Gadget and Gaming Trends for 2022
As 2022 begins, our technology for gadgets & gaming progresses with it. Chris Smith talks with BBC's Zoe Kleinman & Naked Gaming's Chris Berrow about these latest developments and trends...
Chris Smith - First though let's talk tech and find out what were the top tech trends in 2021 and what is on the way in 2022. Zoe Kleinman is the BBC's technology editor. Zoe, what has tickled your tech fancy in 2021?
Zoe - I asked a few people about this, 'what has been their top gadget of 2021?' The answer that kept coming back was Apple. It's no surprise is it that they've just been named a $3 trillion company? We had the iPhone 13 that lots of people were waiting for, we've had the air tags that have been a big hit. Apple really does still have the golden touch when it comes to launching products. That said, let's not forget that we've had this crazy backdrop of a global shortage of computer chips. It's causing big supply problems. I suspect a lot more people would've got their hands and a lot more gadgets if there'd been more chips to have made them within the first place.
Chris Smith - I was a victim of that as well because I tried to go and buy a Raspberry Pi. I wanted to build a project, and I was shocked to see it sold out across the board. Further investigation shows that they're also a victim of the global chip shortage.
Zoe - It's in all sorts of things. What really struck me is how many chips these devices need, especially cars. There's a big problem with the car industry at the moment. Turns out cars are more computer than vehicle these days, they have dozens and dozens of these chips and they're just not anywhere to be found. The other problem is you can't just set up a chip making factory overnight; It takes two years. While all over the world countries are scrambling to get production up to speed, it's taking ages. They're saying that possibly even towards the end of 2022 we'll still be playing catch up here.
Chris Smith - One other big story, which came in the latter part of the year was Facebook. This rebranding of the entity as 'Meta' and Mark Zuckerberg setting out his vision for what he dubs the "metaverse". What actually has he got in mind for Facebook?
Zoe - 'The metaverse' is one of these things that you're gonna hear loads about in 2022, but it doesn't yet exist. It's not going to exist in 2022. It's going to take years to build. It's going to be one of those things we're going to talk about a lot and you're going to sit there and go, 'Okay, well when can I actually see it?'. And the answer is possibly 5 to 10 years time. Think about it as a really extreme virtual reality where you are living inside the web. You're navigating various worlds using an avatar, you're not looking at a screen, you're actually part of the action. It's what some of the tech giants are seeing as the next evolution of the web. The first one was kind of us looking at very static information. The second one has been us using platforms to share our content. The third one is instead of looking at our content, we're actually being in it. It sounds crazy. It sounds very ambitious. Facebook is very influential, it has thrown a lot of money at this and has rebranded itself accordingly. Zuckerberg obviously thinks this is the future. Will consumers go and vote with their feet? Well, I think it'll be interesting to watch VR. Is this finally the big year of VR? We've seen virtual reality grow in popularity over the years, but it's never been the sort of ubiquitous big thing that we thought it was going to be. Could this be the year? I hate to bring up Apple again, but they are rumoured to be bringing out a VR headset in 2022. Apple just tends to do things well. Could it be that that product becomes the breakthrough product that gets a lot more people on board?
Chris Smith - I was watching, over new year, a rerun of 'Johnny English Strikes Again' when he dons a virtual reality headset and accidentally ends up in the street, and then beats up a café owner, pushes the lady out into the street and another bloke off a bus. Do we really want this? I'm not sure the idea of sticking a modified ski mask over my face and pretending I'm in a meeting with my colleagues is going to be any nicer than just going and meeting my colleagues. Why do we want this?
Zoe - Yeah, I agree with you. I think the hardware, the actual headset, has really held it back. It's clunky, it's uncomfortable. Lots of people get nausea, get sickness. I get sickness in VR after a while. I can't do it for that long before I start to feel quite queasy, which is embarrassing. I think in a way you are right, I don't think it will replace meeting people face to face. But if we've learned anything in the last two years it's that actually, we sometimes have to meet online. It's easier to meet online and it's better for the planet to meet online than to be jetting all over the world. It's not long before you get that zoom fatigue, and you start thinking, 'You know what? I like you Chris. Do you play golf? Why don't we go for a virtual round of golf while we're having this chat?' Would that be more interesting? Would that be more fun? Would it help us to connect better? Yes, possibly it would.
Chris Smith - We've moved the conversation onto the question of gaming. There was a new game demo called 'The Matrix Awakened' to show off the 'Unreal Engine 5' that came out. It's basically the original matrix film remade, but all CGI - absolutely amazing to some people's minds. Someone we got to play it said this about the demo.
