The Year's Best Tech Products
A roundup of the most significant technologies to come to market in 2010.
The PowerMat Portable
We’ve made great progress in replacing data cables with wireless links, but power cables stubbornly remain. Things got a little better this year with the introduction of the PowerMat, which can supply electricity to charge mobile devices via inductive coupling. People have tried to get inductive technology off the ground before, but PowerMat’s slim-line industrial design combined with the growing need to frequently recharge power-hungry smart phones finally made it a winner.
The AR Parrot
Packing a huge amount of computing power into a featherlight body, this flying toy is incredibly stable while hovering or in flight, indoors and out. It uses feedback from cameras and other sensors to automatically adjust its engines and maintain control. The ability to get a pilot’s-eye view, beamed from the Parrot to an iPhone, is another remarkable advance, as is being able to use augmented reality overlays on the iPhone to fight simulated enemy planes.
PHS300S Portable Hotspot
Powerful mobile devices and the proliferation of Internet video services in 2010 have begun to show how much of a bottleneck 3G cellular connections can be. This hotspot was one of the first devices to let people tap into much faster 4G connections, using their existing WiFi hardware to connect to the Internet while out and about.
For decades, interfaces for computers and game consoles meant keyboards, mice, and joysticks—and little else. Recently however, we’ve been getting a lot more diversity in how we can interact with our digital devices, with touch screens allowing gestural controls and handheld motion-sensing controllers letting us pretend we’re holding a tennis racket or light saber. Microsoft’s Kinect, a camera-based system that can identify hand and body movements, takes the idea to the next level, turning players themselves into controllers.
Wrap920 AR Glasses
In recent years, augmented reality has escaped from the lab, thanks to camera- and GPS-enabled smart phones. But touch-screen displays a few centimeters across still fall short of the dream of seeing the world with immersive computer-aided vision. These glasses go a long way toward realizing that dream, allowing interactive three-dimensional synthetic objects to be added to the environment in real time. Expect everyone to be wearing the descendants of this device in ten years’ time.
Sony partnered with Google to create this HDTV, which shows the likely direction of television in the years to come. Viewers want to be able to search for something to watch on their big-screen TV as easily as they can find a restaurant menu online, and software platforms like Google’s will let them do that. In addition, Google’s software lets users install Android applications, further blurring the line between smart phones, desktop computers, and televisions.
Claros DX 1
A diagnostic revolution is under way, with while-you-wait devices in clinics eliminating delays of hours or days to get the results of blood tests sent out to a laboratory. Microfluidic chips like this one allow a pathology lab to be miniaturized down to something you can hold in your hands, mixing tiny doses of reagents and analyzing results—in this case monitoring the patient for a prostate cancer biomarker. The technology is also being developing for the identification of STDs and other diseases in developing countries, where there are few pathology labs in the first place.
Apple single-handedly created a new market with its iPad, reviving the otherwise moribund category of tablet computers. Rather than trying to replicate all the functionality of a laptop, Apple succeeded by targeting people who just want some light entertainment—and maybe a little e-mail. This portable digital jukebox lets them watch video, listen to music, play games, surf the Web, and read books and magazines.