The worst technology of 2022
Stadia didn’t last long. But at times during its short life it was fantastic. Under Cyberpunk 2077 century unmitigated disaster of a launch, Google’s cloud gaming platform was one of the best places to run the sprawling game with minimal issues. When many couldn’t get the latest PlayStation or Xbox, Stadia was a way to play games with visual fidelity beyond the PS4 and Xbox One – as long as your internet connection could handle it.
The problem (and there are a few reasons why it struggled) was that Stadia didn’t have enough games to stay relevant. Exclusives were rare, and there simply weren’t as many games as the competition. Many of Stadia’s titles were also far more expensive to buy compared to other online game stores – even when they were on sale. When the company shut down its internal development studios last year, it wasn’t a good sign.
Then, at the end of July 2022, it was announced that Stadia would be closed towards the end of the summer. It was never substantiated, but it was enough to send devoted Stadia players (and their communities on places like Reddit) into freefall. Perhaps this was because Google has a reputation for killing loved ones. (RIP Google Hangouts, Play Music, Cardboard, Reader and the rest). Or maybe because it was entirely plausible?
Google denied it. Well, for two months. Subsequently, the company announced that it was shutting down the service, saying that Stadia “has not gained the traction with users that we expected.” Which was… true. But it worked incredibly well. That’s probably why Google’s game streaming technology doesn’t end here. Earlier this year, AT&T offered a handful of games, including Control, to its customers through Google’s Immersive Stream for Games – aka Stadia, but not. Capcom used Stadia’s technology to offer an online Resident Evil: Village demo back in June, with Bungie reportedly using it for testing Fate 2 changes and improvements with staff before rolling it out to players.
Google mostly does the right thing and refunds game and hardware purchases. But that didn’t include Stadia Pro subscribers – arguably what the most passionate supporters used. Users will be able to play their game library until January 18, 2023, when the Stadia servers will be shut down forever. — Mat Smith, UK Office Manager.
Period tracking apps and digital privacy
After the Supreme Court’s draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, there was widespread panic. Amid disbelief, disbelief and outrage, people began to question whether the tools they used to track or avoid pregnancy would be used against them. The main concern was the reliability of period and cycle tracking apps. Did they collect data that could be used to identify people who had terminated their pregnancy? Would they give that information to anyone looking for it?
The Dobbs decision had a ripple effect as we went from scrutinizing the privacy policies of all cycle tracking apps, to realizing that the overall digital privacy of each user was on a weak foundation. Lia Holland, campaign and communications director for Fight for the Future, told Engadget in June that period tracking apps were “the canary in the coal mine when it comes to our privacy.”
We also learned that tracking tools used by platforms like Facebook to serve personalized ads can also be used for nefarious reasons. For example, anti-abortion groups followed people seeking abortion services using Facebook’s advertising tools, despite Meta’s rules against doing so. These groups may also share the data with third-party anti-abortion marketing companies to target “abortion-minded” people with ads. Although Google announced its intention to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome by 2023, the company this year had to delay it until 2024 as it continues to test a possible replacement that would protect consumer privacy while allowing marketers to serve targeted ads.
In early 2022, Google announced that it was trying out a different tracking approach called the Topics API, instead of the FLoC method it had originally prioritized. In February, after years of testing, Google’s proposal was accepted by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority. Despite rolling out previews of its privacy sandbox on Chrome in March and Android in April, Google still needed to push back the disabling of third-party cookies in its browser for another year.
The outlook for our digital privacy in general may be bleak, but there may be hope for improvement. With all the scrutiny this year, many popular period-tracking apps took clear stands and launched privacy-focused modes or made it clear they would not collect user data. The FTC has also warned companies and data brokers against misusing health and location data, saying it is “committed to using the full extent of its legal authority” to safeguard consumer privacy. — Cherlynn Low, Vice President
Peloton and home workout technology (everyone went back to the gym)
We’ve all been cooped up at home long enough, and in 2022 we let all the dogs (and ourselves) out. And when we all ventured out, we stopped using the home equipment we bought to clean up during the dark days of lockdown. Every time we came home to the sight of that expensive console or the exorbitant stationary bike we no longer used, we were reminded of sadder times or unfulfilled goals.
So while companies like Peloton and Bowflex saw a huge boost in sales during the shutdown, they quickly saw their numbers stagnate or plummet in 2022. After an ambitious effort to manufacture its own equipment, the company this year gave up on making its own products and struck an agreement to start selling its machines on Amazon. It was the first time Peloton sold its products on a platform other than its own, and signaled that the company needed help moving devices.
Since then, it has also launched a partnership with sporting goods retailer Dicks to sell the bike, tread and guide in 100 brick-and-mortar stores in the US. It also launched a rental program to let people get the bike for a monthly fee, and chief executive Barry McCarthy said it was considering opening up its exercise content to competitive bikes and treadmills.
This effort to reach a wider audience makes sense. Peloton had a net loss of $757.1 million for the first three months of the year on revenue of $964 million. The company tried drastic cost-cutting measures, including laying off about 2,800 corporate employees, which equates to 20 percent of its total workforce. It laid off another 570, 784 and 500 workers in July, August and October, effectively halving its workforce in one year. It also cut prices on existing models in an attempt to lower the barrier to entry and draw in more new customers.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for Peloton. The company launched a new rowing machine and connected camera this year, and appears to be targeting more markets around the world. — CL
Toyota’s EV failure
Everything about Toyota’s bZ4X is disappointing. It came far too late, long after the company established itself as the hybrid leader and Tesla paved the way for true electric vehicles. It’s a little ugly and surprisingly boring compared to other EVs, judging by practically every review. Oh, and it had to be completely recalled because the freaking wheels could fly off. Instead of being a market leader in safety and reliability, the bZ4X made it seem like Toyota had never built a car before. Even the name didn’t make sense!
While Toyota has resumed production of the bZ4X, it’s clear that the company missed a big opportunity with its first mass-market EV. (It was a RAV4 EV, once upon a time.) And it’s doubly disappointing after learning that the company has been lobbying to slow the EV transition. It’s classic innovators’ dilemma stuff – after pioneering hybrids, why rock the boat any longer? Toyota is reportedly pushing to restart its sluggish EV plans, and given its sheer size, it will likely catch up with other EV companies over the next decade.
But the company’s image has weakened. It used to be the car manufacturer that put customers first, one that actually cared about the environment. But it turns out that even the good guys can get complacent. — DH
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