As technology evolves, so does our collective vocabulary.
Even if you’re a luddite who would rather not engage with every new tech trend, chances are you’re going to have to learn about them anyway. That’s why I’m here. Just as in years past, 2023 is sure to bring prominence to plenty of tech buzzwords you haven’t heard yet. That, or existing terms will take on whole new meanings.
Either way, you need to know about it. You’re hungry for knowledge, I can feel it. Without wasting any more time, let’s dig into the tech terms you should really learn before the calendar changes.
Credit: Weiquan Lin/Getty Images
First up is extended reality, commonly shortened to XR. This is not a new term by any means, but it’s one you’re likely to hear going forward as companies like Meta push their visions of the metaverse into our lives.
Thankfully, XR is pretty easy to understand. It’s an umbrella term for virtual reality, augmented reality, and everything in-between. As I’m sure you know, VR is when you put on a headset like a Meta Quest 2 and goof off in fully virtual worlds. AR involves digitally placing virtual objects into the real world, like a Snap filter. When the two come together, we call that mixed reality, which also fits under the XR umbrella.
Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
No, this doesn’t refer to the proud Na’vi people of Pandora, or bald kids with arrows on their heads. The tech definition for “avatar” is unfortunately a lot less cool.
At least it’s simple, though. An avatar is merely a digital representation of yourself, whether it’s in a video game, the metaverse, or wherever else it might be applicable. It can look like you or it can look like Spongebob Squarepants holding a bong or something. That’s the beauty of digital worlds like VRChat.
Get creative, or don’t. Doesn’t really matter to me. But just know you’ll probably have to make an avatar at some point if you haven’t already.
Credit: Stable Diffusion Web
The technical details behind stable diffusion are way too high-level for me and probably for you as well. There’s a Medium post that explains it if you’re interested, but it’s more important to understand what stable diffusion does rather than how it works.
Put simply, stable diffusion is a specific type of AI text-to-image generation that came out in 2022. Unlike competitors such as DALL-E, stable diffusion can work directly off your computer’s GPU (DALL-E is cloud-only, by contrast) and the code behind it is open-source, so people can kind of do whatever they want with it.
At the end of the day, though, it’s just another way to generate images of Peter Griffin dunking a basketball over Sonic the Hedgehog. Just…be mindful of the fact that you may be accidentally stealing work from actual, human artists in the process.
Credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images
Artificial intelligence (or AI) is, obviously, a decades-old term. You probably have some idea of what it means, too: the capacity for machines to perceive and work with information. That said, AI is going to come up a lot in 2023, so it’s worth going over at least a couple of the popular applications for it you’ll see.
We’ve already covered AI image generation courtesy of stable diffusion and DALL-E. Another example is that AI is also a blanket term for how phones like the Google Pixel 7 can automagically fix photos you’ve taken or give you a graphical UI for automated phone call menus. There’s even a new chatbot called ChatGPT that takes any prompt you give it and spits out, well, something. It’s often absurdly wrong, but hey, at least it tries.
Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Smart home lovers should probably pay extra attention to this one. You know how Google, Amazon, and Apple all have their own lines of smart-home products? And you know how in order to maximize their potential, you’re supposed to buy products all from the same brand so they can interact with each other? If Matter takes off, that will be a thing of the past.
Matter is a new standard for smart home products Apple’s HomePod that aims to make products from different brands work together within the same home ecosystem. The Verge has a great explainer for how this will work once Matter devices are on the market, but in short, you need one device in your home to act as a “controller.” This can be anything from an Amazon Echo to an Apple TV 4K.
With a Matter controller, you can connect to and use other Matter-enabled devices nearby. While Matter devices aren’t going to be widely available until 2023, once they are, you’ll literally be able to issue commands to a Google Nest device using Siri if you want. That’s pretty cool.
Something that’s less cool than Matter is what’s currently happening to streaming services like HBO Max. Shows like Westworld are being pulled off the service, leaving fans to wonder where they’ll be able to watch going forward. Meet free ad-supported TV, or FAST.
FAST is a new trend in streaming that offers exactly what the name implies: a free selection of streaming content with the caveat that there will be ads all over it. FAST services include Roku TV and Amazon’s Freevee, for example. You don’t pay a dime to watch anything on a FAST service, but the available content probably won’t match a premium service, and again, you’ll have to sit through ads.
With rumors swirling that Westworld might end up in the FAST realm soon, you might want to familiarize yourself with the concept.
Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
2023 is sure to bring about plenty of new gaming buzzwords, but an existing one to keep your eye on is deep learning supersampling, or DLSS. It’s something Nvidia developed for its high-end PC graphics cards, but there have also been persistent rumors for the last couple of years that Nintendo is planning to use it for whatever the next Switch console winds up being. So what is it?
In something close to layman’s terms, DLSS uses AI (there’s that term again) to upscale images beyond their native resolution into something higher. Something that’s running at 720p or 1080p could, in theory, use DLSS to create the illusion that it’s running at 1440p or even 4K resolution. The AI simply creates a higher-quality image than the one that actually exists, and it can even make games run better, too.
With the Switch being woefully underpowered and the Steam Deck stealing people’s hearts, DLSS could (again, purely theoretically) be a way for Nintendo to catch up a bit in the hardware arms race.