Enter 2012

twitter-logo Nidhi Singal        Print Edition: February 2012

Every New Year, geeks across the world impatiently wait for news that will tell them whether their tech predictions have come true and whether the concepts of the past have finally become actual products. This year will be no exception, as even the economic problems in Europe won't be able to put the brakes on innovation. Nothing ever does. Last year, the in things were the tablets, dual-core processors (which became main stream in cell phones and tablets) and smart appliances.

This year, there is a lot more to look forward to as the innovations will likely not be restricted to any single segment. The new products will start capturing the limelight with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which every January sets the tech trends for the rest of the year. New operating systems, quad-core processors, cheap Ultrabooks, new gaming consoles ... 2012 promises to be an exciting year. The picture is still a bit sketchy, but here is a sneak preview of what you can expect in Twenty Twelve.

OPERATING SYSTEMS: WINDOWS 8, ICE CREAM SANDWICH
Many brains have been at work, trying find a better soul for your PC and smartphone ... something that will change the way things were done so far. The biggest news on the platform front has to be the next Windows computing software from Microsoft, the Windows 8. Microsoft's last keynote at the Consumer Electronic Show 2012, Las Vegas, will talk about Windows 8, the software which will bring the tiled Metro UI (made popular by the new Windows Phone) to PCs and tablets. Along with Windows 8, Microsoft is also expected to bring to light its next Windows Phone version, 'Tango' and 'Apollo', in Q2 and Q4 respectively.

While the former will have its eyes set on low-cost smartphones, the latter will need the support of high specs in superphones. But Windows also has Google's Android IceCream Sandwich to contend with. First reports suggest that Android v4.0 will be a refreshing change. While the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has already been announced, a lot of other smartphones and tablets are also queuing up to adopt IceCream Sandwich. The future of BlackBerry might be looking bleak now, but Research-in-Motion's BlackBerry 10 (earlier known as BBX), deployable on both tablets and smartphones, is expected to come as the saviour for the company.

QUAD-CORE PROCESSORS
The mobile industry took a long time to be introduced to dual-core processors. In 2011, smartphones and tablets like the Samsung Galaxy S II, Apple iPhone 4 S, LG Optimus 2x and Apple iPad 2 shone with their stunning dual-core performance. This was when chip manufacturers Qualcomm and Nvidia shared their vision of giving quadcore computing power to mobile devices. But this doesn't mean dual-core was only a stepping stone for faster processors.

New tech 2012
As the first set of quad-core phones line up for launch this year, there should be a lot of action lined up in the dual-core segment too. The new processors are aimed at PC-like performance while improving the mobile experience, especially with better battery life. A faster web experience, quick multi-tasking, stereo 3D for videos, gaming and camera optics of up to 32MP are a few possibilities that quad-core can introduce to these mobile computing devices.

GAMING
From new gaming consoles to new games and accessories, there is a lot of action scheduled for 2012. Nintendo is talking about the Wii U, while Sony's PlayStation Vita will gain miles. But news is trickling in that Microsoft is working on a console upgrade, likely to be called XBox 720. Reports also suggest that a Sony PlayStation 4 could be round the corner. Chakrapani GK, Head, Consumer Channels Group, Microsoft Corporation India, says: "In 2012, we will sustain and build on the amazing momentum we've created for XBox by raising the bar for connected entertainment experiences. The Kinect portfolio will expand to include core gaming
New tech 2012
experiences with upcoming titles like Mass Effect 3, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, Madden 2012, FIFA 2013 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier." There is news that Cyborg M.M.O.7, a gamer mouse with 78 customisable buttons and a 6400 dpi sensor will also make its debut.

CONNECTIVITY
Among the technologies that we will see a lot of will be Near-Field Communications (NFC), which could become the primary medium for transferring data over short ranges. A handful of smartphones from Nokia and BlackBerry are already enabled, but 2012 could be the year in which they will finally get something to do. Another upcoming technology to that will facilitate device-to-device connectivity in the future is Wi-Fi Direct. Certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, the new technology will let Wi-Fi devices connect with each other quickly to share content, sync or even print with or without traditional network available.

