In a special live episode of Between the Bytes, our tech team got to nerd out a bit by discussing some of their favorite cutting-edge top tech for 2023 and beyond, that either exists now or is coming online soon, along with holiday gifts for the tech junkies in your life.
Picks for Top Tech for 2023:
SpinLaunch reduces the cost of sending satellites and equipment into space by nearly 10X. Where it usually costs over $50 million to send a traditional rocket into space, SpinLaunch can do it for about $500,000.
Why is it so cheap? It’s a large, cylinder-shaped vacuum chamber with an exit tube. In the middle is a centrifuge. You attach a rocket to an arm, spin it, accelerate it to 5,000 mph and release it. The rocket shoots out of the tube and up into space. While it sounds like a child’s toy, it’s challenging to execute because if you’re off by a millisecond on the release, the satellite hits the inside of the chamber and explodes.
With this, they can’t send people into space because it pulls about 10,000 Gs at the acceleration peak. (Sustained 6G forces are considered fatal to most humans.) While still in the testing phase, the promise of being able to launch things into space for a tenth of the cost is a giant leap forward.
This is a low-orbit array of satellites (courtesy of Elon Musk) that sometimes can be seen as a trail of lights in the sky at sunrise or sunset. It’s providing internet in areas of the world where it can’t usually be accessed. Some other companies are following suit – with Google even attempting to use hydrogen balloons for their solution. The beauty of Starlink is the promise of Internet for everyone, everywhere, and the possibility of connecting people here in the U.S. who are out in nature – either in RVs or backpacking.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Marketers love the term AI, but will this technology impact our lives? As an example of how AI is getting used more often, we have a friend who started working for a startup that uses AI’s predictive algorithms to diagnose certain diseases based on a patient’s voice. An example is Alzheimer’s, which has certain characteristic speech patterns. As he explained, if you are on a call with your spouse, you almost immediately know if something’s off. Essentially, they’re training this AI to look for that and make better diagnoses based on audio input from speech.
Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality
Our take on the metaverse is that although not everyone will hang out in VR like in the movie Ready Player One, augmented reality will be a thing. This diverse continuum and WebD or Web3, along with augmented reality, convinced us that we will be creating avatars and doing business in virtual space at some point. Some current applications of AR are heads-up displays in cars. Side mirrors on some newer cars show your speed, but future heads-up displays will highlight parts of the road, measure distance, and even tell you where construction zones and speed traps are.
On a similar note, Google glasses were laughed at when they first came out, but they could be the first step in the evolution of AR. Imagine going on a hike and identifying a plant by looking at it or being out shopping and getting price data on a product. You’d be moving through life with extra layers of data. Paired with advances like Starlink and GPS3, this AR would be functional. Another way we see AR in real life is Amazon using it to virtually place furniture in your home so you can see how it looks before you buy, just as other websites do for clothes and glasses.
DJI Drones, VR Headsets, and Gaming
There’s now a game that allows you to look over a DJI Technology drone and see a virtual racetrack in the air as you are flying it. Their drones are easy to fly, so for tech gifts, almost anything DJI offers is a safe bet. Their newest drone has enclosed, protected propellers designed to survive bumping into things. Combine that with their full VR goggles for the ultimate experience.
Speaking of VR headsets, Meta (Facebook) released its new Quest Pro, which at $1,500 is much more expensive than the Oculus VR headset, at $200 to $300. For a base model, the latter makes a great gift.
Does a gamer in your life want more control? You can fully customize every aspect of the Pro Elite Xbox controller – even fitting it to your hand size.
All Things Smart Home
It started with home devices and locks, and now it’s refrigerators, ovens, stovetops, and more – you name it. Unfortunately, when the Wi-Fi goes out, your smart home can become the dumbest house in the neighborhood because nothing works quite right – especially the smart light bulbs. Being able to say, “Hey, Google, turn on the lights” is very handy, but if you have Google turn off the lights and the Wi-Fi goes out, you don’t get to turn that light back on.
They now have curtain rod rollers that connect to your smart home devices. So, you can say, “Google, open the curtains.” It might be worth it if you want to feel awesome. They also have light sensors, so they will close the curtains automatically when it gets bright outside.
Google Homes are great because they start at $30, and the kids can ask them questions all day long. You can also set up a mesh speaker system that plays to all the speakers at the same time. So, as you walk through the house, whatever music or podcast you’re listening to follows you.
With all this smart stuff comes security risk. Every one of these devices could be hacked and probably will be. So, unless you’re keeping up with the software or the firmware on it, you have the potential for an attack point in your personal network. If you’re savvy enough, you can set up a guest wireless in your house for IoT devices. The Google Home app gives you that option. In any case, regularly update all your systems. Don’t ignore the pop-up when it says, “Update your firmware.”
Quick Gift Tips
- They are now USB rechargeable lighters on Amazon that use an electric arc instead of a flame, so they will never go out – for under $10.
- Bose 700 Headphones have exceptional noise canceling, or they can amplify voices, so you can keep them on and still hear people talking to you.
- Apple Pro earbuds have noise canceling that is on par with Bose.
- For any professional in your life, it’s 2022, and we’re still very virtual. Get them (or yourself) an external mic.
- Polaroid is making a comeback because it’s instant gratification that’s the antithesis of digital. You don’t get to edit anything on a Polaroid picture; it captures a moment in time, which makes it unique.
- One not to buy is the Apple home speaker. It will only play Apple Music, so you don’t get to listen to Spotify or anything else. (And we haven’t met anybody who listens to Apple Music.)
- For the kids in the group, there’s LEGO Technic and Mario. There’s a transformational LEGO Technic vehicle, a tank that flips over into a different car. It’s got suspension and an app to control it with. The Mario-themed LEGO sets have a little Mario who has a scanner in his feet. As he lands on certain pieces, he will light up, make different sounds, and react to the pieces he lands on.
- When it comes to health, Sonicare and Oral-B have toothbrushes with an app and game effect, so as you brush your teeth, it shows them get cleaner and tells you where you may have missed. This could be an advantage for parents who struggle with kids at brushing time.
- There are also several new wearables for runners that they put in the soles of their shoes or that are built into shoes and socks. Variations connect to a phone that shows cadence, foot strike, step length, and more.
No matter who is on your list, there’s a new, exciting, and nice tech gift out there for them.