Tech ahead of the curve: 12 great recent innovations
24th Feb 2013 | 08:45
Cutting edge new technology
Have you decided to skip the iPhone 5 and the latest Android tablet? We can understand why. Iterative products might seem like they are not worth the expense.
But that's not true with every new gadget and piece of technology.
The innovative new gear in this list offers something brand new and cutting edge that breaks the norm.
1. Puzzlebox Orbit
Control a helicopter with your brain
As we move closer to the reality of living in the Star Wars universe (minus the TIE Fighters), it's inevitable we'll start seeing the gadgets and ideas from the movie. This mind-controlled orb, which looks like the one Luke could see with his mind on the Millennium Falcon, uses NeuroSky technology to read your concentration level using a headset with electroencephalography (EEG) sensors.
The orb uses a helicopter that can freely move left, right, up and down based on where you direct it with your mind. Another innovation: the entire project uses an open-source mentality for tweakers and hackers.
2. Dyson Tangle-Free Turbine Tool
First vacuum head that won't tangle
One of the main frustrations in vacuuming is that you have to deal with tangled strands - usually human or pet hair. This £45/US$69.99 (around AU$67) attachment for the Dyson DC19 vacuum cleaner uses counter-rotating brushes that remove hair before it tangles around the main brush.
The attachment itself also has a wider contact area that maintains suction with the carpet for longer, even in tight crevices. Our first thought: what else can be tangle free? How about the lawnmower, weed trimmer or maybe the family dog?
3. ViaSat Exede
First satellite internet to provide 12Mbps
What do you do if you want to beef up your satellite internet service? For starters, you launch a new satellite with 140Gbps of bandwidth. That's enough to provide 12Mbps of access to subscribers. That's over 10 million Gigabytes of usage per month.
The new bandwidth also creates a faster signal by using a wider spectrum called the Ka Band and by concentrating the power (called a multi-spot beam). It's a US innovation for now, so internet users elsewhere should cross their fingers or send begging letters to ViaSat or something.
4. Epson Moverio BT-100
First transparent heads-up display
Wearable tech is now becoming more viable, thanks to cheaper electronics, mobile processors and innovative interfaces. Like the Google Glass goggles, the Epson Moverio BT-100 is a see-through head-up display (HUD) that uses micro-projection technology. The display looks like an 80-inch LCD panel hovering in space. The transparent multimedia goggles display two images and can switch between 2D and 3D video.
The computer, which runs on Android 2.2, includes a touchpad, lasts six hours, and has expandable storage. The futuristic angle is that if you can put up with the awkward looks, the entire computer is housed in the goggles, providing portability and convenience when you need a quick high-def Angry Birds fix. At £519/US699.99/AU$749 though, the Epson Moverio BT-100 isn't cheap.
5. Sony X900 series
Ultra HD video and loaded with UHD movies
The most compelling feature for this Ultra HD/4K television is that it is actually shipping and available. Granted, at £25,000/US$25,000 (around AU$37,055), the price tag is a bit steep, but you get 3840 x 2160 pixels of glorious resolution on an 84-inch display on the Sony KD-84X9005 (called the XBR-84X900 in the US).
The 60-degree viewing angle is also helpful for home theatre viewing. As almost an afterthought, the display also enables you to play 3D movies. For future-proofing your home entertainment, this is the display you want if you need to buy now - and have that kind of extra cash.
Read our Sony KD-84X9005/XBR-84X900 review
6. Pong iPhone 5 Classic Soft Touch Case
Reduces cell phone radiation while increasing signal 20 per cent
In case you haven't heard the news, the World Health Organization classifies smartphones as potentially cancer-causing due to radiation levels. There is no hard proof for this claim, but if you think it's better to be safe than possibly carcinogenic, the Pong Research Classic Soft Touch Case for iPhone 5 is one cutting edge answer.
The £47.99/US$59.99/AU$59.99 case redirects radiation away from the phone and, at the same time, improves signal strength by 20 per cent. An iPhone 4/4S version is also available, along with radiation-reflecting and signal boosting cases for some Samsung, HTC, Motorola and BlackBerry phones.
7. Etón BoostTurbine 2000
Main innovation: Hand-cranked power
If you need a back-up battery for your smartphone, go by the weight of the battery pack. This 198g/7oz 2000mAh lithium pack feels rugged and heavy enough for all conditions. Once fully charged using the micro USB port, the US$59.99 (around £39/AU$58) pack can recharge your smartphone from zero to full.
In a pinch, you can turn the crank for one minute to generate another 30 seconds of usage. Push a button to see the power level.
8. JBL SoundFly BT
Produces 20 Watts of sound from a tiny speaker
This 7.5-inch Bluetooth speaker might not seem too innovative at first, but it packs a lot of powerful high-tech features into a small form factor. For starters, you can connect the £149.99/US$179.95 (around AU$222) JBL SoundFly BT easily over Bluetooth without the hassle of using a bridge or installing software on a computer.
The speaker can adjust itself automatically for the stream you are sending, improving equalisation on the fly and cutting out high notes that can cause distortion. The bass is better than you'd expect from such a small device. But the killer feature is that it plugs into an outlet and has no extra buttons. You just sync up and play. An AirPlay version is also available for iOS devices, priced at £159.99/US$199.95/AU$249.
9. Philips Hue
First lightbulb you control with your phone
Your home is probably already outfitted with LED lightbulbs, given the mandates over the use of fluorescent bulbs. But the Philips Hue goes a step further. Using your iOS or Android phone or tablet, you can tap into each bulb and change the colour and intensity (and turn them on and off).
A bridge connects into your router, and once you make the connection, you can even control the lights remotely. In the future, more and more gadgets will skip complex setup procedures and just work out of the box. We just hope they won't all be this expensive, priced at these are at £179.99/US$199.95 (around AU$267) for a three bulb starter pack, or £49.95/US$59.95 (around AU$74) for a single bulb.
Read our Philips Hue review
10. Memoto Lifelogging Camera
Auto-snap photos every 30 seconds
Lifelogging will become a mainstay of the tech mainstream in the next few years. The Memoto is a small, buttonless camera with GPS that clips to your clothes or onto a totebag. It's discrete, measuring 36 x 36 x 9mm (1.42 x 1.42 x 0.35 inches). As you go about your daily routine, the camera automatically snaps two photos per minute and stores them on the device, storing up to 4,000 5-megapixel images on there.
Ingeniously, the service uses GPS tagging to stamp the photo location and make corrections for orientation. Once you upload the images, the service groups them and shows the best images of the day. It costs US$279 (around £183/AU$271) and comes with one year's free cloud storage.
11. DirecTV Genie
Record shows you like automatically
Having to schedule and record shows is so 2012. The future is in having your DVR know your preferences and record shows automatically. The DirecTV Genie does just that, watching what you tend to record and watch over a period of time, and then auto-recording shows based on these preferences.
For example, if you like Top Gear, Genie will record other car-related shows. Amazingly, it actually works. The set-top box can also record five shows at once, and supports three remote clients in your home. DirecTV is only available in the US at the moment.
12. GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition
60-frames-per-second HD video
The greatest innovations in tech are often those that improve an existing product. The original GoPro was already innovative - a wide-angle durable camera you can clip to a motorcycle, ski hat or a yacht to record all of the action.
The GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition - priced at £359.99/US$399.99/AU$399.99 - is a major upgrade. You can record 1440p video at 48fps, 1080p video at 60fps and 720p at 120fps. And you can snap 12-megapixel images at a rate of 30 per minute. The picture quality is astoundingly good and captures a wider perspective.
Read our GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition review