Presenting The FutureTechnology is putting ever-cool gadgets in our hands before we can wear out the cases on old ones. While 3-D technology is breaking out of its shell (and into our homes), mobile tablets are creating a whole new category of devices for manufacturers to play with.
New devices will certainly change the way some businesses do business, but innovation is focused much more on entertainment than productivity. Televisions and related TV technology are undergoing the most significant changes, while toys inspired by (and in some cases actually powered by) military technology put recon and surveillance tools in the hands of anyone with a few hundred dollars to burn.
Photo Credit: Keith McDuffee
Recession-Proof InnovationWith the holiday shopping season fast approaching, gadget manufacturers are no doubt hoping that weary consumers will be looking to drop some cash. Many of the products on this list are slated for release in the U.S. before the end of the year, though some of them have already seen delays push those dates further down the calendar.
Consumer electronics have done well in the Great Recession, as mobile devices and digital media continue to replace non-smartphone and analog TV sets. People are spending more time at home, and electronics producers have taken note. Yes, there will be winners and losers, but America’s thirst for gadgets will no doubt ensure there is a market for the diversity of new technologies ready to roll out in the coming months.
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Hot Gadget: The Portable Tablet TVWith their comically expandable antennae and decidedly low-resolution screens, portable televisions were until recently a better idea in theory than in practice. The Dish Network and Verizon, leading providers of cable and satellite television, are behind a new range of tools set to put live TV on mobile devices at full resolution. Rumor has it that Verizon is developing an Android OS-powered tablet device to play live and recorded television, while it and the Dish Network are poised to release streaming-television apps for mobile devices already on the market such as Apple’s iPad and iPhone. As consumers get accustomed to watching high-quality media on portable devices, TV on mobile platforms will find a ready and willing audience when the tech is released.
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Hot Gadget: Mirasol Color eBook ReaderIf you appreciate a light, simple device with tons of battery life and a screen that won’t burn your retinas out, you own an Amazon Kindle. If you prefer beautiful graphics, a touchscreen interface and video and web capability, you own an Apple iPad. There’s not much in the middle of that particular spectrum of gadgets, but those seeking a third way have 2011 to look forward to, when the gap will be bridged a bit thanks to Qualcomm’s color e-reader screen. Rumor has it Amazon is interested in the full-color screen, which can also play video, for its next line of Kindles. The technology would allow the Kindle to maintain its advantage in battery life and readability in comparison with the iPad’s backlit touchscreen, while seriously boosting its display and graphical capabilities. Those who have been waiting for a color e-reader may get one just in time for the holidays.
Photo Credit: Qualcomm.com
Hot Gadget: DTV ShredderLike many developments that have trickled down from the warrior class to the weekend-warrior class, the DTV Shredder is sure to excite outdoor enthusiasts.
Standing for “Dual-Tracked Vehicle,” the DTV Shredder is basically a Segway on steroids. Except you stand on a skateboard-like platform and hold onto a jetski-like handlebar.
With a 14-horsepower engine and two tank-like tracks, the Shredder has a top speed of 30 miles per hour and can climb a slope up to 40 degrees steep. While it has obvious military applications (such as the ability to pilot it remotely, away from fighting), the sheer coolness of the vehicle and an alternate one-handed control make the Shredder a sure thing for adrenaline junkies with some wild nature in their backyards.
Photo Credit: BPG
Hot Gadget: Toshiba Autostereoscopic 3-D TVNot long after Avatar made 3-D cool again, the technology is starting to enter living rooms.
The televisions can display the lifelike images from certain cable channels and Blu-Ray players, but there’s only one catch: You must be wearing special glasses to enjoy the realism of 3-D.
However, Toshiba (and Sony, rumor has it) confirmed it’s developing an autostereoscopic 3-D television likely to hit the markets next year. Instead of glasses creating the effect in the viewer’s eye, the screen itself will.
Some worry 3-D quality will suffer when the screen is creating the effect, but Toshiba hopes that couch potatoes, when given the choice between watching 3-D TV with or without glasses, will choose the latter.
