AzoftSpotlight25 innovations to change the world in 2011

25 innovations to change the world in 2011

By Alexandra Weinstein on May 26, 2011

The tech market is awash with great products that are designed to help people make use of technology more efficiently and conveniently. Companies keep trying to outdo each other by churning out more and more unique products.

Some of these products have become consumer favorites with a good example being the iPad. It was launched and aimed at the tech savvy individual that wants to work more easily and with more style. In 2011, here are some products to keep your eyeballs on to see if the magic can happen again.

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Apple iPhone 5 is based on face recognition mechanism with a sleek design. It contains 64GB memory with OLED screen. With GPS navigation feature you are able to synchronize with iTunes and customize SMS alerts and tones with HD audio quality. With Apple iPhone5 you can do video chat on 3G. For more durability, the screen is made scratch protected. For improved resolution it contains the most advanced graphic chips in it with chips dual core processors. On iPhone 5 you are also able to watch local channels. It also includes Pico projector which is used for presentation on a wall or flat surface.

Google Nexus 3

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Google’s Nexus is a speedy smart phone. It’s a intuitive handset having five customizable home screens with animated backgrounds. It also provides slick speech recognition capabilities. Nexus is now integrated with most of the software services provided by Google. Nexus One represent itself as a search giant’s first expansion in the world of e- commerce and hardware. Although that some well-publicized customer service issues come up with the device, still it remains among those ionic customer electronics which are at top of the list throughout the year.

Infinity I-Kitchen

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Admit it. All that’s missing from your fridge is a touchscreen UI, one that lets you control its internal temperatures, make lists, find recipes, look up contacts, and basically contain all those other functions that used to live on and around your fridge door. Enlightenment Foundation Libraries’ Infinity I-Kitchen scratches this itch by making fridges more high-tech. The open-source touchscreen computer lives inside your fridge, and, as a Linux-based app, is open for modification. The screen, though, will only live in an Electrolux fridge–take that as you will.

Cellphone Diagnostics

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While trained medical care is a rare commodity in the developing world, cellphones are increasingly common. In fact, between 80 and 90 percent of the world's population now lives within range of a cell tower. That makes phones a powerful tool for bringing modern medicine to remote and poor areas. One approach pioneered by MIT spinoffs Sana Mobile and Click­Diagnotics is to have rural health workers transmit X-rays and other medical information via cellphone to far-off experts for diagnosis. Meanwhile, scientists at University of California, Berkeley, and a PM Breakthrough Award–winning researcher at UCLA have combined inexpensive microscope parts with off-the-shelf phones to produce devices that can record and instantly analyze microscopic images, detecting malaria parasites or tuberculosis-causing bacteria. The Berkeley-designed diagnostic tool, called CellScope, will be deployed in field trials in 2011. 

The Electric Ford Focus

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The rush by car manufacturers to produce energy efficient cars has been on for the better part of the last decade. Major car manufacturers have come up with different models to showcase fuel efficiency and a move towards a non fuel engine – basically electric. This will be a challenger to other similar models like the Nissan Leaf and the Honda Insight.

The Streaming Cloud

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As all media moves to the cloud, more and more people will stream their movies and music whenever they want to any device. I’ve already mentioned the forces that will bring Web video streaming to your TV, but those movies and TV shows should also be available on your iPads, Android Tablets, or even mobile phones if you want. Expiring downloads will still make sense for plane trips and other places where the network is spotty, but you will manage your subscriptions and collections in the cloud. Think Netflix streaming applied to all media. If Google or Apple can convince the record companies to come along for the ride, the streaming revolution will hit music as well, with both working on jukebox-in-the-sky services. Why would you want to bother with managing all the download rights for the songs you buy from iTunes between your iPhone, iPad, laptop, and your wife’s computer, when you could just sign in form anywhere and start streaming? Plenty have tried with varying degrees of success and failure (Rhapsody, Rdio, Spotify), but it will take someone with the negotiating muscle of Apple or Google to finally bring streaming music to the masses.

Mintpass’ Tablet

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A dual screen, dual booting device that will be able to run both Android and Windows 7. The two screens can either fold up or fold out making it sort of a cross between a tablet and a laptop. Also of note, the screens can be used in unison or separately. Mintpass is hoping to get it out next year; they still need to find a manufacturer for it. Let’s hope it comes soon.

