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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Our Tech Predictions for 2021

You'd be forgiven if the New Year's resolutions you made at the beginning of 2020 haven't exactly panned out. It's been a ridiculous, infuriating year that people can barely make sense of now, let alone have predicted back then. Still, 'tis the season for reflection, and in that spirit we're going to try to make sense of our tumultuous era.

This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED senior associate editor Julian Chokkattu joins us for a less-than-sober conversation about the tech that took the spotlight this year and what might come next.


All drinks this week! Julian recommends whiskey sour with egg whites. Lauren recommends wine from Quady North in southern Oregon, and Two Shepherds in Sonoma County, California. Mike recommends a paloma cocktail with Jarritos grapefruit soda or Ficks mix.

Julian Chokkattu can be found on Twitter @JulianChokkattu. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

If you have feedback about the show, or just want to enter to win a $50 gift card, take our brief listener survey here.

Year in Review: What WIRED learned from tech, science, culture, and more in 2020

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Lauren Goode: Mike.

Michael Calore: Lauren.

LG: Mike, what was your New Year's resolution last year, and is it at all applicable now?

MC: My New Year's resolution last year was to spend as much time as possible in my apartment.

LG: Congratulations! You're one of the one percent of the population that keeps their New Year's resolution. That might even be generous. Do you think we should even make resolutions this year or predictions for that matter?

MC: I think predictions are in order.

LG: All right, let's give it a try.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music]

LG: Hey, everyone, it's time for Gadget Lab. It's the last one of the year. I'm Lauren Goode. I'm a senior writer at WIRED. I'm joined remotely by my co-host, WIRED senior editor, Michael Calore. Hey, Snackfight.

MC: Aloha.

LG: We're also joined by WIRED senior associate editor and basically our unofficial third co-host, Julian Chokkattu. Julian joins us from a very snowy New York City. It's too bad the snow has kept you from going to bars and indoor restaurants, ha, Julian.

Julian Chokkattu: Hey. No, actually, I love snow. I will shovel anyone's yard, driveway, so just give me a holler, and I'll come over.

LG: Right, and of course, it's probably COVID that's been keeping you from bars and indoor restaurants, but-

JC: Sadly, yes.

LG: Let's blame the snow. All right, so this is our last show of 2020. We're going to be taking the next two weeks off to celebrate our respective socially distant holidays, and gear up for what will hopefully be an exciting year for WIRED in 2021. This is going to be a yearend retrospective episode of sorts. We all know what a tumultuous year 2020 turned out to be, so we're going to try not to dwell too much and focus on what's to come. Then later in the show, we'll have a not so sober discussion about how last year's predictions panned out.

Spoiler alert, it was 2020, so we were wrong on a few things. Spoiler alert, we may have already started drinking at the start of this episode, but let's start by looking forward. We've asked some of our WIRED colleagues to predict what they think will be the big shifts in tech in 2021. We've got some ideas ourselves. I'm going to toss it to our guest, Julian first. Julian, what are you predicting for 2021?

JC: Well, I just got done reviewing the LG Wing. It's a phone with the swiveling screen, so you push it to the side, and the top layer screen goes into landscape orientation, and then you have a little mini display on the bottom. It was surprisingly polished, and it gave me this multitasking dual screen experience. It was just a lot of fun to use. I think that's what we're going to see with phones since that's my primary beat. With phones, we're going to see a lot more fun and experimentation for manufacturers next year.

We already saw a bit of that this year with Samsung's Galaxy folds and the surface duo, but I think because smartphone sales are declining year over year nowadays, we're going to see manufacturers trying to give people way different options in how they can use their phone. You don't have to just stick with this traditional single screen slab, because that's just the phone factor we stuck with for some reason, and now we have the technology to change that and just have fun.

I think that's something that's going to be really exciting. Especially since you have that phone that I just tested, the LG Wing is $1,000, which is expensive, but when you talk about it in terms of foldables and swiveling phones, I guess, it doesn't seem like it's that much compared to the single screen phones that you can also buy for $1,000. I think this stuff's going to come down in price. We're going to see a lot more experimentation, rollable phones, foldable phones. I don't know what other adjective I can use, but another type of phone.

