Technology Predictions for 2014: Smarter Cities, Bigger Games

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This is the year that cities become even smarter. Local authorities and councils the world over have invested in social capital and connected infrastructure with the aim of better understanding the needs of their citizens.

Bristol, for example, organised a Playable City Award in 2013, whose aim was “to commission an original, future-facing work, that used creative technology to explore the theme of the playable city.” London, meanwhile, has introduced bins that send text messages when they are nearly full and has used sensors installed under parking bays in the West End to relieve congestion in the area – and the city is manually moving Boris Bikes to bays people are cycling from but not cycling towards (generally, if it’s at the top of a hill).

In 2014, more cities will iterate and experiment. They’ll implement new technologies to not only create a better connected city but to enhance the environment. That could include street lights switching on due to residents complaining about the lack of light on Twitter. There’s a great number of opportunities available – and that’s an exciting prospect. -Siraj Datoo


Although the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launch games were largely disappointing, 2014 will certainly see both machines move up a gear. The twin giants of the release schedule will be the epic space opera Destiny from Bungie Software, and Titanfall, the new sci-fi shooter from Respawn Entertainment. This is basically the makers of Halo versus the creators of Call of Duty in one galactic face-off. There will be robot limbs and crashed space ships everywhere.

And the carnage won’t end there. 2014 is a year of gigantic action blockbusters. Ubisoft has its cyberpunk romp Watch Dogs, as well as the ingenious online multiplayer strategy shooter, The Division. The PS4 has intriguing steampunk adventure The Order: 1886, while Xbox One has the new post-apocalyptic thriller, Quantum Break, which ties in with and interacts with a TV series of the same name. We can expect more of this media crossover “excitement” as the barriers between games consoles and set-top boxes crumble.

More intriguing perhaps is the rise of persistent online worlds and emergent simulations. We’re getting three very interesting space exploration titles in the form of Star Citizen (from the creator of the legendary Wing Commander series), No Man’s Sky from tiny UK studio Hello Games and Starbound, from another British developer, Chucklefish – the latter two promising vast procedurally generated galaxies.

But closer to home, this will also be a year of ideas. From Chris Hecker’s fascinating asymmetrical two-player body language game Spy Party, to Jonathan Blow’s Myst-like adventure The Witness, to the storybook mythology of Tengami and the heartbreaking adventure title That Dragon Cancer, 2014 will mess with our heads and expectations of what games are. And if you don’t want to be messed with, that’s fine – there are sequels, so many sequels. Hotline Miami 2, Dark Souls II, Metal Gear Solid V and the hugely promising Elder Scrolls Online. 2014 will take a brave look at the future of gaming technology, but it will bring the past along for the ride. – Keith Stuart


Sick of hearing about patent lawsuits between big-name tech companies? Bad luck – 2014 is going to bring more of them, after a relative lull in 2013. The part of Nokia that isn’t being sold to Microsoft is sharpening its patent portfolio, and has begun exercising it successfully against HTC. Next in line is Google (particularly Google Maps) and other Android handset makers.

Apple and Samsung will also be back in a Californian court in March, in a second trial in which each is asserting five patents – in Apple’s case, all relating to function, not “how it looks”. Samsung’s list includes two standards-essential patents (SEPs) – which it’s obliged to license, so it’s hard to see it prevailing on those.

Besides those, Rockstar, a company which owns a $4.5bn haul of patents from now-dead Canadian network company Nortel (and is in turn owned by Apple, Microsoft, Ericsson, Sony and BlackBerry), has filed patent infringement cases against Google, Samsung, HTC, Asus, LG, Pantech, Huawei and ZTE – all Android device makers. In a countersuit, Google says that Rockstar’s lawsuit is put “a cloud on Google’s Android platform; threatened Google’s business and relationships with its customers and partners, as well as its sales of Nexus-branded devices”.

All to play for in that one – and Rockstar has a cherry on top, which is a separate case against Google where it claims the search company infringes a search patent filed in 1997, before Google even existed. – Charles Arthur

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