This technology claims to offer data rates ranging between 54 Mbps to 250 Mbps within a 100-meter range depending upon the 802.11 a/g/n. This isn't meant to replace traditional Wi-Fi and as it doesn't require any hardware specification to work, any Wi-Fi enabled device can be upgraded to Wi-Fi direct with the help of the software. While India is still struggling with the 3G rollout, the world is gradually graduating to 4G networks. Although 4G is still a far-fetched dream for Indians, internationally we will see a lot many 4G enabled devices being launched.

CHEAPER ULTRABOOKS
A couple of years ago, Apple mastered the art of making laptops with its ultra-thin MacBook Air. But then it was an expensive proposition and restricted to Mac users. Windows users didn't have an ultra-slim option, until Intel announced the Ultrabook, the PC's answer to the MacBook Air and a much more affordable option. The new ultra-slim Windows laptops will be less than an inch in thickness, without compromising on the battery, functionality and performance. To achieve this slim form factor, the optical drives-CD, DVD and Blu-Ray-were eliminated, with users going for external drives if needed. A handful of ultrabooks were launched in 2011, but none priced below $1,000.

However, at CES 2012, most of the manufacturers are expected to showcase cheaper Ultrabook ranges. There are predictions that more than 50 new Ultrabooks will be on show at the biggest annual consumer technology fair. Acer, Toshiba, Asus, Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, Sony, Fujitsu and LG are all lining up to lead the Ultrabook front. "We expect the new kids on the block like Ultrabooks and tablets to revolutionise the PC industry," says S Rajendran, Chief Marketing Officer, Acer India. "In the coming year we can expect the ultra books, all-in-ones and tablets to become even more affordable and faster than they are now. Actually, the shift has already begun in both these product lines; we will get to see a wide array of screen sizes even in stand alone displays with a host of advanced features. Manufacturers will focus on providing products with better display quality, longer battery life, lighter weight, etc."

VOICE EVERYWHERE
Voice assistance is nothing new, but it has never been as loud as it has been since the launch of Siri on the iPhone 4S. Siri is different, thanks to its ability to understand questions before responding and even sustain a conversation. With Siri gaining in popularity, other device makers are likely to follow suit. It is expected that some new applications will be voice-triggered. With the proliferation of Android, iOS and Windows Phones, voice search gained a lot of ground in 2011. "Google Voice Search for mobile phones is now available in 27 languages and dialects, and we made 20 of these available in the past year," says Amit Singhal, Google Fellow. "We estimate that about two-thirds of the world's population, about 5 billion people, are able to use Voice Search. We've seen a 6X growth in spoken inputs in the past year, and every day, we receive more than two years of non-stop speech input."

But will voice be limited to search? "We're integrating speech recognition technology into lots of other Google products, from auto-captions on YouTube, to voice search on desktop in Chrome, to voice navigation in Google Maps for Mobile," says Singhal.The
New tech 2012
goal is to make speech recognition available wherever and whenever you want it - anytime you'd want to type, you should be able to speak if that's what you'd prefer. That's a really ambitious goal, but it's the long-term vision that motivates the companies.

OLED TV
The prohibitively expensive panels have for long stopped OLED from becoming a viable technology for televisions. But after HD, LED and 3D technologies managed to leave their mark in the television space, the new year will see OLED coming to the primetime party. The OLED (organic light emitting diode) screen does not require backlighting, resulting in better colours, a high contrast ratio and deep levels of black. Plus, it promises faster refresh rates, an ultra-slim panel and low power consumption. LG and Samsung are both planning to showcase 55-inch OLED television sets at CES 2012. Apart from OLED, even 4k panels will be introduced. Leaving behind the 1920 x 1080 p resolution found on full HD TVs, the 4k panes will support much sharper images with 3840 x 2160 resolutions. There is a bright possibility that these panels will only be announced and will take its own sweet time to make it to the market. Other television technologies that will continue to evolve is glassless 3D and Smart TVs.