I think we're just going to have a lot more fun. I just hope that we have more fun, because single screen phones are getting a little stale.

MC: I'm waiting for a clear phone.

LG: Oh yeah, throwback to translucent tech, that'd be really fun. I first saw the LG Wing when I happened to do the Vergecast podcast earlier this year. I joined my old friends Nilay and Dieter. They were talking about it, and I said, "What is this thing?" They sent me a picture. I honestly just laughed. I said, "Yep, definitely did not ever want a perpendicular phone," because when you fold the Wing out, that's basically what you get, like a T-shaped phone.

It sounds like you see these changes as positive, Julian, and I agree with you. I think phones should be more fun, but I do wonder whether you both think consumers will be more receptive to the oddities of such gadgets.

JC: OK, but here's the thing with the Wing that I just want to go off on a quick mini tangent. I realized that I could hook it up to my bike mount, so I was biking around town this past weekend. I put it in that T-shaped cross purposes, perpendicular, whatever you want to call it, Wing-shape. I realized I could put Google Maps on the top screen, and then I put my music player on the bottom screen. It was not clunky like it would be if you put a galaxy fold all completely open, because that thing is huge, but this worked out for me to be able to casually glance at the map, so I didn't have to leave the maps app.

I could just quickly switch tracks or even play some phone calls. I don't know. That just blew my mind when I was using it in that way. That's the sort of thing that I think we're all just so used to the experience of using a phone as normal that people are going to just be like, "Why do you need something like that, because the single phone works?" At the same time, you could just say that like, "If you experiment and try with some other designs and functions, you never know what people might like."

I think that's always fun to just try and experiment. That's something I always like with LG phones. They just try weird things that never really stick, but it's just fun to play around with. Who knows, one of these days, one something might stick.

LG: Mike, what's one of your predictions for 2021.

MC: Let's see. The one I've been thinking about most recently is Roku and their position in the streaming hardware marketplace. They've been very dominant for the last few years. You can find Roku devices for sale at Walmart and at Target and at Best Buy. They're cheap. I think they started like $20, $30, and go up from there. They've been a leader. They've also built their technology and their software into television sets. They have a couple of partnerships that really have made them ubiquitous player, but we haven't seen much lately from Apple on the hardware front as far as their Apple TV goes.

I think that given the investment that Apple is making in streaming and in fitness plus, they're going to give us a new Apple TV that has a better feature set, and it's cheaper. It's actually going to start competing with Roku. On the other side, you have Google with Android TV, or sorry, it's called Google TV now. I don't know. They keep changing the names of everything. It's hard to keep up. Google's TV platform, it had a very big fall. I think it's going to have a very big spring, and it's going to start showing up in more places.

There are going to be more services on it. I just think that things are going to get harder for Roku this year. I think that there's going to be more competition, so we might actually see Apple and Google being big threats to their dominance in streaming hardware.

LG: It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off.

JC: So he says.

LG: It's true. I mean, Apple just keeps all of their product announcements so tightly under wraps that we don't really know at this point if a new Apple TV is coming, but you're right, and that it's long overdue. Google, of course, has gone through some renaming with its Google TV and then Android TV, and now back to Google TV, but the idea behind all the confusing naming actually makes a lot of sense.

MC: The thing that I would not expect to see from Apple is a stick. That's been the cheap way in. The fire TV stick, the Roku streaming stick, the Chromecast dongle, that's been the cheap way into streaming hardware, and I just can't see Apple making a stick, mostly because product design is so important to them. Not only are Apple products designed to be seen, but they're designed to have the experience of the Apple products worth into your home, like it's meant to be in your house. It's meant to be touched. It's meant to be interacted with. A stick hides behind the TV. I just don't see Apple making anything that's designed to be hidden.

