2022; groundhog iterations into the new year

Traditions. Looking ahead into the new year. It is a fine tradition I think. Not to pretend to be able to make predictions all right, it is not a competition, but set your mind in another mode.
Last year I did more than ever forecasts on developments in mobility and energy, autonomous systems, and mailboxes, all furthermore in the future, like 2030, 2040, or 2050 even. Doing these is always arbitrary too. You try to spot bigger developments and weak signals as the innovations for the next 20 years started today, and the future is a continuum, meaning that a future state is a framing of a moment on a future time.

It is also said before: some of the consequences of turning society into a virus defense mode is like a speeding up of longer predicted changes like e-commerce, homework, video calling replacing normal call, and more. But other developments were frustrated; the mobility hubs with social communicating are setback with everyone working from home.

So what to say about 2021 2022? Let me first set a frame; I am focusing on our relationship with intelligent and autonomous operating technology. The Cities of Things Lab that we have been building and will continue to bring into practice with a field lab is the context of the explorations. Nevertheless, I like to keep a broad spectrum to watch, as everything is connected, and the weak signals can be found in all kinds of changes.

To start with the COVID developments. I am not surprising anyone to say that we are entering have entered a new phase if vaccines start to become part of our lives. And I am also not surprising anyone with the opinion that it will probably take far into the new year to experience real effects. Not everyone needs to be vaccinated to relieve society significantly, but still, it takes time. And how will it play out? Will we leave our home bubbles into vaccinated bubbles? In certain industries (like film crews) the art of bubbling groups is already happening. Will we see more of these concepts; with gated communities that lock their neighborhoods for the external entrance of strangers? Will there be a smart testing kit to prevent quarantine times?
Whatever happens, you can expect 2021 2022 to be a transformational year where we will find ways to move from bubble to bubble. And hopefully, we can pop more and more bubbles!

Ok, time to clarify a bit: I was wondering what would happen if I copy-paste the 2021 predictions for 2022. Are we in a real groundhog-year experience? It seems rather well possible, of course we learned and got more experienced in dealing with the new reality but we are also still looking for the right balance to live with the virus. More than a year further we understand this will be reality indeed, also in 2022… Let’s continue with the post of last year:

Let’s also hope we will grow into a new balance end of the year where we have a sort of control on the virus, we know what to expect, and there are not all kinds of new hard-to-master mutations… Like we see now, in the first months of the new year we might expect a worsening in the dangerous mix of people feeling relieved and bored with the virus-life, and new mutations making more infections than before.

Anything to add?

Back to the main framing of this blog; tech and intelligent partnering systems and things. As happened before a crisis is intensifying new technology adoption. This might happen with the delivery pods that can support the overflow of delivery services. The hyper-personalization is interesting. And deep fake used to create a together mode in our virtual environments. We might be tired of video-calls, we also will have gained capabilities we never had before in communicating via online tools, as a new toolset for the digital natives… 

Indeed, fake and synthetic media are becoming a serious part of the communication campaigns, the first step to become part of our day-to-day reality… The rise of NFTs as a segue into a new type of society based on participation- in stead of attention-based economics is just an early signal.

In more longer developing trends is the translating layer that is entering in our lives; everything real is filtered before it reaches us. It started with the Instagram pictures, but with the speeding up of deepfakes, also all the digital systems we use for operating our life, we will grow into a significant shift. And it is super important to realize this and keep track of who is influencing this filtered reality layer.
It is much more hidden than sketched in the hyper-reality visions of a couple of years ago. As all controls are taken over by digital controls, but also all of our senses become more and more filtered, starting with hearing via transparency earbuds. Apple is a silent frontrunner here, even more than they have been a frontrunner before. Hard to predict if the next step will be a vision-filter (the AR glasses made accessible) already this year, but it is especially interesting to watch the developments of the engines; the OS’s, both with Google and Apple, but also Amazon, and not to forget China-based tech.

The virtual worlds are also part of this filtered reality, as it became more and more the substitute for social contacts last year. Question is if it will go mainstream or stay the go-to-place for the millennial and digital natives. It is another driver for the filtered reality adoption for sure.

