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The year ahead: Richer virtual worlds, more AI, the end of Twitter? – Hindustan Times

After a fairly tumultuous 2022, the technology ecosystem will be hoping for some consistency. That’s not what it’s likely to get in 2023; the pace of change shows signs of speeding up. For the consumer, that means a year of excitement amid the disruption. Expect dramatic changes in smartphone design and social media platforms, new regulations, the further digitisation of travel (via tools such as facial recognition), and of course more from the work-in-progress metaverse platforms, those immersive virtual worlds that sit at the intersection of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and gaming.Your next smartphone The smartphone will sit at the heart of this expanding landscape, and there’s been change afoot here too. The semiconductor shortages (which began amid the first Covid-era lockdowns, and were exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s reduced manufacturing capabilities) eased in the second half of 2022, and that happy situation looks set to last. “We’ve had a fascinating few years with semiconductor supply challenges, but things are definitely getting back to normal,” Chris Patrick, senior vice-president and general manager for handsets at Qualcomm Technologies, said to me recently.This will mean a slew of new arrivals, across price ranges. Most will seek to capitalise on faster 5G internet. Traditional early movers OnePlus and Samsung will likely launch new flagship phones. (OnePlus has already confirmed February 7 as the India launch date for its OnePlus 11 series.)The second half of 2023 should be exciting. Samsung will launch its next line of foldable phones, Apple’s iPhone 15 series and the next iteration of Google’s Pixel phones will be released too. We’re unlikely to see a foldable iPhone this year, but Google may have a surprise up its sleeve. AI’s saunter into the mainstream Free-to-use AI (artificial intelligence) programs look set to boom in 2023, as platforms use the excitement around these experiments to test – and teach – their new products. Expect more conversational AI programs and image-creation tools, from a wider range of tech companies, as competition in the sector heats up. ChatGPT, a conversational AI system from OpenAI, already has Google worried. It can craft a poem, explain quantum mechanics, answer questions one would normally do a Google Search for, and (famously) can now help write computer code. ChatGPT seems to have the right attitude too. It gently tells users why it’s bad to bully; politely declines requests for violent content. There’s already talk of how such systems could be used in schools. Google seems likely to respond with the public release of its AI-driven chatbot, LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), in 2023. This is the program that then-Google engineer Blake Lemoine called “sentient” in mid-2022; he was fired for that comment. Meanwhile, of course, there’s the usual tangle over how such programs will be regulated; something that’s certainly unlikely to be sorted out in the coming year.Will the bird app die? Elon Musk’s leadership of Twitter continues to alienate users and advertisers. A change isn’t likely immediately, in either his position or his unique and dysfunctional approach to policy. More users will likely leave. But it won’t be the end of Twitter, at least not yet. It would take years for an app this big to fail. The space is wide open for a rival, though. Mastodon (launched in 2016) is finally positioning itself as a platform of immediacy, but continues to have a far more complicated personality. This would be a good time for Meta to step up, given that it already has Facebook and Instagram in the family, but there’s been no sign yet of this happening. Post.News seems like a strong contender. Launched in November 2022, it’s still very new and needs time to scale, but is a close approximation of Twitter. It has worked to embed parallel features and is expected to soon release dedicated apps for Android and iOS. As founder Noam Bardin put it, in a tweet announcing the launch: “I believe the future newspaper is the feed and want to make it more civil for users, profitable for publishers and better for society.” More choice for the user Thanks to the European Union, which has taken the lead in keeping tech giants in check, Apple is reportedly considering allowing alternative app stores for the iPhone, in keeping with new laws that say users and app developers must be given a choice. We have the EU to thank for the upcoming switch to universal chargers by 2024. The EU’s Digital Services Act or DSA proposes stricter guidelines on the use and management of user data too. This will include online content moderation, management of misinformation and what data points will be off-limits for targeted advertisers. All this is proof that global tech regulation works. Which is good news as AI silently grows in influence. Locked and loaded Gaming looks set to boom in 2023. Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation consoles will resume their market-share battles, and Sony may spring a surprise with a mid-cycle refresh of the PS5 series. Most new game releases will occur in the second half of the year, timed to coincide with the West’s festive-season sales. Expect Bethesda’s all-new game world Starfield, Arkane’s open-world first-person shooter game Redfall, and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage, in which you play a street thief haunted by nightmares, seeking answers and justice.



Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.