LG: Good point. One of my predictions for next year is that people are going to become even more obsessed with this idea of the smart home. That includes entertainment setups, streaming services, smart speakers, anything that you can get your media from. I mean, I think it also applies to things like energy efficiency and air purification, homeschooling setups, of course, which are really important, connected fitness, which we've certainly seen grow as a category this year. I think even if we get to the point where the pandemic gets under control, more people are vaccinated, and we are able to safely leave our homes more, I still think that this year has just refocused all of us on what our homes are and what they mean to us, and the things that we can do in them.

I think that this is just … At this point, the Smart Home is no longer just a novelty. I mean, things are just going to become smarter with technology embedded in them. I mean, at the same time, millions of people here in the U.S. could lose their homes. If the federal eviction moratorium ends at the end of this month, and at the time of this taping, we don't exactly know what's going to happen with that. It's obviously a very real crisis. I think while the work from home technology has become essential for the desk side class or folks who can afford all kinds of education option for their kids, I think that gap is definitely going to widen between the haves and the have nots in technology too next year.

MC: Unfortunately, I think you're right.

JC: The other thing that I was going to say is that as someone that maintained and curated our work from home gear guide on WIRED.com this year, I think that we're going to see a lot more gear in general that's just designed for this new work office balance, where you might be going to an office some point this year, but you probably are also going to spend a lot of time at home. Maybe you want a blend of products like a portable monitor that one of our writers just reviewed, that you could just take to the office whenever you want, or maybe you can take it outside just to spend some time outside and work instead of in your home.

There's a lot more gear, I think, that we're going to see that's just going to be a blend of commuting, but also, it's beneficial for your home. As just someone that, I think, been home all the time, I've just generally been investing in upgrading small parts of my home throughout the year, from motion sensing lights in dark spots of my house that I didn't really care for before, but now it's just crazy. This is amazing. I think people are just going to have a lot more gear for their home that they're going to get, rather than stuff that you'll invest in for when you're on the go or trying to get this mobile lifestyle set up.

LG: Totally. Anecdotally, this has been a year that so many people, and friends and family have reached out to me and said, "How can I improve my WiFi at home?" Most of the time, I just say get am Eero or get an Eero system, but I feel like those requests came in a lot more this year than they did years before. I can imagine that lots of people are going to be looking to upgrade their systems. I also think there's going to be a lot of interesting innovation on the software side of work from home.

I think that we'll see smarter work apps and software correction for our eye gazes as we're using Zoom and FaceTime and that sort of thing. Obviously, the Salesforce/Slack acquisition was the largest acquisition in Salesforce history if it goes through, and hopefully it inspires more innovation, and work apps doesn't kill it. I think that there's a lot that could potentially happen on the software side that doesn't necessarily involve specific gear.

Mike, I'm going to toss it back to you. What else do you think is going to happen that is not in the realm of gadgets and gear at home?

MC: As society starts to open back up, as people get vaccinated, I think that there is going to have to be a system for tracking and proving that you've had a vaccination. There's probably going to be a mobile app that's going to emerge as the leader like, "This is my verification that I've that had the vaccination," an app that's basically a pass. If you want to go to Coachella, or if you want to go see the fish concert, you have to prove that you've been vaccinated in order to get in the door.

If there's multiple apps out there, it's going to get confusing. I do think that industries, like sports industries and concert industries will coalesce around one app. I don't know who that's going to be, and I can't predict who that's going to be. It could be a giant company like Google or Facebook that makes the app that everybody downloads to prove that they've been vaccinated. It could be the government, although that is extremely unlikely, or it could just be a small company that we've never heard of, or one that's unexpected. I think there's going to be one app.

JC: It seems like it would be ideal something to add into existing things like Apple Pay or Google Pay, where you have different cards and passes for concerts and things like that you can add there. It seems like something they could also integrate into those services, which people use at stores or wherever, really. I guess it could also be something like that, but it could also just be a standalone app.

MC: I do have one can't fail prediction: It's going to be a huge mess.

LG: Unfortunately, you may be right about that.

JC: Oh, boy.