GESTURE
Microsoft's Kinect gave rise to a gesturebased interface. Cashing in on the popularity of gesture controls, a lot of new things are being worked upon. Following the footsteps of Microsoft, the Israeli firm XTR3D uses ordinary 2D cameras to extract 3D out of 2D image to create a third dimensional effect that can be used in gesture-based gaming or simply for changing TV channels. On the other hand, Apple has filed patents allowing users to throw content from one device to another without touch. There are reports coming in that the Apple iTV supports gesture control. Within the next two years, consumer electronic giants are expected to deploy gesture, motion and voice control technologies in televisions.

And gesture control is not the only cutting edge technology out there. For, soon all you will have to do to select something on your desktop is take a hard look at the icon. You will also be able to move the cursor with your eye. All thanks to eye tracking and eye control technology being perfected by companies like Sweden's Tobii. Last year, Tobii had showcased its eyeball-controlled Lenovo laptop and released a standalone eye control device called PCEye, both of which can try to make the mouse redundant my tracking the movement of your gaze. It also created an eye controlled game called Eye Asteroids to show that mastering the technology was just child's play for them. Slowly the technology is also entering the mobile space, with software like Senseye that let users interact with their mobile phones by just looking at it. It analyses the image captured by the front-facing camera of the smartphone or tablet using computer-vision algorithms and has decent accuracy rates. The chances are we could soon be playing game using 'Eyenect' instead of Kinect.

CAMERAS
Sony is expected to launch a hybrid AlphaNex mount camera, combining the best of its Alpha and NEX series. Reports suggest the camera, designed like the NEX-7, will have built-in compatible E-mount with no need for external adapters, a full frame sensor and the new generation OLED viewfinder. Though details are awaited, there are reports that Fuji will also launch similar cameras under the X series.

There will be more competition in the compact segment with Canon also expected to follow Nikon and Pentax into this realm of interchangeable-lens, mirrorless cameras. In India, Nikon 1 J1 and V1, both highly versatile cameras with snappy autofocus and super-fast shooting speed, will be available in the second quarter of the year. "The move from 2D to 3D is almost as significant as the shift from black & white to colour," explains Seiji Hamanishi, Assistant Director, ICP, Canon India. "Stereo photography has existed for a long time, but it is difficult to create and view the images. In 2012, 3D will come home with more and more manufacturers jumping onto the 3D bandwagon." There will also be indestructible memory cards that can withstand sudden impact, drops, water and extreme range in temperature.

SEARCH WHAT YOU SEE
Search engines have changed over time, especially last year. Earlier, computers would not understand keywords the way we meant it. But now search has moved from keywords to intent, with the engine trying to understand what users are looking for. Last year, Google increased the speed of results, and added live search where the engine knows what you are typing. While voice was the big thing in search last year, the next step could be the perfection of visual search. Google says this is in consonance with its vision for a world where there is "absolutely no space between your desire to know, and the knowledge at your fingertips". So, if you see the picture of a beautiful beach, you can just search with the image to find where the place is using Google Goggles on your mobile device and Search by Image on your computer. Plus, there could also be a lot of augmented intelligence at play in the form of translation tools. The Web is now truly international and belongs as much to the big languages like English as to the smaller ones. So translation tools are becoming increasingly crucial to the way people communicate. In its bid to break the language barrier, Google now gives translated English results alongside those in the searcher's language.

CAMERAS
Sony is expected to launch a hybrid AlphaNex mount camera, combining the best of its Alpha and NEX series. Reports suggest the camera, designed like the NEX-7, will have built-in compatible E-mount with no need for external adapters, a full frame sensor and the new generation OLED viewfinder. Though details are awaited, there are reports that Fuji will also launch similar cameras under the X series. There will be more competition in the compact segment with Canon also expected to follow Nikon and Pentax into this realm of interchangeable-lens, mirrorless cameras.

In India, Nikon 1 J1 and V1, both highly versatile cameras with snappy autofocus and super-fast shooting speed, will be available in the second quarter of the year. "The move from 2D to 3D is almost as significant as the shift from black & white to colour," explains Seiji Hamanishi, Assistant Director, ICP, Canon India. "Stereo photography has existed for a long time, but it is difficult to create and view the images. In 2012, 3D will come home with more and more manufacturers jumping onto the 3D bandwagon." There will also be indestructible memory cards that can withstand sudden impact, drops, water and extreme range in temperature.

Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos

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