Tech that made 2020 less, well, 2020

TikTok, Animal Crossing, and the Child from The Mandalorian all offered small bright spots in a year full of stress and anxiety.

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All work and no play makes Jack and Jill not only dull but depressed, too. There was so much bad news and disruptions to normal life in 2020 that companies had to make employee mental health a top priority instead of an afterthought.

As N.F. Mendoza reported on TechRepublic, people are spending more time working during the pandemic, logging on earlier in the day and staying connected longer. It's more important than ever to develop good habits that clearly mark the beginning and end of the work day. It's easier to call it a day when you have something to look forward to in the evening. 

SEE: Future of 5G: Projections, rollouts, use cases, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

These apps, services, and games all brightened up the long days of 2020. 

Hosting a socially distanced movie night  

As everyone spent more time on screens in 2020 due to coronavirus shutdowns, web developers created a way for people to watch movies together. You need a browser plug-in plus a streaming subscription to do this. Hulu offers this service, so does Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Netflix via a Google Chrome plugin. Each service works a little differently and some require both people to have a subscription to the particular streaming service. There's lots of new movies coming out over the next few weeks, so now is a good time to round up folks for a viewing party. Watching a movie from your couch is nothing like being in a movie theater but it's as close as we can safely get in December 2020.

Taking on a TikTok challenge

TikTok is just as addictive as other social media platforms but there are more laughs in that feed than some other sites. This was a big year for this short-video app, which racked up almost 1 million users in the US and almost 2 billion downloads in the first half of the year. Influencers and bored people around the world used the app to create memes and all sorts of challenges. Politicians were interested in the app also, and it was almost banned from app stores in the US.

The company rounded up the top 100 clips of 2020 on the app, including memes, dance-offs, and food hacks. 

PS5: Searching for the in-demand holiday gift

This annual tradition of racing to snag the most in-demand gift survived the year that destroyed so many familiar activities. The PS5 was the new console everyone wanted and had to work hard to get. This year that racing around was mostly done online but was no less of a challenge as bots snapped up the limited inventory retailers doled out throughout the month.

Finding serenity in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch came out at just the right time: The start of coronavirus lockdowns. The point of this game is to build your own home in a community full of cute animals. Players can create their own clothing, plant gardens, and even invite friends over to visit. This game was the perfect alternative to the stress and uncertainty of the world in 2020. Software developers held a DevOps conference within the game and used the setting to guide every element of the experience. There were overall business lessons to learn from the game as well, as Teena Maddox explained on TechRepublic. Players can find an escape from the stress of daily life with Animal Crossing and get better at building relationships and communicating with others at the same time.

Following the Child's story, pointy ears and all

Season 2 of The Mandalorian on Disney+ started just before Halloween and ended just before Christmas. A bounty hunter was on a quest to unite a youngling with a strong connection to the force with a Jedi who can train him. The small green being goes by the Child throughout the entire first season and most of the second until the Mandalorian meets ups with Ahsoka Tano. She connects with the Child and learns that his name is Grogu. Most people know him as Baby Yoda, and this cute alien has popped up all over the place from T-shirts to planters to cereal to phone cases. This Bitty Boomer bluetooth speaker will bring Grogu to your house and a smile to your face. Whether you're grateful for the puppetry that animated Grogu or the streaming service that delivered him to your living room, you have to agree that the little green guy was a bright spot in 2020.

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