LG: All right, we're going to toss it to some of our other WIRED colleagues for their predictions for 2021. But before I let you go, I did want to make one more prediction. It's a little bit self-serving because this is a podcast, but I think podcasts are going to be even bigger next year. Podcast listening dropped suddenly in the spring at the start of the pandemic, but then by summer, listening was back on the rise again. If we are able to start traveling to more places commuting or taking low-risk flights, again, in 2021, then I'm hoping that podcast listening might go up even more.

We're also starting to see streaming media companies like Netflix and HBO looking to podcasts for story inspiration. Recently, I think HBO bid on Nice White Parents, which was a great podcast series from the New York Times. I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of that.

MC: You know what I think has happened, Lauren, which I think you're right will continue to happen is that people have just figured out new ways to squeeze podcasts into their days, even if they don't have to commute anymore, or if they're not driving around anymore. They just set it up so that they can do podcasts.

LG: Right, or they're cooking, and maybe that's a good time to listen to a podcast, or going for a walk outside and taking a break. Hopefully, we'll see more of that. OK, let's hear from some other folks on the WIRED team.

Maryn McKenna: 2020 was the year of the Coronavirus, but 2021 is going to be the year of the vaccines against it. The big story of 2021 is logistics and distribution, mobilization on a scale that hasn't existed since probably World War Two. The hope is that this time next year, those vaccines will have gone into the arms of everyone willing to take them, and COVID-19 won't dominate our lives anymore.

Andy Greenberg: In 2021, I'm going to be watching Russia. In the late Obama administration and then in the early Trump days, Russian hackers carried out some of the most destructive cyber attacks in history. I think that we're going to see in 2021 that the Biden administration will probably put more diplomatic pressure on Russia to give up these cyber criminal hackers that are doing really terribly destructive things, and honestly in their attacks on the medical system may be costing people's lives.

Gilad Edelman: 2021 is poised to be the year of antitrust. The Department of Justice has already filed a case against Google. As I'm recording this, we're waiting for a case to be filed against Facebook any minute. We could see more antitrust action against Apple and Amazon, and the House of Representatives, which completed its yearlong investigation into the big tech companies this year is likely to introduce new antitrust legislation next year.

Cecilia D'Anastasio: I'm hoping that 2021 will be the year that the video game community redefines labor. It sounds really broad, but think about this, outside of the people who make and sell games, there are entire pocket industries around gaming that aren't taken seriously. I'm talking fighting game pros, cheat makers, egirl companions who play video games with you for money, modders, Twitch streamers, ROM makers, cosplayers. They're all workers, and they make up the games industry too. A lot of them need better safeguards to protect from exploitation. It's easy to exploit people who do what they love.

Gilad Edelman: Then I'm also just curious to see how conversations around social media change with Donald Trump out of office. With Trump out of the picture, or at least out of the White House, I think it'll be a lot easier for the likes of Facebook and Twitter to enforce their rules consistently when the number one ship poster isn't the President of the United States.

Adrienne So: In the upcoming year, it would really disappoint me to see personal technology and internet go back to being a luxury status thing, instead of something that everybody needs in order to survive. A lot of technology that was previously luxury goods, they just really dropped in price this year to accommodate the reality of a lot of kid situations. I think that this trend of everybody being able to afford things like internet and a functioning home computer, those aren't really luxuries for anyone anymore. These are things that a lot of kids need, even when it's not a pandemic.

AS [to her child]: Babes, what kinds of things do you want to happen next year?

Kid: A house made of pancake! Pool slime.

AS: You want pool slime?

Kid: Pool full with slime.

AS: Oh my gosh, that would be so cool.


LG: Welcome back. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that sometimes things don't go according to plan. We certainly all had ideas of how things would go this year, and here's the fun part. A lot of them were wrong. For starters, let's take it back to a year ago when we aired our 2019 end of year episode. It was me, Mike and our fellow writer, Arielle Pardes. She is not joining this episode. Julian is here. He's going to weigh in. It's going to be a lot of fun. I mean, basically, this is our big … We were wrong, guys.

MC: Speak for yourself.

LG: All right. Yes, we weren't totally wrong. Mike, what was your prediction? How did it turn out?

