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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tech Talk: 2013 promises to be big year with smart glasses, mobile domination and more

By Owen Sutton
KyForward tech columnist
 

So, you got out on Black Friday and picked up all the newest tech gear. Now you have all of the latest and greatest, right?
 

Bad news. There are some really amazing things just over the horizon. Next year is certain to be a big one, with plenty of technology advancements to get excited about. Keep an eye out for these 2013 debuts:
 

Smart glasses
 

This is amazing stuff – think Terminator. Technically known as “augmented reality head-mounted display,” smart glasses put a computer display right in front of your eyes. Smart phone-like information would be presented without requiring you to take your eyes off the real world.
 

The glasses might display live statistics of a basketball game as you watch in person or provide details about a character in a Broadway play. Many devices will work in conjunction with a smartphone or wristwatch, while others are likely to be completely self-contained.  
 

Google’s Project Glass, a long rumored research and development project, was confirmed earlier this year, and developers are likely to have them in their hands by mid-2013. The Google version of smart glasses is the one you have most likely heard about, but there are sure to be lots of competitors. Just this month Microsoft filed a patent that confirms its interest in the market. Olympus, a Japanese camera and optics company, revealed a prototype of their MEG4.0 smart glasses in July. Also expect entries from Apple and a host of current smartphone manufacturers. This is one of those “weird” innovations that will seem oh-so ordinary in the very near future.
 

Complete mobile takeover
 

You probably think this has already happened, and I guess you’d be right, but what I’m talking about here is total and complete domination. Sometime in 2013 mobile phones will surpass personal computers as the most common internet access devices worldwide. In 2013, tablet sales will near 50 percent of laptop sales, with the possibility of overtaking laptops in the very near future. In three years as many as 80 percent of mobile phones sold will be smart phones. It has been long time since it was “cool” to have a smartphone, by the end of 2013 it will be just plain weird not to.
 

Xbox 720
 

Who knows if this is the real name of the next generation Xbox from Microsoft, but the next generation is coming and it is almost certain to be available sometime in 2013. Xbox 360 is the current undisputed king of the serious gaming world, and pretty much has been since its 2005 launch. The specifications of the new version are unknown, but as with all impending tech releases, rumors abound.
 

One popular rumor seems particularly likely, that the next generation will be available in two very different models. The first is the one we’d expect, a gaming powerhouse in the mold of a traditional console. The second something for casual users, more akin to a set-top box, like Apple TV. This would bring the Xbox’s growing entertainment and streaming applications to the masses. I expect the first model to be on the Christmas list of a lot of gamers; the second one, well, it may be on all of our list.
 

Mozilla’s Firefox Mobile OS
 

In 2012 there are basically four smart phone operating systems of consequence: Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows Phone, and of course, the barely alive Blackberry from RIM. In 2013 we will see a new entry of significance from Mozilla. Firefox OS, sharing a name with Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser, will be a free and open source mobile operating system. Traditional mobile operating systems allow only native apps, those installed on the device, to interact with the phone’s hardware. Firefox OS lets HTML5 applications (Web-based apps) make direct use of the devices hardware. This functionality removes the proprietary “app market” from the equation. Mozilla believes the OS will lead to cheaper devices, and champions the “Open Web as a platform for mobile devices.
 

Basis Band
 

Health monitors of all kinds are much hyped and somewhat popular these days. You’ve seen heart rate monitors, pedometers and the like, but Basis is something different. It monitors just about everything your body does: sleeping patterns, heart rate, counting calories, physical activity and more. It also happens to be a quite stylish wrist watch, whose band can be changed out to fit most anyone’s style.
 

Amazon Kindle Phone
 

While there has still been no official confirmation from Amazon, a Kindle-branded phone is an absolute sure thing, probably in the first half of 2013. Amazon’s strategy with both the Kindle e-readers and tablets has been to set prices extremely aggressively, making up for the low price with increased sales in the Amazon “ecosystem.” Expect exactly the same for the Kindle Phone, a high-end unlocked device, at a subsidized contract phone price. You can be sure that the phone will run the heavily skinned, but Android-based, Kindle OS.
 

This device has the potential to completely change how the mobile phone business works in the U.S., seriously. The big phone companies currently lock customers into long-term contracts by offering new devices at extremely discounted prices. If a high-end unlocked phone becomes widely available at a reasonable price, it becomes a lot easier to switch carriers on a whim. This, of course, will drive prices down.
 

The Leap
 

Leap Motion says “molding virtual clay with a computer should be as molding clay in the real world.” That’s exactly what they intend to achieve with The Leap, which will begin shipping early in 2013. The Leap will be to your desktop what Xbox Kinect is to your living room. The USB-connected peripheral will sit next to your computer and detect hand movements with incredible accuracy. Flip through photos, pinch to zoom, manipulate onscreen objects, all without touching your keyboard or mouse. This has touch-screen whipped.
 

Owen Sutton is the lead consultant and founder of Maximus Technology LLC, a technology consulting firm in Lexington. He was born and raised in the Bluegrass, graduated from Tates Creek High School and earned an associate’s degree from Bluegrass Community & Technical College. A combat veteran, having served in Afghanistan, Owen spent 10 years in the Kentucky Army National Guard. He is a technology expert with over a decade of experience in businesses small and large. He lives in Lexington with his family and can be reached at owen@maximusky.com or on Twitter.

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