Web Video On Your TV

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 We’ve already seen many attempts to turn the Internet into a video-delivery pipe to rival cable TV: Google TV, Apple TV, the Boxee Box, Roku, and a slew of “Internet-enabled” TVs.  None of them are quite yet cable killers, but they are seeding the market with simple ways to bring Internet video to your large-screen TV in the living room. The more cable-quality video that becomes available over the Web via streaming services such as Netflix, Vudu, or iTunes, the more that people will turn to Web when they are looking for something to watch. This trend is not about surfing the Web on your TV. Nobody wants to do that. It is about using the Internet as an alternative way to deliver movies and TV shows to your flat-screen TV. Even the cable companies will dip their toes into the Internet delivery waters (or plunge deeper if they already have their toes wet). What looks like a pale competitor to cable today will be a lot more viable in a short, twelve months.

Oxygen O Series iPhone Dock Car Receiver

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Oxygen Audio will be releasing a new car entertainment system that fully integrates with your iPhone.  With this new product, the iPhone slips into a small dock and fits into the front, turning it into the system’s interactive faceplate. Oxygen Audio currently offers a few car stereo apps in the app store so we’re assuming the Oxygen O series will also be coupled with the same or newer user-interface app.  The O series line provides access to the iPhone’s entire iTunes collection, hands free calling and access to apps such as GPS, Google maps and Sirius/XM Satellite Radio.  Oxygen claims that while connected to the system, the device will charge the battery and allow users access to any app aside from the aforementioned titles.

ElectroHub

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ElectroHub is a new charging station that will offer compatibility for a huge amount of devices including the TV remote, toys and smartphones.  Similar to the Powermat chargers, ElectroHub requires additional add-on cases to make your smartphones compatible although it will charge tons of other gadgets with its use of AA and AAA batteries.  It will charge up to six devices at one time (including smartphones) and works by replacing a gadget’s original AA & AAA batteries with ElectroHub branded batteries. By doing this all of your AA & AAA supported devices will become compatible. Overall, ElectroHub supports lots of gadgets, a handy tool if you’re juggling multiple gizmos that require AA/AAA batteries; remotes, digital cameras, toys etc.

Miniature Cell Phone Towers for the Office

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All those wires that snake around office buildings, behind walls and around ceilings, could become a thing of the past with mini cell-phone towers, or femtocells. Stick one of these devices inside your office building, and it will operate everything wireless inside, and even recognize when employees walk in, according to MIT Technology Review. These bad boys are more powerful than the little towers that, say, AT&T has been trying to pawn off on people who can’t get reception for home use. Businesses won’t need wired phones any longer with these new towers, which have a 50-meter reception radius and no-drop handoff between zones. They can also mimic today’s wired phone systems by routing calls and data.

Mobile Social Photo Apps

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The end of 2010 witnessed a spate of mobile photo apps including Instagram, PicPlz and Path. They all take advantage of several massive key trends: the growth of iPhone and Android, the ubiquity of decent cell phone cameras, GPS, and existing social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Each of these apps is built for mobile first. They let you take a picture, mark your location, and share it with your social network (sometimes public, sometimes private). With Instagram and PicPLz, you can choose a filter to make humdrum pics look more exciting or capture a mood. By building on top of existing social networks like Twitter and Foursquare, they are making popular new ways to use those services. Instead of simply checking in, now you can do a photo checkin (even Foursquare lets you do that now). Already Instagram is one of the most popular photo apps in iTunes. Sharing photos is pretty much a universal impulse, and these apps make it easier and more fun.

Ultrasonic Touchless Input technology

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Elliptic Labs is demo-ing their ultrasonic touchless input technology this year at CES and it looks super cool. It’s similar to the technology built-in to Microsoft Kinect that allows users to execute actions without physically touching the device or a controller. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen these type of concept-demo, however, we might be seeing the touchless technology actually integrated into a lot of devices in 2011. Elliptic Labs will be showing off their touchless gesture user interface on monitors, tablets, iPad docking stations and stand-alone USB devices.

The Mobile Fuel Cell

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As sexy as fuel cells are, they still haven’t gone mainstream yet. Lilliputian Systems wants to change that with the Silicon Power Cell, a handheld portable fuel cell that uses butane cartridges to charge your mobile devices via a USB port. The butane cartridges are replaceable for $99 (plus a few bucks for recycling); each can charge a device about 22 times. The cell emits about 3 watts of power, enough for a smartphone or other small device. And it’s airport-approved, so no worries about having the TSA yank your precious fuel cell.

