Technology Preview 2014 - 13 Jan 2014

We’re just about into the year and already the technology world has gathered in Las Vegas at CES 2014 to show off what they’ll be releasing this year. We thought we’d give you a technology preview of some of the products and software being released so you can prepare.

Smartphoneszte modular concept phone

Apple may be keeping their 2014 products secret until later this year, but other companies have had no issues revealing what they’ve got planned. ZTE showed off their concept modular mobile phone, an idea that’s been around for a while but no one has actually done anything with, apart from the possible exception of Motorola, the company behind the Project Ara concept design.  The ZTE modules appear to be easy to replace, with four main modules for the CPU, GPU, ROM, and RAM, and others for battery, memory, and the camera. However, the issue with modular phones will always be that people may not be willing to modify their phones themselves.

Fitness

sony smartbandSony in particular has shown great enthusiasm towards wearable tech, announcing Core, a small chip that can be worn in a number of ways, and is tiny enough to fit into the latest smartband, also revealed.

Archos has announced a fitness band for this year, the Archos Activity Monitor. The product records all fitness data such as, steps walked, time spent running or doing other forms of exercise, and displays it for users to analyse and monitor.

Intel is by far the most impressive company for wearable tech, at least concept-wise. The company revealed a new smartband, fitness tracking headphones, a new headset design, and a wireless charging bowl. The bowl is one of the more impressive ideas, as it acts as a place to keep all your devices out of the way, and ensures they’re always fully charged.

LG is making quite an effort to break into the fitness market in 2014. The company’s latest smartband uses the Sony Core to provide accurate information on how many calories you’ve burned, play music, and even pair with your phone for texts and calls. The band is accompanied by a set of headphones, arguably the more impressive device of the two, which biometrically monitors your heart rate when worn. For those who need to, or enjoy, tracking their heart rate as they exercise, and want to explore how many calories they actually burn every day, whilst also being able to easily answer texts and phone calls, these are the devices for you.

Home Mediaalienware steambox

Steam Machines have been eagerly awaiting for some time now. Valve recently sent out prototype machines to beta testers, and have revealed no less that 13 partners, each with their own Steam Machine. The machines vary in size, power, and cost, but the vision for them is the same, to bring Steam OS, an open gaming operating system that plays all Steam games, into the living room and onto televisions.

Each machine can be fully customised to provide to the specific needs of the user. However, each of these 13 machines caters to a certain type of user who may not be comfortable customising their machine. Some people will simply want a product they can keep using until the next generation, much like other games consoles, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, while others will want to customise their Steam Machine as they would a PC, which they can.

DTS revealed their latest generation of headphone technology, DTS Headphone X. The new technology was demonstrated in a room filled with surround sound speakers, playing the sound for an alien abduction movie. Visitors were asked to listen to the speakers as the movie played, and then listen again through headphones using DTS Headphone X technology, apparently the headphones emulated the experience perfectly. The new technology behind DTS Headphone X uses the metadata from audio and video files to create a true surround sound experience, meaning it lives on the devices playing the files rather than the headphones themselves. DTS Headphone X will work with any pair of headphones, compensating for their audio weaknesses as it detects them, creating the best experience for users possible.

playstation nowIn keeping with the theme of home entertainment, Sony announced and demoed their new live streaming service for PlayStation games, PlayStation Now. The new service allows you to stream any PlayStation game to any Sony console, smartphones, tablets, and even Sony Bravia TVs. However, a service this good can’t be limited to these devices forever, so you should expect it to hit Smart TVs and maybe even computers and Macs in the not too distant future. The only downside of the service is that, because the games are being streamed from the cloud, the graphics aren’t as good as they are when playing straight from the disc. That said, the ability to play The Last Of Us on my PS Vita alone makes up for the loss of a bit of image quality.

Another piece of hardware that’s sure to invade your living room is also coming this year, the Oculus Rift. The new version of the device, named Crystal Cove, adds important improvements to the device, helping create a better oculus rift crystal covevirtual reality experience. The Oculus Rift will now come with a camera that tracks the smallest movements from the headset, thanks to the added IR dots. Through these additions, the device will be able to reduce the number of people experiencing motion sickness when using it, as well as the motion blur that comes with such an accurate piece of kit. The Oculus Rift should release later this year, though how many people will be able to afford it is questionable. So far, developers have been given updated kits to work with, but the range of products you’ll be able to use with Oculus Rift has yet to be discussed in any real detail.

New computers and monitors are heading our way this year as well. Dell made quite a splash when they announced their new 4K monitor, which will retail at around £425 at the end of January. Samsung however, made the biggest noise with their new all in one PC, the Samsung ATIV Book One 7. The PC, while not featuring super-powered graphics, is the ultimate hub for your home, providing you only use Samsung products. The PC will work with your Samsung smartphone, Tablet, and even Smart Watch, using them to store and display photos, respond to texts, play music, as well as a number of other functions.

lg oled flexible televisionTelevisions

Winning over everyone at the show was LG. The latest LG flexible OLED TV has been bending before people’s eyes throughout CES 2014, demonstrating just how you can change your viewing experience at home to get the most out of what you’re watching. LG and Smasung were competing for size, with LG’s 77-incher not quite living up to the beast that is Samsung’s 105-inch bendable TV. However, the main point is that this technology is coming to our homes, where we can play around with it as much as we want to, and in whatever size we want as well hopefully.

