In the Information Age, understanding the slew of buzzwords that pile up year after year is the key to knowing what’s happening in the world of tech. So what tech buzzwords had a moment in 2021? None of these concepts are new, but really seemed to define 2021 and how we talk about it. AI and IoT have never died over the past few years, but there are some terms that feel so uniquely 2021. And less than a month into 2022, we can already see some of the tech trends that are defining the new year.
Top Buzzwords of 2021
MR – Mixed Reality
XR, VR, AR, and MR – it seems like we have all kinds of different realities these days. Though we were talking about all of them in 2021, according to Google Trends, Mixed Reality, or MR, saw a massive spike in searches last year. MR lives under the umbrella of XR, or Extended Reality, the term that encompasses all the computer-generated realities, which are all related but distinct from one another.
To briefly summarize the differences:
Virtual Reality is an immersive experience created by computer technologies using a headset that generates realistic sounds and images, and at its most ideal, engages all five senses – though this is not always possible. The goal is to replicate the real world, or create an imaginary one. VR takes place in a virtual world.
Augmented Reality is a live view of a real world environment that may be augmented by computer generated input like sounds or graphics. AR takes reality and adds to it using a phone, tablet, or headset. AR takes place in the physical world.
Mixed Reality, meanwhile, is the merging of real and virtual worlds where physical and digital objects interact. The key to MR is that these two things can react to each other in real time. MR basically includes the entire spectrum between VR and AR.
Web3, or Web 3.0, is the newest iteration of the World Wide Web, aimed at basing the internet on the blockchain. Web1 relied on static web pages, while users were mainly consumers of content. Web2 is the internet we currently use today, defined as the era based on social media and companies that use lots of our personal data, as well as tons of user-generated content. Web3 is meant to be more decentralized and not reliant on companies like Facebook and Google, with the hope of democratizing the internet. AI and blockchain will be the kings of Web3. Anyone can participate in the network because no one authority figure controls it, and because it’s decentralized, the entire network can never go down. While Web2 was mainly focused on the front-end, Web3 will be more concerned with upgrading the back-end of the web.
Hyper-personalization is exactly what it sounds like: companies identify exact customer needs and requirements with the help of behavioral data. This makes marketing much less product-centric and delivers a more customized experience to the user. Brands can analyze a customer’s previous interactions, gathering real-time behavioral data to tailor products and services to their specific needs. Though it’s meant to remove obstacles for customers and simplify the shopping experience to get them what they want, it can be a little unsettling that an ecommerce company might know exactly what you want before you do. As AI meets marketing, everyone’s shopping experiences will only continue to get more hyper-personalized.
…and the terms already defining 2022
2021 truly felt like the year of the Metaverse, didn’t it? The Metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection, accessed by VR or AR goggles. You may have heard of it last year in reference to the Facebook Metaverse. In 2021 Facebook renamed itself “Meta Platforms” and declared itself devoted to developing the Metaverse. The social networking platform started its work with VR back in 2019, but 2021 was truly the year of the Metaverse in our popular vocabulary. And 2022 is starting off much the same way, with discussions of the Metaverse already dominating the internet.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens (meaning they’re unique and can’t be replaced with something else), really went mainstream in 2021. Collins Dictionary actually declared NFT as the word of the year. NFTs are simply digital assets on blockchain networks. They can be almost anything, an original picture, a song, a video, or even a tweet, authenticated on cryptocurrency blockchain like Ethereum. Whatever the content is, it must be logged on blockchain so that every transaction can be recorded. Technically, you can still copy a file as many times as you want. However, the goal of the NFT is to give you ownership of the work, something that can’t be replicated. Some people think of it as an extension of fine art collecting. Anyone can buy a Monet print, but only one person can own the original. 2022 isn’t going to make NFTs any less popular any time soon – Google Trends is still recording an uptick in searches this year as more people seek to invest.
Up-and-comers of 2022
5G is so 2020. 6G is what’s up next. Currently under development in the world of telecom, it’s planned to succeed 5G and be significantly faster. In theory, 6G will not only support the current range of mobile devices as 5G does, but also AR and VR applications. It’s not a functioning technology yet, and is mostly still in the research stage – but as it’s developed, interest in this buzzword is already spiking in 2022. Mobile telecom companies are still mostly fixated on 5G rollouts for now. It could be toward the end of this decade when 6G actually becomes a reality, but public interest in the term already has lots of people talking about the possibilities of what it can accomplish.
We’re at the point of automating automation. Hyperautomation discovers business processes and creates bots to automate them. As machine learning and AI become more powerful, hyperautomation is becoming more commonplace to rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. The future is automating everything that can possibly be automated. Though many organizations are still figuring out regular automation, 2022 is already seeing hyperautomation inch forward into the mainstream. And for now, every company will have a different approach to the process.