Mobile Wallets

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If you could use your cell phone as a credit card, would you? Everyone from Apple and Google to Nokia want to make that a reality and tap into the mobile payments market. Both Apple and Google are exploring this opportunity. Google bought mobile payments startup Zetawire to gain experience and the latest Android phone, the Nexus S, comes with an NFC chip—the same kind that is embedded into credit cards and lets you pay by waving it over a wireless reader. The iPhone 5 also may come equipped with an NFC chip, and Apple was sniffing around mobile payments startup BOKU last year for a possible acquisition. It is going to take more than just NFC chips in every phone to make mobile payments a reality, but efforts by the major players this year should begin to move the needle.

Cell Phone Hotel Keys

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Goodbye, hotel key cards. Hello, cell phone key. Thank close-range radio chips for this innovation, currently being pioneered in Sweden by lockmaker Assa Abloy. The radio technology, dubbed Near Field Communication (NFC), lets you check into a hotel via your phone, at which point its chip is activated. Viola, key. You then hold your cell phone next to your room door to unlock it. If you lose your phone, room access can be revoked. The technology also works with key-card locks, which are enabled by radio, according to the magazine Sci-Tech. No smartphone, no problem.

The Microsoft Tablet 

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Microsoft is more known as a software developer than a hardware maker. They have recently been considering plunging into the tablet market. It is widely believed in the tech world that they will at last get their first tablet out this year after having failed to do so last year. Slashgear aptly calls it a “do-over.” Last year Microsoft whooped it up, with Ballmer promising all sorts of Tablets running Windows. The follow-up was a bit underwhelming. Total products delivered to retailers: 0 (Z-E-R-O). Yes, MSFT belongs in the NFC West. Wonder why the tech industry is often accused of hyping “vaporware”? Look no further than the ghost of Microsoft Tablet 2010. Still, Microsoft is a tech titan, and when they do enter the market they will likely have impact.

Mobile 3-D to drive user acceptance

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Retailers have plenty of 3-D TVS in stock this holiday season, but the products' acceptance has been hampered by limited content and by the need for LCD-shutter glasses that dim displays as they switch the view between eyes. User uptake has only been strong in the home theater market, for which
That same forecast, however, predicts that 3-D TVs will grow to over 90 million units in 2014—accounting for 41 percent of all flat-panel sets sold that year, up from just 2 percent today—as autostereoscopic displays that do not require the glasses enter the market. Toshiba, for one, is already selling glasses-free 3-D televisions in Japan. 

Many of the users who buy glasses-free 3-D TVs in 2014 will have already gained experience with autostereoscopic displays by using the ones built into their mobile devices, such as Fuji's 3-D still camera.

Shape-Shifting Touchscreen

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Microsoft wants your touchscreen to touch you back. It recently published a patent, filed in 2009, that describes a touch screen in which you can feel texture and shape, making you feel like you’re actually touching an object even when you’re not. Ultraviolet wavelengths beneath the screen’s pixels control the shapes that the polymer coating on top of the screen makes, enabling you to feel images, interfaces, or a virtual keyboard. It’s not currently intended for tablets, according to CNET, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Open Places Database

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Every mobile app, it seems, taps into the geo capabilities of phones to pinpoint your exact location and show you what is around you. (Incidentally, that is another example of a context-aware app). But there is a lot of duplication going on, with everyone from Google to Facebook to Foursquare creating their own database of places. It would make much more sense if there was an open places database that any company could both pull from and contribute to. While we are not there yet, we are making progress towards a more open places database, or at least a federated one. Factual is providing some of the data for Facebook Places and creating a places database is a major focus for the company; MapQuest (owned by AOL, as is TechCrunch) is adopting OpenStreetMaps (which could very well become the central places database with more resources and development); and Foursquare lets other apps pull from its places database through its API. There are economic reasons why some companies don’t want to participate (controlling the places database makes it easier to serve up local offers), but expect to see this movement pick up steam in 2011.

BendDesk

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This 2 projector, 3-camera curved screen transforms the traditional desk into a tactile computer. The BendDesk’s “integrated workspace” lets you sort photos and files and play games with your hands, even along the unit’s curved spine. Bonus: You can put coffee, papers and other stuff on the bottom half of the desk, just as you would a normal desk. It’s like the upcoming Microsoft Surface tabletop computer, but cooler.

4G Smartphones

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Will the real 4G please stand-up? Fraught with confusion that threatens to derail it before even hitting stores, 4G — which promises next-generation wireless download speeds — is ready to splashdown at CES. Even though Sprint has purportedly been offering 4G service, many have claimed it not to be the case. Regardless, the mystery will deepen as 4G/LTE devices make their way onto the CES show floor. Look for the nation’s #1 carrier Verizon to figure prominently. Handsets to watch: HTC Thunderbolt/Incredible HD, