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new technologyTechnology progresses at such an astounding rate that sometimes, I really can’t believe what we’re capable of. Supercomputers in the palm of our hands; near-instantaneous access to an infinite pool of knowledge on the internet; one click away from a video conversation with my in-laws in China.

I love technology, and I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s a curse really, because I’m constantly looking forward to something even cooler on the horizon. Ladies, gentlemen, and everything in between, I present to you my pick of 5 incredible technologies to look forward to in 2013.

Oculus Rift

Virtual reality has been promised for so long, yet completely under delivered. A staple of sci-fi movies, there just isn’t a consumer level VR headset available. The Oculus Rift, a Kickstarter project that I personally backed last year, is due to ship this March (though Dave already got to play with them at CES). What makes the Oculus different?

  • Affordable. Expected to arrive sub-$500 mark, it may still be in the luxury realm but no more so than a projector or 50″ TV.
  • The impressive screen, where technology has finally progressed to give us a good quality small screen at a high enough resolution. One of the biggest problems with existing headsets is the fact that it’s like watching a small TV from the sofa; and that’s far from immersive. With the Oculus, there’s just a small border around your visual periphery, an experience that means you truly feel immersed, like looking out of a mask into a virtual world.
  • Compatibility. Built from the ground up to work with existing engines, the Oculus should be plug and play for most 3D games.
  • It has the full backing of John Carmack, the creator of Quake (the first ever FPS). If he’s behind it, you know it’s a winner.
  • Latency. VR headsets are set apart from simple 3D headsets in that they read the movements of your head in order to give you a full 360 degree, realistically immersive view of the world. One of the biggest challenges in designing the Oculus was the creation of a custom tracking chip that would dramatically reduce the latency – or the time it takes – between actually moving your head, and seeing the change reflected in the world.

I have a set coming in March, so I’ll guess I’ll know more then if they’re truly revolutionary. Personally, I think this really could be the next big thing in gaming.

Xbox 720

Fancier graphics and better AI, mayhaps – but if the leaked specs are anything to go by, Microsoft will also be launching a virtual headset (similar to the Oculus Rift) to use in conjunction with a more advanced Kinect; this could give us some fascinating alternate and augmented reality games – like kickboxing hordes of zombies as they invade your actual living room. The Kinect itself is an incredible piece of technology, and the level of detail with which it accurately reads the player movements and environment simply cannot be compared to the simplistic wrist flicking of the Wii. Nintendo may have kicked off the movement controllers, but Microsoft took it to a whole new level. I’m thinking the Xbox 720 (or Infinity, or Xbox 8…) will do exactly the same, and we should be seeing it at least announced formally later this year.

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Then again, it may be that the rumors last year were actually referring to the recently demoed IllumiRoom, where a projector is used to illuminate areas around the TV and provide visuals for your periphery. I must admit, the video looks pretty awesome; but as a Microsoft Research Project, will it actually ever make the light of day? Seems like you’d need a pretty large room and a pretty large projector.

Project Wintermute

Apple introduced Siri with the iPhone 4S, but as a British user still feels like all the awesome functionality is only available to Americans. And even for those who do get the full set of functionality, the general consensus seems to be that there’s so much Siri could do, but the dream just isn’t quite there yet.

I’m not quite ready to give up on the idea of a personal artificial intelligence though. Welcome, Project Wintermute (a Neuromancer AI reference), a cross-platform digital assistant from Nuance, the guys leading the way in voice recognition. The system learns about the user – similar to Google Now Google Now Brings New Tidings With Sports Scores, Showtimes, And Public Alerts [Updates] Google Now Brings New Tidings With Sports Scores, Showtimes, And Public Alerts [Updates] If you happen to own an Android Jellybean device with the mobile search assistant, your smartphone just became handier. The very useful Google Now got a few changes in its latest update. So, you may... Read More – but also remembers a conversational context, so asking it to “play that song I was listening to” is possible across devices.

Lego Mindstorms EV3

You’ve got to hand it to Lego; even with the fast pace of technology, they’re still passionate about stimulating the creativity of young minds and more than happy to adjust to the times. I still have a box full of Lego in the loft which I keep promising to get down one day; no one ever throws Lego away, do they? The next iteration of Lego Mindstorms – the advanced Lego series featuring programmable robotics and mechanical engineering – allows programming the devices without needing a computer, or remote control via a mobile phone. $350 is a bit pricey, but let’s face it – if your kid is more interested in building robots than kicking a ball around, they probably have a bright future ahead of them, so you can justify the investment, right? Failing that, we all know it’s for you anyway.

Leap Motion

Gesture controls are going to be around for a while, yet I can’t help thinking Microsoft is betting on the wrong technology with all their fancy new touchscreen displays; put simply, I don’t want to touch my gorgeous 27″ display – my heads are greasy! That’s where Leap Motion comes in, which reads your gesture movements midair. Remarkable? I’d say so. You can pre-order one now for just $69, and it should be shipping soon.

