Saturday 13 April 2013

Tech We want to See more of in 2013

android tablets guide
Technology, more often than not, renders things obsolete – just like what the electronic calculator did to the abacus. Yet strangely enough, the stylus, previously made obsolete by the simplicity of capacitive touch, is making a comeback. Evidence for that can be found on the millions of Samsung devices that come with an S-Pen, powered by Wacom’s electro magnetic resonance technology. Support for a stylus can also be found in Microsoft’s new Windows 8 running Surface tablet PCs. This then begs the question, why did the stylus become obsolete in the first place? Or did it? If the huge number of capacitive styli, as well as drawing and writing apps available have anything to say about it, probably not. Maybe it’s just taking a short hiatus before better technology improves the pen to glass experience. The S-Pen, while good, has not quite delivered the experience necessary to render pen and paper obsolete yet. But if phenomenal Galaxy Note 2 sales (3 million in 30 days) keep up, other manufacturers might want to join in. And if that happens, you can be sure that digital pen technology will be vastly improved over the next couple of years.

When display size gets bigger, the device naturally gets heavier. Just take a look at the massive Samsung Galaxy Note II – it has a 5.5-inch display and weighs 180g, making it the largest and one of the heaviest phones. Is there a middle ground between increasing screen sizes and the weight of a phone? The answer lies in flexible displays, which LG, Samsung and Sony have been trying to develop for several years. Samsung is said to be in the final phase of development although it is not clear when devices sporting these flexible displays will be available in the market. Samsung is also said to be using plastic (instead of glass) and incorporates OLED technology for its flexible displays. The switch to using plastic has benefits for consumers and companies. It'll make mobile devices lighter, bendable, more durable, lower manufacturing costs and differentiate their products.

We're not exactly sure who decided that a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution would be the ‘standard’, but for years now, we’ve seen notebooks saddled with these displays. And even as manufacturing processes have improved and materials have become cheaper, many manufacturers stubbornly stick to 1366 x 768. It’s as if, at some point, they bought a huge stockpile of these screens and refuse to budge until they’re all used up – and from the looks of it, that might not be any time soon. As is so often the case, Apple may be a driving force behind industry change, at least where displays are concerned. Last year, Apple released the Mac Book Pro with Retina display in 13-inch and 15-inch screen varieties, both featuring the highest resolution screens in their product class; the 13-inch model boasting a 2560 x 1600 resolution display, and the 2880 x 1800 on the 15-inch model. Anyone who has used one can attest to the world of difference a high-resolution display makes. It’s not just pictures that look better, everything is clearer, text is sharper, easier to read, and more comfortable on the eyes. Why can’t all notebooks look so good? Is it just a matter of cost? Maybe, but consider this, if Google can put a 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution display on its Nexus 10 tablet for just US$399, then what’s stopping all $1,000+ notebooks from having Retina-quality displays?

We hope TV manufacturers will perfect autostereoscopic TV in 2013, given that the current entries we've seen so far suffer from tight viewing angles. Autostereoscopy, also known as "glasses-free 3D", lets you see 3D images without the need for any goofy 3D glasses. Most glasses-free 3D displays utilize a parallax barrier or a lenticular film to transmit two sets of images simultaneously to each eye. Trouble is any displacement from the so-called 'sweet spot' results in a loss of 3D perspective. Sony has flaunted autostereoscopic prototypes over the past few years, including a 24-inch 1080p display and a 46-inches with Ultra HD chops. Unfortunately, the same 'sweet spot' drawback applies. My crystal ball is still fuzzy at the moment, but wouldn't it be great if we could all enjoy 3D films without restrictive sweet spots and tiresome glasses?

Imagine looking through the world with pitch-perfect eyesight. Then imagine looking through the world with smoky glasses, making everything look a tad blurry. That's what your digital camera is doing today. Most digital cameras today come with an anti-aliasing (AA) filter, also known as an optical low-pass filter. Some people call them a blur filter, because that's what it does. An AA filter prevents unwanted artifacts like moire from appearing in your pictures, but at the cost of fine detail. Once you've seen the difference between an image taken with and without an AA filter, it's the difference between night and day; like a pair of smudged glasses you never knew was there had been lifted off. While the risk of moire is ever present, it's easier today to fix such artifacts today; Lightroom 4 comes with a dedicated moire removal tool to help correct these images. More digital cameras are being made without AA filters, from Nikon's D800E variant to Fujifilm's X-series mirrorless system cameras. We hope that more cameras will be made without AA filters, that the camera companies will find alternate solutions to moire and that we'll all get to enjoy higher-definition digital pictures soon.

The gaming industry has found a formula and they are sticking with it. Find a game that works, franchise the intellectual property and make sure a successor is out in time for Christmas. Rinse and repeat ad infinitum. If the situation persists, I foresee us un-eagerly waiting for “Call of Duty XX: Murder Kill” in our dotage. Producers are always looking for return on investment, which has a habit of shackling developers. Thankfully though, something is changing the dynamics of the industry. Kickstarter has long established itself as the premier crowd funding platform for any pet project imaginable. And it has become the premier place for game devs to head to in order to finance the project of their dreams. Over the course of 2012, close to US$50 million has been funneled over to a myriad of gaming projects. Chris Robert made his popular Wing Commander series as part of Origin Studios. But his return with the ambitious Star Citizen, a sprawling space simulator MMO, will be done on his own terms. He has raised US$2,134,375 through Kickstarter and has a total funded amount of US$6,271,968 when all channels are accounted for. With the finances not only funding the project, but also serving as the public’s seal of approval, developers have the freedom to proceed as they please. For 2013, let us hope that the trend continues. People fund the gaming projects they want to see on shelves, which will hopefully lead to a varied, vibrant and thriving gaming industry.