod, seen here from on top, will bring a Siri-powered speaker into living rooms in 2018. (Apple)
2) The HomePod gets Apple talking
Hey Siri, glad you’re finally joining the house party. First introduced in summer 2017 and then delayed, the $350 HomePod is Apple’s first talking speaker. For people who buy Apple everything, the HomePod has the potential to tie together music, the TV and the smart home in a way that the iPhone alone hasn’t. But there are huge doubts: Apple missed two holiday seasons that ushered competing Amazon Echo and Google Home products into many homes. Apple has mostly been touting the HomePod’s sound quality, but in my experience many people can’t actually tell the difference — or at least aren’t willing to pay extra for it.
Magic Leap says its long-promised augmented reality hardware, the Magic Leap One, will debut in 2018. (Magic Leap)
3) Augmented reality is going places
Pokémon Go introduced the world to augmented reality, a fancy term for mixing the real world with digital information. In the year ahead, we’ll test whether that idea is more than a gimmick. Thanks to new AR-enabling tech in smartphones, the camera can be a search engine, interior design tool or teacher. We’ll also finally get our hands on an AR headset from Magic Leap, a much-hyped start-up that has raised $1.9 billion in funding. They call their forthcoming Magic Leap One gadget a “lightweight, wearable computer that enriches your experience in the real world with digital content” — though to me it looks like a prop from “Max Max: Fury Road.”
The iPhone at last supports wireless charging. The Apple Watch 3 and AirPods will also charge without plugs on Apple’s AirPower pad, expected to debut in 2018. (Apple)
4) Wireless charging gets a much-needed jolt
Soon you might be able to leave the house without a rat’s nest of power cords. The tech to charge gadgets without plugs has been a non-starter for years because one very important brand was missing: Apple. But the iPhone maker just added wireless charging to the X and 8, putting its stamp of approval on a charging standard called Qi. Now coffee shops, furniture makers and car companies might be more confident about building wireless charging pads into everyday things. Let’s hope they do, because phone battery life isn’t improving nearly fast enough to keep up with how much we use them.
5) Digital subscriptions as the new norm
In 2018, paying for online video, music, games and (yes) news subscriptions will feel as normal as a $4 latte. Deloitte predicts that by the end of the year, 50 percent of adults in developed countries will have at least two online-only media subscriptions. Expect Apple to redouble its subscription video efforts, as well as big battles over streaming rights for sports. The shift to subscriptions is good for high-quality content creators who can’t make it with advertising alone, but consumers may start to feel the pain of too many $10-per-month subscriptions. Here’s to hoping we see more bundle options, like a recent $5 a month combo deal of Hulu and Spotify for college students.
5 reasons to worry