POSTED: Thursday, January 3, 2013 - 5:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, January 3, 2013 - 5:04am
CNN — What is tech but yesterday's dreams realized?
From touchscreen tablets to virtual reality, it all has to start in somebody's mind before it ends up on the shelves of a store (or, let's be honest, in an Amazon warehouse somewhere in the middle of nowhere).
No, we here at CNN Tech haven't dreamed up any technological breakthroughs that will change the world. At least none that we're willing to discuss publicly.
But we do think about tech stuff a lot and ponder how to make it better. So as this new year dawns, we came up with these five wishes for the tech world in 2013.
Are they all likely to come true? Almost certainly not. But some might, and the others may be useful as conversation starters if nothing else.
The Wozniak Initiative
You don't have to be an Apple fanatic to love The Woz.
Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple who is known more as a gadget geek than a ruthless businessman, showed where his heart is when asked about the constant barrage of lawsuits flying back and forth between tech companies these days.
Apple sued Samsung. Samsung sued Apple. Apple sued Google. Google sued Apple. And so on. And so on.
Wozniak, who has dropped out of the business end of things at Apple, had a solution.
"I hate it ..." Wozniak said. "I wish everybody would just agree to exchange all the patents and everybody can build the best forms they want to use everybody's technologies."
We're with Woz.
If the consumer-tech titans quit squabbling over the details and use all the tools at their disposal to make great products, we as consumers win, right?
But we're not holding our breath.
Estimated chance: 2 percent
The perfect social site
More than 1 billion of us have made social networking a regular part of our lives. So why is everyone so unhappy?
With Facebook, if it's not concerns about privacy, it's irritation at ads or frustration with "friends" who share those stupid "click this or you hate puppies" posts. Twitter's microbursts of news and info, much of it snarky commentary, definitely aren't for everybody. (That said, can even the biggest Twitter haters agree with us that "Twitter is for twits" is an old, tired, unoriginal insult and move on?)
So let's hope for the perfect networking site to come along out of nowhere in 2013. Failing that, maybe the existing sites will put their differences aside and combine the best of each into a single super-network. (Google+ sure does look pretty. But how many folks do you know who use it on purpose?)
Oh ... and our pipe-dream social network will be bankrolled by some billionaire as a public service, so there'll be no annoying ads or worries about your data being used to serve advertisers. Hear that, billionaires? Get busy.
Estimated chance: 7 percent
Affordable 3-D printers
OK ... so, "affordable" is one of those things that's definitely in the eye of the beholder. And by some early-adopter standards, the $2,200 or so you can plunk down for a MakerBot Replicator or other 3-D printer qualifies as a bargain.
But we'd love for 2013 to be the year that these living-in-the-future devices gain enough traction for the inevitable price drop that always eventually comes with new technology. (Witness: The $1,389 VCR)
The potential of 3-D printers is one of the truly exciting promises of emerging tech. The ability to reproduce tiny parts of bigger, more complicated objects -- say, cameras, appliances, etc. -- could help consumers extend the lifespans of our increasingly disposable gadgets.
But, let's be honest. We'd probably use ours to make action figures or dinosaur skulls or a bunch of bad guys from Doctor Who.
So, yeah. Hurry up with that price drop.
Estimated chance: 46 percent
Made in the U.S.A.
It's not just about the goodwill they'd get from customers, although there would probably be no shortage of that.
But it's increasingly looking like good business for top tech companies to start making their products in the United States.
In 2012, we saw glimmers of hope. Apple announced that it will begin manufacturing one of its computers in the United States in 2013. Lenovo, the Chinese electronics company, announced it will be opening its first U.S. factory in North Carolina.
And Google gave "Made in the U.S.A." a shot as well, with its ill-fated Nexus Q device.
Apple, among other tech firms, has taken some lumps over reports of poor worker conditions on its assembly lines in China. Now, with production, transportation and other costs in China increasing, experts say it might not be long before it makes financial sense to move factories back to the States.
As the U.S. economy continues to slowly rebound, let's hope 2013 sees its fair share of that move.
Estimated chance: 50 percent
We get it.
We ask our smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to do more, and do it faster, every year.
We also want them to be small enough to act as fashion accessories (even as their display screens get bigger). And we realize that all that surfing, texting, streaming and downloading burns power.
But is it too much for us to dream of a day when we can go from sunup to sundown without having to stay tethered to a USB port? A day when we can stream music or videos without growing anxious about preserving the precious remaining drops of juice in our gadgets?
There's some room for optimism here.
MIT researchers say a new amplifier design they're working on could double battery life in smartphones. Research on consumer applications is underway, and, if we're lucky, it will mean durable, environmentally friendlier batteries that will make finding public spots next to power outlets less of a blood sport.
Estimated chance: We have no idea, but our fingers are crossed