MC: Well, I think our producer, Boone, is going to play a little clip here, but you can hear me talking about how I think the notch on the smartphone screen is going to go away.

[Clip from Gadget Lab episode 435]

MC: The death of the notch.

LG: Finally!

Arielle Pardes: RIP.

MC: The notches, there's stuff there that we need. There are things like the cameras that run the face unlock software. There's the selfie camera. There is the radar in there. I think that the future is going to be a phone that has all that stuff. It has face unlock. It has a selfie camera, but when you look at the front of the phone, all you see is the screen. You're not going to see anything else. You're not going to see a notch.

[Back to current hosts]

LG: Did it happen?

MC: Yeah, it did. Let me ask you, guys. When was the last time you thought about the notch on your phone?

LG: I mean, probably 2019 when we taped this episode. I just can't tell you on the list of priorities, where the notch falls right now, it's quite low.

MC: Right, but you look at your phone screen, and do you still see it?

JC: No.

MC: No!

LG: Let me see. Let me see. Hold on a sec.

JC: This year, most of them have transitioned to using the hole punch camera, so it's even better in a way, at least I think so. I haven't noticed it.

MC: Right. Even if you have a phone that has a notch, you don't notice it anymore, because you've been living with it long enough, and the software has evolved to make it less of a big deal, right? You just don't see it anymore. Even though the hardware design has not eliminated it, our minds' eyes have eliminated it. I'm going to argue that I was absolutely 100 percent correct. I want my gold star.

LG: Julian, you've reviewed a lot of phones that have a pinhole camera. Is there any noticeable difference?

JC: I just think pinhole cameras are cooler. They just look cooler, the little floating circle. I mean, it is. You're putting something into the display, and it's surrounded by display. It just looks very cool. I never hated the notch. I mean, there were some phones that had some really bad notches, pixel three, but I will say that I didn't really care for them. They were fine, but now, of course, it's nicer and better that they're getting smaller. That just goes to show that it really didn't matter that much.

LG: Right. I mean, this year, we were arguing about face masks and whether or not you would kill your neighbor or your family member versus a cutout on a smartphone.

MC: I remember the first time that I showed a phone with a notch to a friend of mine, and he pointed it out, and he went, "Eww." I said… I've been living with the phone for about a month at that point, and I was like, "I don't even really see it anymore." It just disappears after a while whether it's there or not.

LG: Think about all the things that our time and our angst were wasted on in 2019.

MC: I would like to hear your prediction, Lauren. How did yours pan out? Were you as good as me?

LG: All right, Boone, pull up the clip.

[Clip from Gadget Lab episode 435]

LG: I think 2020 is going to be a year where we reconsider social media as a thing that we use to put some public blast out there, and instead define the whole idea of social as something that's more tightly connected within our own personal groups or spheres.

MC: More intimate if you will.

Arielle Pardes: As Mark Zuckerberg would put it, it's a return to the living room and away from the public square.

LG: Sure.

[Back to current hosts]

LG: I pretty much thought that public, very public social media was over, and that we were all going to gravitate more towards private interactions, which I think has been true to a point. I mean, our private groups have certainly become more important than ever. I'm on a WhatsApp group. I'm in several messages groups. I'm on a private Peloton Facebook group. I'm at next door, which is not a private community, but is limited to your neighborhood. I do think that this localization of social media was very real, at least in my experience this year, but there are lots of people who still post very publicly, because they're basically using platforms like Instagram.

TikTok now is a form of business. What I didn't anticipate actually was the level of scrutiny at the policy level of these tech companies this year, particularly Facebook, not because Facebook is not worthy of scrutiny. I think it is, but I didn't anticipate that the government would actually pull it together enough to lob a formal complaint. Now as the years ending, we're seeing the FTC and more than 40 states actually wanting to break up Facebook, and go back and unwind the Instagram acquisition from years ago, which is wild. Of course, I could not have predicted that specific scenario.

MC: I think you did make a pretty prescient prediction though, even though there's no way that we could have predicted what the pandemic would do to our society, but the fact that new avenues for social media were used especially to dispel misinformation, I thought was really interesting. Like doctors on TikTok, and Gen Z kids on TikTok debunking things that boomers were saying, I thought that that was really interesting.

