If you think the technological innovations over the past decade are impressive – be it smartphones, tablets, Facebook or voice-controlled personal assistants like Siri – then wait ‘til you get a load of what’s around the corner. Here’s a look at a few amazing tech products and trends on the horizon we’re chomping at the bit to test drive.
Commercially available in 2014, Google Glass is a wearable computer that looks like a pair of eyeglasses at first glance — with a small heads-up display above the right eye to provide info on the go. Whether it’s to capture and share your adventures, translate languages or get directions, Google Glass could be the Next Big Thing in the tech world. Simply say “OK Glass,” followed by one of hundreds of audio commands. Developers around the world are already creating apps for Glass.
Remember the flying cars from Back to the Future or The Jetsons? It’ll be here sooner than you think. Terrafugia’s Transition is a street-legal airplane that you first drive to an airport, press a button to extend its wings and then take off down the runway. In case of an emergency, Terrafugia’s flying car has a full-vehicle parachute that can be deployed. Expected it next year for a sticker price of $279,000, but remember a sport pilot’s license is required to fly. Here’s a concept video of the company’s next flying car, an electric model capable of vertical take-off and landing.
It’s been 50 years since the first manned space flight. And soon, you could be heading on a vacation – into space. Companies like Virgin Galactic are making space tourism possible for those who want to experience true weightlessness and a breathtaking view of the planet at nearly 70 miles above the Earth. At this point in time, tickets are said to cost $200,000, but expect prices to drop as more competition (and time) pushes the cost down. Trips to the International Space Station (ISS) or the moon could also be in your grandkids’ lifetime.
3D printing comes of age
Products like the Cube printer ($1299) from 3D Systems let you print out objects in your home – such as action figures, a smartphone case or snazzy cufflinks – but the process is still tricky, costly, slow and you can only print one color at a time. Expect this technology to improve considerably over the years, beginning with the CubeX this fall. Other companies have 3D printers, too, and within a few years these could be almost as commonplace as your current 2D printer.
Just as HD (high-definition) replaced SD (standard definition), your next television might just be a 4K TV. Often referred to as “Ultra HD” TV, these big-screen televisions have four times the resolution of a 1080p HDTV. In other words, the picture is comprised of about 8 million pixels – the little dots that make up the picture – opposed to 2 million-odd pixels with current models. This results in a picture is so detailed and clear, it’s like peering out of a window. All major TV manufacturers are behind the technology, including Sony (now with 3 models), LG (with one model), Samsung, Sharp, Panasonic and Toshiba. 8K TVs will debut a few years from now.
Our homes are going to get smarter in the future, including interactive glass all over the home — as envisioned by Corning in a popular YouTube video. Imagine a bathroom mirror that displays info and video and allows you to interact with it all, too, such as tapping to pick up messages or scrolling through calendar appointments for the day. Or how about video calling with family and friends on virtually any surface? This video, A Day Made of Glass, is just a small taste of what’s to come.
Robots are already here – they helped to build the car you drive and you might have a Roomba vacuuming the floors in your home – but just as Isaac Asimov wrote about more than 70 years ago, we’ll one day have domestic helper robots around the home to perform menial tasks. Others will be specialized to assist the elderly, and perhaps some will work alongside your great-grandchildren at their job. We’re still a ways off, but even Bill Gates predicted the rise of robots will be the next big “disruptive technology.”
Many sci-fi lovers have dreamt of stepping onto a Star Trek-like “holodeck,” an immersive virtual reality room that lets you live out a fantasy your dream up. Perhaps we’re inching closer to this science fiction becoming a reality with project like Cave2, a University of Illinois at Chicago cave made up of 72 3D LCD panels arranged in a 320-degree shape; special glasses tell the computer which direction you’re looking. There’s also the upcoming Oculus Rift, a wearable headset for interactive 3D gaming – and one of the coolest things experienced at the recent E3 Expo in L.A.