Alex Rhodes - Unreal. It's supposed to be unreal. Oh, here come the agents. Bit of slow-mo going on. It does look very good.
Chris Smith - Bottom line is that they were creating all of the footage in a computer. It's not a film anymore. It's basically computer generated, but good enough to fool Alex Rhodes, who is the correspondent asked to review that for Chris Berrow from 'The Naked Gaming' podcast who is with us. He obviously liked it.
Chris Berrow - It's one of those tech demos which gives you a flavour of what the future of gaming could be. What was amazing about this particular demo is that it was like you were watching 'The Matrix' film with the classic Matrix footage, and then you'd press a button and you'd see all the underlying graphics that go into building all the models of the characters and the buildings and things like that. You realise that this video game simulation of the film, it's like another kind of matrix. Then the game demo drops you into the game and you can walk around the city which you've come to know and love from the film. It's unbelievable. The scope and the scale of what they can do. Obviously it's only a tech demo. It's not a proper game, but it gives you an idea that actually, let's say you've watched a new Marvel film, the new Spiderman film, or maybe they could just scan that into the Unreal Engine 5, and you could be running around as Spiderman using those buildings to swing around. It's an amazing tech demo and Alex was quite impressed, as I think you heard there.
Chris Smith - The thing is that the games industry is actually a value prospect and value proposition is actually much bigger than Hollywood in terms of its turnover, the amount of money that flows through it. Games have gone from very, very basic 20-30 years ago, to things - as you are hinting at - that could rival Hollywood. Are we at risk of losing the message in the medium, because you're employing armies of artists, you're employing a huge, great computing power to make something that looks all glittery and sparkly. Are we actually losing something the essence of why people wanted to play games?
Chris Berrow - Yeah and I think that that's a very good point that there are certain genres and styles of game. And some people like Leigh Milner, who co-presents the podcast, she hates games that are like films because she thinks that it is losing the essence of what gaming is, which is to have control to jump around, to lose yourself & to collect coins. She loves those old school games, whereas like this Matrix game demo, and like some of the huge releases from 2021 'Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart' - it feels like you are playing a Pixar film. It feels that you're running around in that incredible world, but for some people it's just too much. I dread to think what it's like to be a games developer starting up in this day and age, because how on earth can you have the budget to create the sort of games, the AAA games that are running on the PlayStation 5, the Xbox One and PCs now that are so incredible. You just can't do it, so you see start-up companies are going back to creating old school games. 2D side scrolling platforming games. Once they've done that, they then reinvest their money into their next big release. I totally agree; there is certainly a danger of losing what gaming is compared to watching a film, but some people love that. And you know what, if someone really wants to essentially watch a film, but press a couple of buttons here and there, there's a market for that as well and it can be very relaxing to do that.
Chris Smith - Zoe, is the huge demand that this is putting on computing power from gaming, driving the industry or is the industry and what we can do enabling gaming. Do we know? Or is it both?
Zoe - I suspect it's a bit of both. I think there's nothing more frustrating for a gamer than their kit not being up to scratch, whether that's your broadband connection being too slow to download the game you want, or Microsoft has an amazing game where, where you are basically a pilot and you are flying around the world. The graphics are beautiful, it's stunning. But your average computer won't be able to manage it, so you need a sort of proper kit to be able to do it and I think that does cause some frustration. The Unreal Engine is just a phenomenal tool that's been developed by Epic Games who are probably best known for the game 'Fortnite'. But the Unreal Engine is a really interesting part of their business. This idea of being able to virtually create an entire world so realistically is incredible.
Chris Smith - To finish, what would you be playing in 2022 Chris? Your eagerly awaited release?
Chris Berrow - You've talked about the semiconductor chip shortage. I was trying to buy a VR headset, but I can't get hold of one yet, because they're just not in stock anywhere. I'm looking forward to 'The Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild 2'. I think that's probably a lot of people's most anticipated game. If you really like the 'Zelda' series, you're gonna be really looking forward to that on the Nintendo Switch. The first one was just incredible. There's a new console coming actually, which is super interesting just to quickly mention, called the 'Steam Deck'. If you've always wanted to play computer games, but you can't afford a hugely expensive computer like myself, if you just don't have space, this Steam Deck console will actually play all of those Steam games, which are traditionally based on a computer. We're looking forward to the release of that early on this year to just give it a go because it's super interesting how powerful handheld consoles can now be.
Chris Smith - What are you talking about - can't afford it, Chris? it's all on The Naked Gaming budget. Thank you for joining us. Tech journalist, Zoe Kleinman, and also 'Naked Gaming's Chris Berrow.