JC: Well, I didn't really expect TikTok to be the app of the year, I'd say. It just went from I didn't really know what the hell TikTok was to my girlfriend sending me TikToks every five minutes. If you look at our messaging conversation this entire year, I'm pretty sure you could pull 100 links to some stupid TikTok video, but they're great. TikTok has also come under its own scrutiny, but I think it's a very different platform from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and that it in a way just feels more like skits.

It feels more creative than some of those other existing platforms, which is why I think that is something that people have moved toward rather than posting random things on Twitter and Facebook. I think people have just become a little more creative when they're stuck at home bored, trying to figure out how to entertain themselves.

LG: That's been one of the really, really fun parts of TikTok this year. I also did not anticipate that Larry Ellison and Oracle would end up in so many of the same news stories as TikTok. I'm like, "What?" Is TikTok banned at this point? It's not, right? We're all still using it. What happened there? We should mention Arielle's prediction. She predicted last year that gesture controls would accelerate. Let's go to that.

[Clip from Gadget Lab episode 435]

Arielle Pardes: In 2020, we will stop touching our technology. What do I mean by that? People are already really into voice controls. It's very common to shout into the void to play a song or unlock your smart lock or whatever, but I think 2020 is going to be the year that gesture controls really take off. We've already started to see some of this with devices like the Pixel 4. This has some really advanced gesture controls on it. You can do things like pinch to zoom, or swipe to change a song without ever touching your phone.

I'm actually really bullish on this. I've gotten some flack about this on Twitter, from people saying this is stupid. No one wants to be waving at their phone. Why don't you just touch it? I actually think this is going to take off a lot, and not only that, but I think that we're barreling into a future where people are going to start developing genuine neural interfaces that allow us to control our devices with just our thoughts. It sounds crazy, but it's coming. You heard it here first.

[Back to current hosts]

LG: Can we hear a womp womp sound effect there? Julian, tell us what happened with the pixel this year?

JC: Google took out the gesture sensing technology in its phone. I think there is still this desire, and I think we'll see that at CES 2021, this barrage of companies trying to be the first one to really nail the ability to use your interface with your technology without touching it, but I don't think anyone is remotely close to a seamless experience that would be ideal for the average person. I think even the contact lens that I saw at CES 2020, that lets you interact with just your eye gestures like vulva eye gestures, eye movements, that is still far off.

They're only now starting to talk to potential distributors for that kind of technology. It's still far off. As cool as it is, and as how Google has stripped that away from its flagship phone, I think it's still definitely something we're all going to end up with, but I just think the timeline is going to be at least two to three, four or five, maybe even 10 years out.

LG: Can either of you think of an example this year working from home where you wish you had touchless gesture controls?

MC: Yeah, anytime that I encountered a touchscreen at the grocery store.

LG: Good call.

JC: I mean, that's something that I've been trying to focus on in some of my reviews for phones when they don't have NFC chips in there, because NFC is what enables contactless payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay. That's something I've used a ton this year. Why give my credit card over when I could just tap my phone if that function is available at the cashier? I think that is definitely one of the more obvious use cases for this gesture technology, but in the more broader waving your hand around like a maniac in your house trying to control random objects, I just think at the moment, the way our houses and tech is set up, it just doesn't make sense.

Even if you look at the Nest Hub Max from Google, which has that camera, and you can raise your hand at it to pause videos or music, it just doesn't really work because you have to be in that perfect spot in your house where the camera is looking right at you, and it can recognize your hand gesture, which I don't think just really works out for a lot of people. That's the limitation with this technology. You have to have it work for your environment, rather than it being the other way around.

LG: We have not quite reached minority report just yet.

MC: Sadly, no.

LG: It sounds like you're both still fairly optimistic about the technology.

MC: I think eye tracking and voice control and predictive stuff, like AI-powered things know what you want before you ask for them, and deliver them to you without you doing anything, those things are probably going to come more quickly and more fully formed than gestures.

