Google’s self-driving cars will hit the street in a major city, as part publicity tour, part public-works campaign. The cars will be available for use by the public as part of a tourism campaign, but won’t take them very far; we’re thinking around the block at most. Still, the cars’ arrival will be touted as one of the big innovations of 2013, and other cities—and amusement parks—will soon follow suit.
End of Email
Could this be it? With social media and real-time communication systems replacing email and phones in our daily lives, a major company or organization will move entirely off email-based systems in favor of a chatlike product for keeping in touch with employees. This will inspire others to follow, and the beginning of the end of email will be heralded by futurists and Gen Y alike.
The announcement, with anticipation building over the past few years, will be met initially with waves of skepticism. Is Apple serious about its Apple TV? When it launches in late spring, however, the iTV, as it will be called, will be a major hit. Consumers, ready and willing to cut the cord for good, will leave their cable companies in droves and fall into the open arms of Apple.
We’ve seen it all before. Facebook tweaks some privacy settings. Its users revolt. The company—led by a reassuring note by founder Mark Zuckerberg—dials it back a touch, quietly leaving the framework of its changes in place. But 2013 will be different. Facebook will change something major in its privacy code, led by the introduction of an all-new service that relies on such information, and millions will delete their profiles for good. Its stock price will take a hit, which will in turn trigger a round of serious debate about Zuck’s future at the helm of the company.
Fueled by a Kickstarter campaign, an enterprising young inventor will introduce the first mass-market implantable pedometers meant for the average fitness buff. The devices, small enough to fit under a layer of skin on one’s arm, will create an uproar among ethicists yet inspire a crowd of dedicated enthusiasts.
Premium Cable Goes à la Carte
HBO GO will be the first to make the leap. Showtime, AMC, and ESPN will follow, and consumers will applaud the first real step at premium cable companies going à la carte, meaning you pick and choose which channels you pay for across all your devices. Cable companies will panic, and quickly introduce apps on set-top boxes to retain cord-cutters, with hope of appealing to their customers’ desire for an easy way to get bundled, curated content, no matter what device they’re on.
Rise of the iPad Mini
The iPad Mini will become the bestselling consumer-tech device in 2013. Driven by strong holiday sales, Apple’s latest tablet will continue to break records, fueled by insatiable consumer demand throughout the United States, South America, and Asia.
Kim Dotcom Returns
The made-for-Hollywood creator of MegaUpload, a file-sharing website since shuttered by government authorities for copyright violations, will return and reclaim his throne as King of the Internet with a new website.
Rise of Yahoo
With ex-Googler Marissa Mayer at the helm, Yahoo will have a breakout year in 2013 as users return to the long-rudderless organization, brought back by its embrace of consumer-friendly tech products. Flickr, too, will see a sudden surge in popularity as users flee Facebook-owned Instagram.
Bzzzzzzzzz. Better get used to that soon-to-be-familiar buzz as drones—the first batch will be operated by local and state agencies—will become a regular presence in American skies.
Seinfeld Returns (Kind of)
The popular Twitter account @SeinfeldToday, which reimagines Seinfeld plots with all the trappings of the present, lends serious thought to a Seinfeld comeback among the cast. The only result, though, is a remastered BlueRay box-set. The deluxe edition omits the last episode.
QR Codes Hit the Road
It’s OK, nobody used them anyway. Those ugly square scan codes seen occasionally on billboards and magazine ads will (thankfully) become a thing of the past in 2013. Originally ushered in as a groundbreaking way to connect the real world to digital, QR codes have become a rarely used stunt for marketers to check off the digital box. No more.
Japanese researchers—already hard at work improving the RIBA II (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) will introduce a caretaking robot meant for the average, everyday consumer. An initially skeptical public will keep their distance, but toward the end of the year, a high-profile success case will propel these robots into the mainstream.
A foreign power will successfully execute a daring cyber attack on the United States’ fragile infrastructure grid, leading to rolling blackouts, a frozen stock market, and billions of dollars in damage. Historians will point to this moment as the catalyst that started Cyber World War 1.0, as it led the U.S. to retaliate with unprecedented fury.
At-Home Genetic Testing
As companies like 23andMe continue to profligate, consumers will grow steadily comfortable with the idea of at-home genetic testing. The year will see a high-profile celebrity sign on and begin promoting the idea, leading to wider adoption rates among the baby-rearing generation.
Get ready for the explosion of taxi-hailing smartphones apps! Soon you’ll be telling your kids about the days standing on a street corner, waving helplessly at passing taxi cabs, as 2013 is all but guaranteed to see big-time innovation in the taxi world. Apps like Uber will become mainstream, as users simply click a button to request a nearby taxi cab. Cranky drivers, however, are here to stay.
Twitter Goes Public
Following in the footsteps of his peers, Twitter CEO Dick Costello will take the social-microblogging company public in late 2013, making its founders, and scores of early employees, rich. Unlike Facebook, however, this IPO won’t be bungled, and shares will rise to unexpectedly high levels.
The End of Cash
And the dawn of the smart wallet. This, in turn, will lead to a gradual phase-out of cash starting in 2013 and extending throughout the next decade, culminating in a federal decision to print fewer lower-denominational bills.
Printing solid objects is already a reality many within the medical, art and entertainment industries are investing in. But wouldn’t it be great if you could order something off Amazon and have it printed instantaneously? As the technology becomes more refined and costs drop, a 3-D printer could be perched below your computer desk within the year. But with this mass production, ethical issues will abound, raising questions of what you should and should not be able to print yourself.
Google blew our minds with its futuristic glasses demo, but we’ve yet to actually don a pair ourselves. The glassless Google glasses aren’t expected to be ready until 2014, but that’s not to say another company won’t beat it to the charge before then: both Apple and Microsoft have also obtained patents for augmented reality displays.
Crowdfunding for Tech Startups
Kickstarter showed us the enormous potential held within crowdsourcing platforms, which charitable organizations and creative individuals have been taking advantage of for years. Silicon Valley will be the next to jump on the bandwagon, with thousands of promising tech startups competing for your dollar. Investors excited about being the first to fund the next Facebook will embrace the model, but only one or two will actually make it big.
Space Race 2.0
Space tourism had been a pipe dream of the last century, but in the next few years it very well could be a reality. As the government-funded space programs wind down, adventurous billionaires will be the next to lead missions into the dark depths beyond Earth. Pretty soon, passenger spacecrafts and galactic hotels will be the norm for the vacation seeker.
In the tech market, small products packing big punch rule. Apple’s new iPhones are the perfect size, but they lack a lower-market product that will ensure the company continues to expand. Introducing the iPhone Mini, a more economically priced phone perfect for the casual user and global markets. All the other products have a mini version, why not the phone?