By Chris Kuttin ’22
In 2021, it can be expected that mainstream technology won’t pertain to simply lavish cell phones or new groundbreaking computer models. Although these facets of the Internet will indeed evolve, this year will observe a heavier focus on the advancement of software and imminent products that will improve the Internet for years to come.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak that turned our lives upside down, the technology that captivated the attention of consumers included top-notch television sets, booming loudspeakers, and refined smartphones. The average consumer obsessed over attaining the newest piece of technology to flaunt around, namely cell phones from major companies such as Apple Inc., which produce new products annually. Although many are still raptly preoccupied with this pastime, being forced into quarantine has led many to utilize beneficial technology and applications that were often taken for granted in the past. Apps that were previously overlooked played imperative roles throughout the outbreak and have become a fundamental part of our lives within the pandemic, whether that be through providing entertainment, supplying significant information regarding the perplexing times, learning in a virtual setting, or even by helping family and friends stay in touch with one another.
A prime category of formerly dismissed apps that grew in importance were those that served as a form of payment. Popular examples include both Cash App and Apple Pay. Up until recently, credit cards and paper money were the more preferred and commonplace methods of pay. However, due to the clear risk that these methods present in a pandemic, many opted for safer options: virtual and contactless payment.
Additionally, we saw a rapid rise in the usage of virtual reality. Whether it be in the case of video games or interacting in the classroom, this form of technology allows its users to become immersed in a reality that is oftentimes distinct from their own. In most cases, it places a focus on impractical realities. However, many have been using lifelike virtual reality simulations to generate a sense of normalcy in the absence of in-person interaction. For example, there has been a monumental increase in medical schools that have been making use of this technology to provide engaging lessons for their students. Schools such as Kansas City University have seen positive results from this new way of learning. Furthermore, industries such as those pertaining to fashion and cosmetics have allowed customers to virtually try on clothes or makeup prior to making a purchase, giving the customers an experience similar to that of being in the store physically.
There have certainly been various adjustments and advancements made to everyday life in order to accommodate these trivial times. That being said, there will continue to be new technological improvements and implementations that will extend into this year.
Firstly, it has become increasingly apparent that the online-shopping experience has been going through major changes. There has been a recent surge in the utilization of chatbots. Chatbots are designed to simulate conversation with shoppers. Their usefulness lies in the fact that they are able to answer a wide variety of questions for their clients. However, if they are unable to assist the person that they are speaking with, an actual employee will take initiative and help the customer. Many companies have adopted this beneficial form of technology. One of the premier pioneers in this subsection of technology was Sephora, who had remarkable results with it. Other companies that employ chatbots range from Duolingo all the way to Domino’s.
Issues regarding Wi-Fi expanded due to more families being quarantined indoors where devices were frequently used in the same vicinity, evidently pushing the limits of their bandwidths. In 2021, there will be an introduction of Wi-Fi 6 that numerous internet routers will operate with. While it does aim to accomplish the simple tasks, such as connecting to the Internet, it also plans to incorporate more bandwidth, which is the transmission capacity of a computer network shared among numerous technological devices. As a result, there will be an even spread of bandwidth among all devices being used at home, thus increasing internet speeds.
Additionally, technology played a role in providing those enduring the pandemic’s limitations with an opportunity to better their physical and mental health. Gym closures spurred a surge in mobile fitness apps and at-home gym equipment. Apps such as PEAR Personal Fitness Coach, Peloton, and Shred supplied fitness junkies, those looking to better themselves in the physical sense, and individuals aspiring to stay sane during the uncertain times with rigorous workouts that could be done from the safety of their own home. As an effort to continue this commitment to fitness, companies turned to Zoom and other video chat applications to hold their classes that were canceled for precautionary measures. Yoga, dance, and calisthenics classes were some of the many offered via these platforms. In regards to mental health, apps such as Headspace and Calm experienced an acceleration of sales, especially during the early months of the pandemic, namely March and April. Ensuring that these two divisions of health are thriving in a mainly uncertain time is vital, even now.
This year will be distinct in numerous aspects, especially in the technological industry. With technology arising as such an integral part of our lives, it is exciting to see what the future holds for us in this ever expanding sector in 2021.