JC: I will say that I think voice is still something that we're going to see skyrocket way more than perhaps gesture, at least first. I'm using this device called Relay. It's by Republic Wireless, and it has just made everything in the past few days that I've been testing it just so much more seamless. It's basically a little walkie talkie like device, and it uses 4G LTE, so you can talk to anyone in the country. What I've been doing is on my bike rides or whenever I'm just walking the dog or going to the grocery store, I'll bring it along with me, and I can just hook it up to an earpiece.

I just tap on it, and quickly ask my girlfriend, "Hey, do we need milk, or do we need the peas or whatever?" It just eliminates the need for taking out my phone, especially if I have gloves on, because it's winter, and opening a messenger gap or placing a call. I just think this system is so much more seamless and faster, and it makes me want to just have it on all the time where I can just say, "Hey, do we need cookies?" I don't know. It just makes it so much simpler than … Maybe I'm just being lazy. Maybe that's what this is.

LG: No, I really like your diet actually, milk, peas and cookies. You've touched on all the categories there.

MC: The answer is always yes. You always need more cookies.

LG: Yes, we always need more cookies. All right, this has been a really fun look back. Let's take a break, and then we're going to come back with our final recommendations for the year.


LG: All right, you're going to sense a theme with these recommendations. They're drinks. Apologies to those of you who do not imbibe. There are also lots of great non-alcoholic choices out there, and we encourage you to take advantage of them. But for today's episode, we are recommending some beverages. Julian, as our guest of honor, what is your recommendation?

JC: I love a good whiskey sour. Whenever you go … Well, I guess I can't really say whenever you go to a bar because no one is doing that, but if you ever go to a bar again, at some point in the future, you have to make sure that they give it to you with an egg white, which a lot of people don't know about I've found, but essentially, adding that egg white just adds this nice foamy texture at the top, and it just makes it very, very pleasant. Perhaps not so much if you were averse to sweet drinks, because it can be a little too sweet because it essentially is putting a lot of simple syrup into whiskey, but it still is very delicious. It's my go-to, and it still makes me feel very, very classy when I drink it. Maybe not so much these days when I'm sitting in sweatpants and just at home.

LG: That's exactly when you need the whiskey sour with the egg white to feel fancy.

JC: Exactly.

LG: Mike, what's yours?

MC: I'm going to recommend a paloma, which it's a tequila drink. It's traditionally tequila and grapefruit juice or grapefruit soda, so it might feel a little bit summery because it's kind of like a margarita. But I have found, even though I live in California, we don't really have seasons that it works year round as a very tasty, lovely, slightly bitter, slightly sweet cocktail. To make a paloma, you can use grapefruit juice, but the best palomas are made with grapefruit soda, so you mix one part tequila or mezcal, preferably white tequila, silver tequila, or mezcal if you'd like a little bit of a smoky flavor with two parts of grapefruit soda.

Now, you can use a Squirt, which is grapefruit soda that you can find absolutely everywhere. If you live in a place where you can get good Mexican groceries and Mexican food stuffs, I would recommend Jarritos. That's Jarritos with a J. It's a brand. They make Mexican fruit flavored sodas, and their grapefruit flavored soda is the granddaddy of paloma mixers. If you want to go a little bit fancy, I can also recommend that you use Ficks. That's F-I-C-K-S. It's a brand they make. They make pre-made mixes for like Bloody Marys, margaritas.

They also make a paloma mixer, and it has grapefruit juice in it, and it has a mix of cane sugar and stevia. It has two sweeteners because grapefruit juice can get quite bitter, and you want to have some sweetness in this drink. I would recommend the paloma. It's excellent. If you need a good tequila recommendation, you can slide into my DMs, but I'll tell you right now that cazadores works great.

LG: Excellent recommendation.

MC: What about you, Lauren? What am I drinking?

LG: All right, well, my overarching recommendation for this year is just don't make a resolution. The bar has been lowered. This is your chance to just totally skip out on resolutions for 2021. We have no idea what's going to happen anyway, so if you've been looking for an excuse to just say, "Hey, I'm going to do the bare minimum, be good to myself, be good to my friends and neighbors," this is the year to do it. That's it.

