Feature Articles

2024 Tech Trends: Looking ahead and what to expect

NPUs and the Apple Vision Pro

Note: This feature was first published on 1 January 2024.

The end of the year is naturally a time for reflection and contemplation. And since we have already reminisced 2023 with our series of “Year in review” articles, we are now going to gaze into our crystal ball and list some of the things to look forward to in the new year. Happy New Year everyone!

1. How Neural Processing Units will transform our digital lifestyle

Meteor Lake is the first from Intel to incorporate an NPU within the processor. (Image: Intel)

The AI era is upon us and 2024 is set to be a transformative year for consumer technology, with tech giants such as Intel, AMD and even Samsung heralding Neural Processing Units (or NPUs) as the “next big thing” for not just computing devices but smart home appliances too.

But what exactly is an NPU, and why should you care?

Firstly, NPUs aren’t new and Apple has been using them in its M-series chips for years now. NPUs are specialised processors designed for machine learning tasks. Unlike CPUs or GPUs, NPUs are finely tuned for the complex calculations needed in artificial neural networks, such as parallel data processing. This makes them adept at AI functions such as image recognition and natural language processing.

For instance, within a CPU, an NPU could specifically handle tasks like object detection. While CPUs and GPUs are versatile for various tasks, NPUs specifically accelerate deep learning algorithms, offering superior performance in AI applications compared to their counterparts.

In 2024, NPUs will become increasingly common, with Intel's Core Ultra (Meteor Lake) and AMD’s 8040 series processors dropping onto laptops first as a notable example. The impact of NPUs may not be noticeable for most people in the new year (with Intel and AMD’s new processors), apart from say, speeding up the blurring of the background in a Zoom call or performing AI image generation locally on your computer (you might even be able use ChatGPT offline too - here's a prototype in action).

But the floodgate has been opened, and as AI features come to more applications and devices, they may be destined to become an essential part of your digital lifestyle.

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2. Apple Vision Pro – Possibly the most important product launch of 2024

There will be few products in 2024 that will be as eagerly anticipated as Apple’s Vision Pro headset. Not only is it Apple’s first foray into the VR/AR headset space and their first all-new device since the Apple Watch, it also marks a new type of computing experience that Apple calls "spatial computing." Oh, it also happens to cost quite a lot.

The tech is undoubtedly impressive and initial impressions by those who have tried it have been mostly positive (me included), but those early hands-on and demos were highly scripted. The proof would be when the product is out in the wild in the hands of customers and the curious public. How will they respond? What will they use it for? Will it live up to its high price tag?

The way I see it, I think there’s a good chance the Vision Pro will be a quiet success at first, but it will gradually herald a new class of computing devices, especially after Apple analyses customer feedback and refines the Vision Pro. After all, the first Apple Watch didn't quite make a mark, but soon after, it became a quiet success.

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