While there’re still a lot of companies just getting into creating the best 4K televisions, Philips, Dolby, and Sharp have seen fit to showcase 8K televisions, for when 4K isn’t enough. 8K TVs will be sixteen times the resolution of today’s HD televisions, and offer 3D viewing without the need for glasses. This is a revolution some people have been waiting for since 3D TVs were first released, and should please the wider market.

sharp 85 inch 8k televisionSony presented their latest television, the 85-inch Sony Ultra HD 4K TV. The television gives owners 4K, but doesn’t force them to use it. 4K isn’t mainstream as of yet, and most people still only watch, at best, HD content. However, this TV has up-scaling technology that will work to present whatever content you’re watching at the best quality physically possible. Meaning you’re not only future proofed, but you can keep and enjoy those old DVDs you can’t bring yourself to throw away for a little bit longer.

Vehicle Technology

toyota hydrogen fuel powered concept carFor those desperate for more technologically advanced cars, Toyota announced their latest eco-friendly project, a car that runs solely on hydrogen fuel cells. The car will provide up to around 300 miles to drivers with a single cell, and you can fill that cell up afterwards in less than five minutes, a massive improvement on the hours required to charge electric cars. The real bonus of the car is, of course, the fact that the only by-product of producing electricity when reacting hydrogen with Oxygen present in our atmosphere is, water.

However, the car brings to light the downfalls of this potential savior to our Ozone. Firstly there are no garages currently offering hydrogen gas on their pumps, and it would take millions of pounds, not to mention a few years, to implement these in the US alone, so we don’t only have the issue of finding the money to invest, but also the time and space to get the work done. There’s also the elephant in the room that is the growing scarceness of naturally occurring hydrogen gas.

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that in 2013 there was a hydrogen gas shortage that seriously affected the party industry, though a new source of the gas has now been located. Hydrogen gas is mainly collected from massive natural pockets found deep underground, and even though some of it is produced as a by-product by factories, we’re still running out of natural pockets to harvest. To ensure there is always enough hydrogen to go around, new factories or power plants would need to be built, that either solely produce hydrogen gas for cars, or at least produce it as the result of another process that factory or power plant serves.

audi tabletGoogle and Nvidia pretty much took over the show with their announcement of installing cutting-edge Android technology in GM, Honda, Audi, and Hyundai cars. The technology will completely change the way people use their cars, with alerts being sent to phones if traffic delays or adverse weather are detected, and the eventual goal of standardising driverless cars.

In Audi’s appearance at CES this year they showed off their brand new Android tablet, the result of their partnership with Google. It’s a little odd that such a big car manufacturer is worrying about breaking into the tablet market, but the company insists it is the natural progression of the technology. The tablet will connect seamlessly with Audi vehicles, giving drivers the ability to do a lot more from an in-car screen. It’s unclear how the tablet will be distributed, many think they will be sold with Audi cars, but the core benefits of the tablet are definitely just for Audi drivers. The company also announced improvements in other areas for future vehicles, and even mentioned that driverless cars weren’t too far away, though for now someone will still have to sit in the driver’s seat, in case they need to take over from the computer for some reason.

Eco Friendly

belkin wemo led smart bulbsFinally, we recently wrote a post about technology that connects with your smartphone. A rival to Philips’ Hue Light Bulbs, one of the products we featured, has been announced this year, the Belkin WeMo Smart LED Bulb. The Belkin WeMo connects Belkin products, making them controllable through a smartphone app. The new Smart LED Bulbs do exactly the same job as the Philips Hue Bulbs, changing their colour to the exact one you want, but at a much lower cost per bulb. Belkin ended their press conference by telling the world that soon people would be able to control any device that uses a DC switch through the DIY WeMo Maker Kit, though no release date was confirmed.

As specialists in the pharmaceutical sector, we’re eager to see how this technology can help doctors, hospitals, and all other areas of the industry. One potential way is using 8K televisions to give more in-depth training, allowing those being taught to journey right through the human body to the point they’re learning about, and see it in action in full 3D without the need for glasses. This would be particularly helpful for demonstrating how drugs interact with the body on a cellular level, and exploring everywhere they have an impact.

oculus rift crystal cove medical simulationThe Oculus Rift could be used in a similar way to the above, showing the human body and cells in a way never seen before. However, the Oculus Rift could be taken a step further, giving people the ability to explore the human body (the part they’re learning about specifically) through an interactive medium that encourages them to explore and learn much more. This form of learning could prove to be better than learning from videos, lectures and textbooks, as people will be able to visually engage with the information in an interactive, more-interesting way.

Finally, a combination of these two technologies could be used in the future in exploratory surgery. Crystal clear 3D imaging on 8K monitors will give doctors a better view of a person’s body. Whilst linking a small surgical camera with the Oculus Rift could even make it easier to discover issues during the surgery, as doctors could get a clearer image of what’s wrong with someone if they can see and explore the body as freely as the Oculus Rift would allow them to.

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