My drink recommendation, I don't really drink liquor or make cocktails, so I guess my recommendation would be a glass of wine, and two very small wineries I wanted to give a shout out to here. There's one called Two Shepherds in Sonoma County, California. It was the last winery I went to in the before times. I will always remember it. It's the last winery I went to. I went at the very end of February 2020 with a friend, and it was a delightful small family run farm, and they make great wines.

I bought their wines since, and so I recommend checking them out. Then another winery that I got acquainted with this year is another small batch winery called Quady North. That's Q-U-A-D-Y North in Southern Oregon. I've really enjoyed their wines as well. In fact, I ended up joining the wine club. They both make Rhone blends. I like their wines. They're small family run. Check them out. That is my recommendation for this year.

MC: Have you gotten into wine in a box this year?

LG: Mike, thanks to you, I have gotten into wine in a box only once. I've only tried it once. I tried the Bota Box. Mike had been telling me about this for a long time because I kept saying, "Hey, I don't like that when I open a bottle of wine, that if I only want a glass, then the wine just sits there for days afterwards and ultimately goes bad. It oxidizes and goes bad." Mike said, "You really need to try wine in a box." I finally did, and I totally see what the appeal is, but it's actually quite dangerous to have wine in a box in your fridge, so I think I'm just going to stick to the small bottles.

MC: Yeah, because you have three liters of wine ready at all times.

LG: You're right. It's like a Gatorade cooler of wine in your fridge.

MC: Yeah, but the Bota Box is … I think the Bota Box is pretty awesome, because then you end up using wine in cooking a little bit more, because you can add like a quarter cup or a half cup of wine in something.

LG: Yes.

MC: Then you're not obligated to finish the bottle within the next 48 to 72 hours, which is important.

LG: Yes. Great advice, Mike. You're my boss, so I'm going to take that advice directly from my boss. Thank you.

JC: You don't want to spend $200 on a coravin?

MC: I think spending $200 on a device that makes my $11 bottle of wine last an extra couple of weeks is not really in the cards for me.

LG: All right, that's our show for this week and this year. Thank you so much to the both of you. I just have to share a little story. One of my absolute favorite photos from 2020 occurred in the first two weeks of the year. We were all at CES in Las Vegas together. It was Mike's birthday, because Mike's birthday generally falls during CES in early January. We all went out to dinner, surprised him with cupcakes, and I have this really fantastic photo of Mike looking not altogether surprised, and Julian and one of our fellow writers, Parker Hall, just cracking up in the background totally laughing.

I shared it recently to our company's Slack read, and really made me miss you guys and made me miss seeing you in person. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I regret that we can't go to CES this year and see each other in person and hang out. Thank you to the both of you for doing this podcast and doing this remotely all year and just being great colleagues all year.

MC: Oh, thanks, Lauren. You know what I really want to be able to do? I want to be able to order Lotus of Siam for everybody, and have it delivered to everybody's house.

LG: That would be incredible. I want to send you vegan cupcakes from the Yardbird.

JC: Yes.

MC: I'll take them.

LG: Yes. Julian, thank you for joining us today. It's been so much fun.

JC: Of course. Thanks so much for having me all year round. It was a lot of fun, and especially doing this in a New York bedroom, where I had to deal with all sorts of weird things this year in terms of various apartment sounds, so glad that today went OK. Thanks for having me as always.

LG: Thanks, Snackfight for being a great editor and friend.

MC: Oh, Happy New Year, Lauren. You too.

LG: Thanks to all of you for listening. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter. Just check the show notes. This show is produced by the excellent Boone Ashworth, who's been our fantastic producer and colleague all year long. Thank you, Boone. We're sending alcohol your way.

MC: Get a haircut.

[The others laugh at Boone's unsightly mop of hair.]

LG: All right. Happy New Year! Everybody, please stay safe and healthy, and we'll see you next year.

MC: Wear a mask.

[Gadget Lab outro theme music]

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