Innovation Monitor: Predictions for 2022 & Looking Back at 2021 Trends
Innovation Monitor: Predictions for 2022 & Looking Back at 2021 Trends
Welcome to this week’s Innovation Monitor.
We’ve arrived at the last edition of this newsletter for 2021. During this time of the year we reflect on the year that was, and look ahead to the next. And while it was another year for the record books, we’re excited to share with you a list of some early predictions for what will be the big trends and innovations for 2022.
To close out the year, here’s visual time lapse of weather an opinion piece that lists questions and conversation topics that defined the year’s cultural conversations, and an introspective podcast on doomscrolling, the pandemic, and a more truly ‘connected’ way of being.
As always, thank you for reading. We’ll be back the second week of January. If you were forwarded this email, you can easily sign up here.
Wishing you a happy, healthy, peaceful holiday season.
Erica Matsumoto Looking Back at our 2021 Predictions To begin, let’s start with our 2021 Predictions from last December. We think we were pretty spot on for a few of these…
The Metaverse (economy) becomes even more normalized
Well, this one doesn’t need much explanation. With Facebook’s announcement and rebranding to Meta, along with the many other companies growing and developing their own metaverses, we anticipate the focus on these virtual, gamified worlds and economies will will only continue to increase in 2022. We’ve written several editions on digital worlds, beings, and assets.
Climate Tech and Sustainable Investing are no longer niche subjects
Investment in companies fighting the global climate crisis increased by 210% in 2021 and the number of active climate investors rose from less than 900 in the first half of 2020 to over 1,600 in the first half of 2021. While there is debate over whether these investments are going towards the most effective technologies, the urgency is clear. Here’s a hauntingly beautify visual series, “Postcards from a World on Fire”
Explainable and Responsible AI get more focus
The topic of AI transparency and governance is always top of mind for the NYC Media Lab, and while we’ve seen some progress in this space, and more focus on this is expected in 2022 and beyond. Currently, according to Enterprise AI, only 20% of companies using AI have an ethical AI framework in place. This year, Frances Houghan’s brave whistleblowing and disclosures around Facebook’s algorithms and practices moved the needle towards accountability and transparency.
More prosumers than ever before
As work from home and hybrid schedules have continued, and digital experiences and assets like metaverses and NFTs skyrocketed in 2021, the workforce of prosumers, or “individuals that blur the line between production and consumption activities” is increasingly on the rise. We anticipate these blended creator-consumer economies to gain traction in 2022 as Web3 and other creator-owned, developed, and maintained experiences become increasingly popular.
We find a balance between remote work and in-person meetings (sort of)
While ‘balance’ is an inherently personal and subjective measure, this year work was a mix of virtual and in-person meetings for many. Additionally, companies such as Spatial, Meta and Microsoft both turned to working to create 3D virtual work worlds in an attempt to offer novelty during these virtual meetings.
Antitrust. Antitrust. Antitrust.
Questions around e-commerce monopolies and the tech playbook of acquiring their competition remain. (We’ve written about, for example, Google’s ~92% marketshare of all web searches in the entire world.) The Biden Administration recently confirmed Jonathan Kantor to lead the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division in beginning the administration’s effort to reorient federal antitrust policy and enforcement.
LiDAR propels AI even further
In 2021, both M1 iPad Pro models and the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro all were equipped with LiDAR. The iPhone 13 Pro is enabled with advanced augmented reality features in part because of its LiDAR. We think this is the first step to scale novel applications and spatial, AR experiences using LiDAR. Read up on our deep dive on LiDAR here.
AirPods will push more into media and experiences
In August this year Apple won a patent to further develop binaural and spatial audio for head-tracking with its AirPods Pro. We expect to continue to see innovation in this space. Yamaha is also expected to launch a product in this space in August 2022.
Brain computer interfaces find new applicable solutions
While brain computer interfaces are still in the early, experimental stages, 2021 was a record year for BCI funding. Additionally, this year Blackrock Neurotech received breakthrough status from the FDA for MoveAgain, a BCI system designed to enable immobile patients to control a mouse cursor, keyboard, mobile device, wheelchair or prosthetic device using their brains. The company is aiming to commercialize this product in 2022.