Indeed; one of the most profound new tech introductions was Facebook rebranding to Meta and going full into the virtual world or metaverse. In that sense Apple was not taking the lead. It is still early to say how soon it will impact our daily lives, if ever. The blurring lines of reality and digital will continue and find new interaction layers in AR and VR but also less immersive media, the good old ubicomp or ambient computer has silently become reality; computing is in everything we use and defining our experiences more than ever. And in more practical sense: 2022 might be a year that we will get used to glasses with extra functions after years of bulky prototypes. And that can be more than data-layers added to your view as this adapting all-in-one shows. And we see announcements for new Oculus, Sony Playstion VR goggles and rumours Apple might start with a VR with reversed-AR capabilities (reality projected through cameras) headset on a pro-price point.
Some see this as the beginning of the end for the iPhone form factor. And I had to think back to some new year’s reflections I made for 2017

In the further development of Cities of Things as a separate entity and starting up two field labs, bringing human-tech participations get even more attention.

Filtered is not the only thing to keep track of, how will it behave in relation to us? Will it be the (ideal) co-performance, or will it be driven by the big tech? In the awareness of the dangers of big tech dominance (antitrust cases), it might be even more likely the control is transformed to governments, especially under the influence of COVID measures; ‘never waste a good crisis to get more grip’.

Definitely been a hot topic last year and will be one the coming year (months). The demonstrations against government ‘body-control’ seem not silenced, the crawling rising polarisation of silent majority and protesters can burst…

To close, with this extraordinary year is it valid to check upon last year’s thoughts; have the year been an acceleration or a detour? Last year In 2020 I took the moment to look into a new decade more than one year, and also mentioned the roaring twenties as a metaphor, not knowing how that would be triggered at large.
Techlash was predicted and happened, we have lost our trust even more in the heroes of the 10s. We see that Microsoft is back in business with Teams, and new players as Zoom will try to find a place, also if we open-up more. People are more aware than ever how these tools invade our personal space though.

Hear hear!

The longer trends are still valid: boosted humanity, relations human-nonhumans, living together with pal-tech:

(…) we shift from a decade of empowering products and services with computational capabilities towards empowering humans with boosting human capabilities on all levels. For that, we will see a further shift from new gadget-like devices towards integrated infrastructures in all things we use. To begin in creating tech that we can modify and hack into our own pals. Where we will build a new type of relations, based on hopefully more human-driven economical systems. Let that be our new-decade resolution.

from Look into 2020

This is still the path into the future. Our dependencies on tech for social communications have accelerated embedding tech in our lives, but at the same time makes it sharp what we miss in a fully digital context; we need hybrid tech relations. That is the real boosted humanity we are looking for. Keeping the focus on humanity vs controlled societies will be a balance we need to find in the coming year.

This will still be the case for 2022. If the CES is providing us with signals for the near future than consumer robotics is now really at the verge of becoming common in our household or commute. See the product visions of Hyundai and LG as example.

To add I definitely believe that we will see the first shifts from the attention economy to more owned/participated economy. It is a longer trend, but one of the possible drivers is the rise of the inflation that makes assets less interesting. The first services that make DAOs and NFTs even more accessible will appear. Crypto becomes more part of the digital infrastructure and less a financial product. Shared services build on participated ownership.

Nevertheless this is also something for the longer term to really become mainstream.
I expect some rough bumps next year both political (US elections) as societal (return of variants). Let’s hope again that we find a way to model our society around the virus, with new cures, with an open society for most of the year, with the right balance between voices and opinions and the share in society.

I wish everyone to stay healthy, and I hope we can pop some bubbles again this year!

PS: check this NFT: https://opensea.io/assets/0x495f947276749ce646f68ac8c248420045cb7b5e/2598198405144370308296462070760207206759950988039560589406826135794531434497

Published by


I am a design director at Structural. I curate and organize ThingsCon Netherlands and I am chairman of the Cities of Things Foundation. Before I was innovation and strategy director at tech and innovation agency INFO, visiting researcher and lab director at the Delft University of Technology coordinating Cities of Things Delft Design Lab.