Photo Credit: Toshiba
Hot Gadget: Panasonic AG-3DA1Panasonic is set to introduce what they call “the world’s first professional quality fully integrated Full HD 3D camcorder.” At $21,000, the AG-3DA1 is not for any Tom, Dick or YouTube uploader out there, but it puts the sophisticated technology at the root of Avatar in the hands of all of the mid-level filmmakers who want to tell their stories in the third dimension.
Currently only in pre-order status, the camera may be released before the end of the year.
With 3-D televisions and Blu-Ray discs also growing in popularity, the AG-3DA1 is likely to be the first step in what is sure to be a growing market for the technology.
Photo Credit: Panasonic
Hot Gadget: Samsung Touch-Screen Remote ControlPicture-in-picture technology that allows you to watch two channels at once never really caught on. Even with larger screens, it seems like people don’t want anything to take away from the viewing experience. With its latest generation of televisions, Samsung seeks to provide another solution for dual-channel viewing by putting a screen on the remote control, which can play what is on your TV – or any other channel – with its own audio no less. Finally, you can you can watch Spike TV while your girlfriend watches the Food Network.
The list of applications goes on and on, leaving TV fanatics with only one question: What took so long?
Photo Credit: Samsung
Hot Gadget: Kinect for Xbox 360When Nintendo revolutionized the gaming industry with the Wii’s motion-sensitive controller, two things happened: Gamers got up off the couch, and people who had never been gamers before joined the brotherhood of people who like to play things.
Well, the revolution isn’t over, as Microsoft takes the baton and effectively throws it in the trash with the Kinect, which uses no controller at all. The device, to be released reportedly in November 2010, is a sensor that attaches to an Xbox 360 and tracks the body movements of multiple players who control onscreen avatars. The technology should finally allow extreme-sports enthusiasts to snowboard, surf or skateboard in their living rooms more realistically than ever before.
Photo Credit: Microsoft
Hot Gadget: Canon’s Mixed-Reality Head-Mounted DisplayCanon’s “mixed-reality” (MR) concept aims to pick up where virtual reality left off, unveiling an MR headset at its recent product expo.
The visor has a digital camera on each eye to capture video of the real world around the wearer, which is fed to an internal computer that overlays computer-generated images on the video and plays the resulting MR video on the screens inside the visor. The result is an augmented-reality experience that adds to the real world around you rather than trying to replace it. Canon debuted the concept last year in Japan to provide a more interactive and exciting museum experience, an obvious first application of the technology. For historical sites and museums around the world, the MR headset may truly allow visitors to immerse themselves in culture like never before.
Photo Credit: Canon
Hot Gadget: Parrot AR.DroneThe Parrot AR.Drone makes remotely spying on your neighbors a near-irresistible temptation. Instead of a remote control, the AR.Drone uses an app for Apple’s touchscreen devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) to pilot the device. With two cameras mounted on the device, one looking forward and one looking directly underneath, you also get a direct view of what the Drone is looking at in the palm of your hand.
You don’t have to worry about wandering too far from your Wi-Fi hub, as the AR.Drone creates its own wireless network wherever it goes. Though currently limited to Apple iOS devices, Drone is slated for compatibility with other mobile devices for the holiday shopping season later this year.
Photo Credit: Parrot
Hot Gadget: Toshiba AirSwing UIDespite the current advances in remote-control technology (see Samsung’s touchscreen remote above), it may be that remote controls themselves are about to be a thing of the past. New Toshiba televisions will soon come with its AirSwing technology, which uses an attachable camera to record the viewer’s gestures and control what is shown on-screen.
By superimposing a transparent image of the user over the TV and media available to him or her, the AirSwing creates a Minority Report-style interface, where your hands do the navigating. Early iterations are sure to be a little buggy, but many will surely welcome the first remote control to never get lost between the couch cushions.
Photo Credit: DigInfo News Japan
Hot Gadget: Samsung Galaxy TabletEver since Apple released its iPad tablet device, competitors have lined up to capitalize on the newly opened segment of the mobile device market. The first to mount a true challenge is Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet, a seven-inch portable browser and communication device with a front-facing camera for videoconferencing and an outward-facing one for photography and augmented-reality apps running on the device’s Android operating system.
With its smaller size, lighter weight and photo and video capabilities, the Galaxy provides a real alternative to Apple’s game-changer as producers zero in on the right size and features for this new category of devices.
Photo Credit: Samsung