The 18 coolest cutting-edge innovations you'll be clicking on, downloading, logging into, blasting away at and coveting in 2010.
Author Alyssa Giacobbe
THE VISION THING
The waiting is the hardest part, but it will get a little easier as hair salons, such as Mizu in New York and Boston, and healthcare providers across the country begin to offer clients Myvu glasses, which let you watch video in sleek wraparound shades.
In the words of one user, it’s “planned serendipity.” Currently available in more than 100 cities, Foursquare— an application for iPhone and, soon, BlackBerry—lets users pinpoint friends’ locations and alert others to their own (so no more frantic texting!). Having closed a big round of investment, the service—with just six staffers—has quietly attracted 125,000 members. And they’re not all bar hoppers. A recent post by Eric alerted pals to the wedge of cheese he had just picked up at the Stop & Shop near his home in the suburb of Natick, Massachusetts. “It’s great!” he advised. Meet him in aisle nine.
Mario and Sonic team up in Vancouver for the hotly anticipated MARIO & SONIC AT THE OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES for the Wii and Nintendo DS. Nine Olympic events include figure skating and bobsledding, while “dream events” include the great American sport of snowball fighting.
While the brand name may not ring a bell in America, Taiwan-based Acer computers recently passed Dell and Toshiba to become the second-biggest-selling computer line in the world. Only Hewlett-Packard sells more—and not for long, says Acer, which has an aggressive pricing strategy—selling notebooks and netbooks for as low as $300.
Created by a longtime gear designer, Somnio’s Running Shoes (starting at $130) offer customizable arch height, cushioning, and overall support in hundreds of combinations. Unfortunately, the actual running part’s still up to you.
DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY COMES OF AGE
In the Great Age of Overshare, everyone’s a photographer. At last count, photo site Flickr had archived more than four billion pictures, and more than two billion are uploaded to Facebook each month. For the semipros among us, three new developments in the field of hobby photography will make creating (and sharing) memories a little easier.
Expected to debut this month at the Consumer Electronics Show is a next-generation version of Kodak’s popular Zi8 pocket video cam, which brought recorder capabilities like image stabilization and a wider lens to the pocket-camera market. But the real excitement among tech bloggers is centered on Kodak’s CES release of a “new but secret type of camera,” as one insider put it. “Kodak’s been doing a lot of work in the creation of more consumer-friendly, higher-zoom cameras,” says John Biggs of tech blog CrunchGear. He reckons Kodak’s new gadget may combine some of the more recent camera technologies, like 3-D recording, a front-facing LCD screen and GPS.
The new gizmo will have to be pretty spectacular to compete with those ubiquitous cameraphones. A new iPhone app, Best Camera, supercharges the device’s photo functions, allowing users to add artistic effects and share directly to social network platforms. Created by commercial photographer Chase Jarvis and Seattle-based app development firm Übermind and based on Jarvis’ own experiences taking iPhone photos all over the world (see his book, The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You), the app’s easy-to-use effects icons turn your hohum snapshots into arty pics that look almost professional.
Then comes the hard part: keeping track of all those shots. Web startup Pixable allows users to select, edit, store and print (how retro!) photos from Facebook and numerous other sites. Creator Andres Blank, a business student at MIT, cooked up the idea when he lost his camera during a group vacation abroad and his friends began to post their own pics to Facebook. Pixable’s integration with the social networking site means users can grab shots from any of their friends’ accounts or from photo archives such as Flickr, which makes the technology both revolutionary and frightening. Custom-made photo books start at $7.95, and Blank says he plans to offer greeting cards and other items. Which means if you don’t want that photograph of you and your cat dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus going viral, keep it to yourself (or don’t take it at all).
Microsoft’s bing hasn’t put much of a dent in Google…yet. This year the new search engine will start including Tweets and Facebook status updates in its results, which means that information about where you are and what you’re up to will be available to whoever bings you—including, yes, your boss.
Users can program The Interactive Roboni-I Robot ($250) to play games, like or dislike other robots, and either wander around on its own or cling to its owner.
You know that mess of cables behind your computer? (Don’t look!) It will soon be a thing of the past, if Intel has anything to say about it. Expected to debut in 2010, the chipmaker’s new high-speed optical cable technology, Light Peak, will offer a single-port, one-size-fits-all connectivity solution. Bandwidth will start at 10GB per second—enough to transfer a full-length Bluray movie in less than half a minute—and grow to 100GB per second over the next 10 years. (By comparison, high-speed USBs average about .5GB per second.) The technology will be incorporated into the next generation of consumer electronics, meaning that if you’re looking for an excuse to buy a whole new workstation, here it is.
While major magazine publishers have struggled without much success to create a new business model, a little publication out of San Francisco is leading the way with an iPhone app that might make money. The $5.99 app from indie literary journal McSweeney’s buys you a 180-day subscription, which sends exclusive material, updated weekly, to your phone. Better yet, the publisher offers the following guarantee: “It’s all pretty sure to be good stuff.” Let’s hope the big publishers are listening.