Well, that marks the end of my list. I bet you were expecting to find some Apple hardware on there, eh? Well, let the rumor mill start up a little, then I might get excited about the iPhone 6. For now, it’s safe to say there isn’t much innovation coming out of Cupertino. I did consider adding 3D printers What Is 3D Printing And How Exactly Does It Work? What Is 3D Printing And How Exactly Does It Work? Imagine if you could print out three-dimensional objects straight from a printer in your home. When I was a kid in primary school, I thought it would be awesome if I could print pizzas out... Read More to the list, but they’ve already joined the mainstream, and many at a sub-$1000 consumer level.

How about you though? What piece of tech or device are you most looking forward to this year? Do you dream of a virtual world and more immersive 3D gaming, or is Artificial Intelligence more your thing? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Kirby
    January 24, 2013 at 2:33 am

    Looking forward to the flexible smartphone. Samsung already gave us a preview at CES 2013 using OLED tech.

  2. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    January 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    We're moving more towards VR. Anyone here ever played dotHack series or reading Sword Art Online? While people may say the stories are mind-boggling cliches, the concepts are very interesting. One instance including mapping the whole real world in virtual world so you have your real world office and when using the heads up display, you will see the virtual world version of your office, and the avatars of your colleagues. There's also idea to use VR technology to allow disabled people or those with terminal illnesses utilizing Virtual/Augmented Reality system to connect and interact with others normally. I've heard the idea toyed with for at least a decade, but never before it feels as real as today.

  3. Eric Jay Palomar
    January 19, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    leap motion and Oculus Rift

    • Don Gateley
      January 19, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Can you say obvious? :-)

  4. Maryline Latorre
    January 19, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Those gadgets are going straight on my virtual wish list!
    Though "Quake - the first ever FPS"?! What about Wilfenstein?

    • James Bruce
      January 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      My bad; first real 3d FPS. Wolfenstein was only really 2 dimensional - no up or down. In quake you could ROCKET JUMP! ;P

  5. Don Gateley
    January 19, 2013 at 6:55 am

    "Virtual reality has been promised for so long". As has Oculus Rift. About time to deliver on the promises if they can. My smoke detector is going wild.

    • James Bruce
      January 19, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      They've only slipped by 3 months so far; that's actually pretty good for a hardware kickstarter.

      • Don Gateley
        January 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm

        After watching the videos of the reporter's use reactions to it I've peered through the smoke and pre-ordered one anyway. The downside risk is $300 and the upside is hard to even imagine. I call that an acceptable risk situation. :-)

  6. Adrian Rea
    January 18, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    one day I want to see 16x HD by the like of NHK, now that would be emersive!

  7. Scott MacDonald
    January 18, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    I can't wait to see how these VR programs are going to work. Gotta love the steps into sci-fi!

  8. Cristina Torrão
    January 18, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I heard of Oculus Rift just last week from a fellow redditor - put it on the market already! Please?

  9. Ashraf Mohamed
    January 18, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    3D gagle i gess

  10. David Pasquino
    January 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Looking forward to receiving my Pebble!

  11. Extra Extra
    January 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    While I'm definitely looking forward to the Oculus Rift, I'm also excited for the emergence of bluetooth-connected styluses for tablets, like the Jot Pro and Pogo Sketch. I'm also looking forward to Google Glasses. They may look a bit weird, but heads-up displays built into glasses could be really cool.

    • DA
      January 18, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      How would a Bluetooth stylus be useful? I'm curious..

      • Extra Extra
        January 18, 2013 at 10:08 pm

        I tried a couple of them out at CES last week. They communicate with a device over bluetooth and have an API built for them, so that apps can calculate how much pressure you are putting on the screen to make your strokes thicker (more pressure) or thinner (less pressure). They could also communicate with apps over bluetooth with a small button (similar in size and placement to buttons commonly found on mechanical pencils) to provide customizable functions, like undo, save custom colors, select different brush strokes, etc. They seem to be way more accurate, too.

        • DA
          January 19, 2013 at 2:21 am

          Oh! Well that's neat. So it adds extra functionality your average phone/tablet screen doesn't already include? I did actually look it up and I found something about it helping the device ignore your palm so you could write on it like you would with a normal writing surface.

  12. Pax
    January 18, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    I'm not a gamer but I have to admit that the whole Virtual Reality scene could change that. I first thought that VR could become a reality when I came across several years ago. I still think they represent the most immersive experience to date. Do check out some of the videos to get a sense of the system.

    Sadly... it seems that whatever they're working on has remained mostly integrated with the military and police (training exercises). Their site has remained 'virtually' unchanged in over 5 years and we'll probably never see a consumer version of this kind of device anytime soon.

    • Muo TechGuy
      January 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      They look pretty incredible, for sure. That said, I don't think they'd be too hard to make - perhaps with lots of 3D printed parts? We should totally find someone to do a kickstarter for a $1000 version. Still, first things first - let's get the VR helmet done properly, then we'll work on movement...

      • Pax
        January 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm

        I agree. I haven't looked at Virtusphere in a while but I'm pretty sure the system produced a 360 degree spherical view which is pretty amazing. I'll have to look at the videos again to be sure about that (the site really needs to be redone).

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