So you’ve just gotten that shiny new gadget you have been drooling over all year long, only to find that the next version is coming in a month, with a bigger screen, faster processor, and slimmer design. If you’re a techie like me, you know this feeling all too well. While this can be a frustrating experience, the breakneck pace of innovation nowadays means that we geeks are constantly looking ahead to the next best thing. Get ahead of the curve and check out my list of the latest and soon-to-be greatest tech for 2013.
Leap Motion ($70)
With the constant bombardment of new and sometimes indistinguishable gadgets, it has become increasingly hard to surprise tech-savvy consumers. That said, I can honestly say my reaction to seeing the Leap Motion in action was one of genuine amazement, second only to seeing an iPhone for the first time. The Leap Motion is a revolutionary motion-control device that allows you to interact with your computer with intuitive hand gestures, sans touchscreen, via a small and unobtrusive peripheral about the size of an iPod. The Leap Motion tracks your movements so precisely that it can recognize all ten fingers and also identify other motions, such as mimicking a pistol with your hand during shooting games. Seeing a demo of this device brought back images of Tom Cruise flinging information through the air in the movie Minority Report; it’s that smooth. The applications for Leap Motion can go far beyond using pinch to zoom in mid-air. It took a group of crafty hackers all of 24 hours to figure out how to fly a quadrocopter with it, and it hasn’t even been officially released. At the risk of hyperbole, the Leap Motion looks as though it has the potential to change modern-day computing, similar to the way touch screens have in the past decade or so. Pre-orders are up on the Leap website and I, for one, can’t wait for them to take my money.
PlayStation 4/Xbox 720 (price TBA):
While neither of these consoles have been officially released, it’s almost a given that they will ship sometime in 2013. The Xbox 360 and PS3 were launched 2005 and 2006 respectively; that’s eons ago in console years and it’s starting to show. A mid-level PC dwarfs either in both performance and graphics, and it’s getting harder to justify the $60 price tag on games with outdated visuals. The consoles owe their longevity to the increasing focus on non-gaming applications available on both systems. Players come for the games, but they and their families stay for the music/video streaming, web browsing, and social media. These features have been so successful for both companies that there’s no doubt that the next crop of consoles are being designed from the ground up with more versatility in mind. Here’s hoping they don’t forget about the games.
OLED Televisions ($2,500 – $10,000)
OLED (organic light emitting diode) TVs and monitors feature contrast ratios of up to 100,000,000:1. What this translates to is a wider range of colors and a picture that pops like nothing else you’ve seen before. While this may sound like a commercial, the picture on an OLED television really is hands-down better than anything on the shelves right now. Also, they are ridiculously thin; so thin, in fact, that they can be fabricated into foldable and transparent screens, and the more standard living-room variants can be as thin as the width of a pencil. Smaller versions of this technology have already been showing up in portable devices like the PlayStation Vita and the Samsung Galaxy smart phones. Unfortunately, as screen sizes go up, they become more and more cost prohibitive, putting full-sized OLED TVs out of the reach of most consumers for the time being.
4K Televisions ($20,000 and up)
Now that the current crop of LED, SMART, 250 Hz, etc. televisions have finally come down to the realm of the affordable, you may be tempted to go out and buy one. A reasonable choice, but before you do, you should know there’s something bigger, badder, and clearer right around the corner. It’s called 4K and it’s the next NEXT best thing in to come along in television. The “4K” means a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is about four times the maximum resolution of the current generation of “Full HD” 1080p televisions. There are a couple of caveats, though. There aren’t very many 4K sources out there right now, so with the exception of professionals or one percenters with personal movie theaters, this much clarity in a screen is overkill. Second, and certainly not least, the entry-level price for one of these TVs is about $20,000 and the source feeds, such as the 4k “Red Ray” media player, cost about the price of a high-end television by themselves. A big price to pay for entertainment, but once you see one in action, you’ll be constantly looking forward to the day you can own one without winning the Powerball first.