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Along with lockdowns, shopping frenzies and social distancing, COVID has brought the technologies that we once reserved for years down the track right to our doorstep. While Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have slowly but surely been infiltrating our daily lives in recent years, COVID has accelerated this to an unprecedented extent.

Decades ago, the prospect of talking to someone on the other side of the world was unimaginable. Doing business with them, regularly coordinating with them and bridging the geographic and linguistic distance between you and them was even more incomprehensible. Now it is the norm.

If you had told your grandparents that in the future the currency of the world, the power of big companies and the division of wealth would largely centre around the movement of an invisible object, they would never have believed you. And yet it is increasingly becoming the case with the unstoppable use of data in the modern world.

In a recent address at the World Economic Forum, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argued persuasively that the “the pace of change may never have been this fast, but it will never again be this slow.”

As another year draws to a close, it’s worth pausing and taking stock of just how much has changed in the space of 12 months - while recognizing that the coming year will see changes of even greater scale and significance.

In this 2019 Tech Trends Review, I explore the good, the bad and the bizarre. In other words, which breakthroughs have been most positive and hopeful, which trends are slightly more concerning (in my humble opinion), and which new technologies have been downright strange.

Imagine a world where you enter a retail store and are instantly identified by your mobile phone. Your preferences, credit card details and buying history are immediately recognized along with your identity and from that moment on, the entire in-store experience is customized to your needs and desires. You select products either by scanning a code on your smartphone or by placing items in a physical shopping cart the old-school way. When you are finished shopping, your shopping tally is calculated as you walk past sensors near the exit and the amount owing is immediately charged to your default credit card.

Sound fanciful or futuristic? Well this is almost precisely the automated retail experience shoppers are already enjoying in Amazon’s recently opened bricks-and-mortar retail stores.

It has been a growing popular conversation over the last decade. Driverless cars – one of the sure symbols that the future has arrived.

For many of us, the very mention of Artificial Intelligence conjures up futuristic notions of SkyNet and cunning malevolent robots rising to destroy humankind in the Terminator film series.