Allerta’s soon-tobe-released $149 Inpulse Smart-Watch, designed specifically for use with Blackberry Smartphones, displays messages, texts, emails and photos. perfect for those occasions when pulling out the Blackberry—like say, while cruising down the inter-state—is verboten.
THE LABORATORY @ HARVARD SEES SCIENCE AS AN ART, AND VICE VERSA AS A SCIENTIST, Harvard biomedical engineering professor David Edwards has earned renown for his groundbreaking work in developing inhalable medicines, including aerosol insulin and a vaccination for TB. But as a child, he was a literature and theater buff, a passion he rekindled after he and his wife, French-born biomathematician Aurelie Edwards, began spending time at a second home in Paris. “Paris was, for me, a place where I could dream big,” he says. “I realized not everything had to be so practical.”
By 2007, as Harvard was beginning to explore an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, Edwards had what he calls his “eureka moment.” “I realized this creative side of David Edwards, the one I’d kept private, was very related to the scientific bent,” he says. “The artist was a catalyst for the scientist.” That year, he established Le Laboratoire, an “ideas lab” and cultural space in central Paris, where artists and scientists could come together to dream big, “push the limits of understanding,” and change the world.
As Edwards saw it, science—with its traditional reliance on the proven and the peer-accepted— needed to take a page from the more passionate art community. Developed in partnership with Harvard, Le Laboratoire has since fostered collaborations among international scientists, artists, industrial designers and even chefs (such as MIT’s Robert Langer and Michelin-starred chef Thierry Marx), resulting in art installations, commercial products, and ideas for new companies and nonprofit organizations.
This year, Edwards will open an American outpost, The Laboratory @ Harvard. Like its Paris counterpart, the Lab will roll out new inventions, hold monthly “idea nights” and produce performances around the city. Edwards’ goal is simple: to make the fields of art and science more accessible. Not every brainstorm will find a commercial application, he says, pointing to one of the launch exhibits: an art collaboration between Harvard mathematician Benedict Gross and Japanese digital composer Ryoji Ikeda. But others just might—for instance, the Bel-Air, a mobile mini-greenhouse that filters air on the go, and sOccket, a scheme to implant a portable energy-harvesting source inside a soccer ball for use in the developing world. (When the ball is kicked, power is stored in the device and later used to charge lights or batteries.) Now, there’s a worthy goal.
For those wondering what Richard Gere was thinking when he made the widely panned Nights in Rodanthe, the answer may be close at hand. Researchers at Merck and the Boulder, Colorado– based Mind & Life Institute are using brain imaging to study the physiological differences in Buddhist monks.
The goal? To see if meditation can increase the efficacy of neurological drugs. Meanwhile, the organization Science for Monks, pioneered by the Dalai Lama, has begun pairing international scientists with Tibetan monastic leaders to encourage the integration of science and Buddhism. Distracted technophiles in search of a quicker fix might opt for the Odin 99, a gold mobile phone that comes with an animated Buddha screensaver.
Literary boy wonder Jonathan Lethem recently revealed his secret method for cranking out novels like Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude: He amps up the font on his computer and pecks away at a wireless keyboard while marching on a treadmill. While the pages pile up, the pounds come off. Apparently he’s not the only dedicated multitasker: Companies such as SurfShelf and TrekDesk are now peddling polycarbonate shelving that attaches to your treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike to support a laptop—so you can blog and jog at the same time.
E-READERS GET REAL
With Microsoft expected to unveil a double-screened booklet device, the Courier, the e-reader market—which already pits the Kindle against the Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony Reader—may get a big boost from Apple this spring. The company is said to be introducing a $700 handheld tabletlike device for websurfing, TV viewing and, yes, book reading. Meanwhile, new display technologies from E Ink and Qualcomm promise to take electronic type to a new level. Next-gen readers will be faster, cheaper (as low as $99), and—how do they do it?—have colored ink.
They’ll also sing you to sleep, if London-based Enhanced Editions has its way. The company is cooking up e-books tailor-made for the iPhone, with bells and whistles including audio, video, links to online reviews and, in the case of the recently released The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave, an original soundtrack. Still no new-book smell, alas.
APPLE’S $69 INNOVATIVE MULTITOUCH "MAGIC MOUSE"
Takes a cue from the Iphone with a flat surface that uses bluetooth technology to respond to gestures: slide a finger to scroll down, swipe two fingers to browse backward.
As useless as it may seem at first blush, FACEBOOK AND TWITTER FOR XBOX AND PLAYSTATION will revolutionize all four. It’ll enable players to log on to games with their Facebook and Twitter accounts, broadcast their wins to friends and followers, and invite pals to join games in progress. Whiling away hours playing video-games has never been more efficient.
“The Great Internet Video Lie,” a dramatic blog post by Dallas Mavericks owner and HDNet cofounder Mark Cuban insisted high-def web video was impossible, due to the volume of data. But bandwidth provider Akamai has apparently devised a way to pull it off with more than 50,000 video servers in 750 cities (to defray the costs with advertising). It might make your fancy new TV kind of obsolete.