Join Quartz technology, science and health editor Christopher Mims, Re/code co-executive editor Kara Swisher, and Wall Street Journal technology columnist Farhad Manjoo in a video chat this Wednesday January 8 at 1 p.m. ET. You can submit questions on Twitter with the hashtag #techin2014, on our Facebook page, on Google+ or through annotations on this article.
Recently, we told you why 2013 was a lost year for consumer technology—no major releases, no earth-shattering developments. But as the authors of countless rejoinders to that piece noted, unless we’re slipping into some kind of civilizational collapse, technology doesn’t stop progressing; there are merely lulls between when the big stuff drops.
That’s a fair point—one that, after reflecting on the past, made us consider the future. Like earthquakes and wars and other expressions of pent-up energies, perhaps the surest sign that something big is coming in technology is how long it’s been since the last big thing came along.
Apple is the classic example of this, and deliberately so: Having shaken the world with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the company has since contented itself with releasing ever-more-refined (and, in the case of iPads, larger) versions of the same thing. That’s not necessarily bad in terms of technological progress; after all, our cars are orders of magnitude safer, more reliable and more fuel-efficient thanks to a century of incremental advances. It would be churlish to compare any modern vehicle to the Model T and sniff at the fact that both have four wheels and an internal combustion engine.
But if the hints that Apple CEO Tim Cook continues to drop—and the corresponding rumors—are any guide, 2014 is a year in which Apple will attempt, as it did in 2007, to redefine an entire product category. Only this time, instead of phones, it will be wearables. Many other kinds of consumer technology could see major upgrades in 2014, the kinds of devices that could become classics in their own right, and surge past the population of early adopters and into the hands of everyday folks. Naturally, the groundwork for these technologies was laid in 2013 and before. Here’s a brief tour of them, which we’re publishing as a series over the next few days.