Digital Tech to Watch in 2020: Preview

At the start of each new year I like to clar­i­fy my thoughts by writ­ing about a few tech­nolo­gies and behav­iours that I think are worth keep­ing an eye on. This is an edit­ed extract of my 2020 piece.

Extended Reality (AR & VR)

The first big tech­nol­o­gy plat­form was the web, which dig­i­tized infor­ma­tion. The sec­ond great plat­form was social media; it dig­i­tized peo­ple. We are now at the dawn of the third plat­form, which will dig­i­tize the rest of the world.”

Kevin Kel­ly

Extend­ed real­i­ty promis­es to be the next great tech­nol­o­gy plat­form, but while the scope of the oppor­tu­ni­ty is vis­i­ble the tech­nol­o­gy isn’t ready to achieve it yet. Before XR becomes ready for the main­stream there are still a num­ber of things to be fig­ured out.

Com­pa­nies of all sizes are rac­ing to build a 1:1 scale dig­i­tal map of the world around us, where phys­i­cal real­i­ty itself becomes ‘click­able’ and search­able. Some peo­ple call this the Mir­ror­world. Ear­ly sig­ni­fiers are Snapchat’s Land­mark­er Lens­es and Google Maps’ Live View.

Smart Assistants
& Smart Homes

The use of core smart assis­tant func­tions like music, weath­er, and alarms con­tin­ues to grow, but oth­er uses like shop­ping and games are declin­ing. In-Skill pur­chase rev­enue on Alexa devices is said to be far below expec­ta­tion.

5G Networks

Many of the real­ly inter­est­ing use cas­es for 5G are yet to be dis­cov­ered. Edge com­put­ing could dri­ve more inno­va­tion than high-speed data alone. 5G may be a trans­for­ma­tive tech­nol­o­gy, but it won’t hap­pen immi­nent­ly or obvi­ous­ly.

Social Splintering & Social Selling

Short video clips are the future of ecom­merce. Think of them as com­pul­sive­ly watch­able com­mer­cials — with a direct link to buy.”

Con­nie Chan & Avery Segal

Social net­works are adding e‑commerce tools. This fol­lows the social sell­ing boom in Chi­na, where influ­encer mar­ket­ing is giv­ing way to direct sell­ing from con­tacts in inter­est-based com­mu­ni­ties, increas­ing­ly through short-form and live-streamed video.

Gaming & E‑sports

Fort­nite has become a dai­ly social square — a dig­i­tal mall or vir­tu­al after­school meet­up that spans neigh­bor­hoods, cities, coun­tries and con­ti­nents.”

Matthew Ball

Fort­nite is inno­vat­ing sto­ry­telling, but its real achieve­ment may be in becom­ing a ‘third place’ for hang­ing out with friends and shar­ing live expe­ri­ences. This pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ty for brands to reach a high­ly engaged audi­ence.

Synthetic Media

Advances in deep learn­ing are enabling mag­ic: neur­al net­works can increas­ing­ly repro­duce media con­tent at such a high fideli­ty that it is almost impos­si­ble to tell apart from con­tent cre­at­ed by humans.”

Vic­tor Ripar­bel­li

Syn­thet­ic media has the poten­tial to shake every­thing up. It can clone voic­es, enables peo­ple to paint impos­si­ble land­scapes, speak dif­fer­ent lan­guages, and dance, and gen­er­ates por­traits of non-exis­tent peo­ple whose eth­nic­i­ty can be mod­i­fied on the fly.


Ani­mo­ji, Bit­mo­ji, are the ker­nel of big ideas: they are masks that let you be more expres­sive than texts but also low­er the res­o­lu­tion of how much you’re shar­ing about your­self.”

Dan­ny Trinh

As we spend more time in immer­sive spaces the way we rep­re­sent our­selves is becom­ing more rich­ly expres­sive. Fash­ion brands are exper­i­ment­ing with offi­cial acces­sories for avatars, and the emer­gence of dig­i­tal fash­ion is an indi­ca­tor of the future of visu­al iden­ti­ty.

Thanks for read­ing!
See the full arti­cle for more detail, data, and links.

Image cred­its:
Epic Games (1)
Nre­al (3)
Ama­zon (7)
Riot Games / Louis Vuit­ton (14) (17)
The Fab­ri­cant (20)