Grade: 3/5 2022 Predictions… Welcome to the World of Web3
We predict Web3 will be the hype cycle story of 2022. Web3 will be critical in providing the foundational infrastructure needed for any decentralized technology moving forward. This includes blockchain technology, cryptocurrency, NFTs, DAOs, and the metaverse. Since we expect to continue to see an increased focus on decentralized technology, it only stands to reason that Web3 will also be part of that focus. Questions do remain, however, regarding when and how we will see the implementation of Web3 take place. If not in 2022, we will certainly see strides made toward it. We recently did a 2 week deep dive into all things Web3 which we encourage you to check out here and here.
Regulating, Stabilizing & Scaling Cryptocurrencies
Cryptocurrency had a strong year in 2021 and is expected to keep up its momentum. With this in mind, the Biden Administration has created a team, led by U.S.Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and the chairman of the U.S.Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler, to steer the cryptocurrency regulation process. They should be working to develop a legal framework which works for investors, consumers, cryptocurrency businesses, and traditional banks. We think introducing a legal framework will help getting cryptocurrency adopted by consumers at scale. Read up on El Salvador’s crypto experiment and CBDCs (central bank digital currencies) here.
Ethical, Responsible, Transparent AI
We’re hopeful that 2022 will see more focus on ethical and equitable AI practices, from building ethical frameworks to ensuring training of AI is ethical and equitable to continually testing the outputs of a company’s AI before deploying it to consumers. We’re excited to see leaders in this space continuing raise awareness and push solutions, including Timnit Gebru who just launched a new research institute, Joy Buolamwini and the Algorithmic Justice League, and Cathy O’Neil and the algorithmic auditing firm ORCAA. As use of as AI will steadily increase across industries, we (will keep) sound(ing) the need for more transparency, oversight, and better practices around keeping AI systems in check.
Rise of DAOs in Theory and Practice
With the rise of Web3 technology, including blockchain and cryptocurrency, we may also see a rise in DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations. DAOs are internet-native organizations with no central leadership. Rather, they are governed by a community which follows a specific set of rules enforced on a blockchain. Decisions, including financial decisions, are made via proposals the group votes on during a specified period. DAOs have several potential advantages over traditional organizations, such as transparency, governance by the majority, and member engagement. That said, there is currently no legal framework for them, we anticipate the rise of DAOs in both practice and an idea.
Smart Infrastructure & Improved Supply Chains
The pandemic highlighted the dire need for new investments in infrastructure, as we see with new federal policies, that will undoubtedly impact portions of our broken supply chain. Encompassing a broad range of tech applications including robotics, blockchain, and the build environment, we think we’ll see significant efforts to apply emerging tech to solve these complex challenges in 2022.
Raising the Bar for Consumer & Data Privacy
We think consumer-driven, mainstream, privacy-first products will continue to gain widespread traction in 2022. Apple’s 2021 iOS signaled this shift by a major player, and we’re excited to see more products (like Neeva and DuckDuckGo), and project and prototypes (like those developed by our friends at Consumer Reports Digital Lab) continue to raise awareness amongst the public and offer better alternatives.
Tech for Good x Computational Social Sciences
With rising inequality and the widening wealth gap both in the U.S. and around the world, the pandemic offered us the opportunity to unflinchingly, collectively assess the state of our world. From public health & vaccine availability, to financial security and inclusion, climate change and environmental equity, to many other injustices and inequalities of the world, we’re optimistic that 2022 be the year more technical talent look to tackle and address more complex social, environmental, economic global challenges. This Week in Innovation History
December 22, 1882: The First Electric Christmas Tree Lights
Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, had walnut-sized bulbs made specifically for him to wire his Christmas tree with electric light. The 80 red, white, and blue bulbs formed the first set of electric Christmas tree lights in history. (Previously, people used candles to light their holiday trees.)
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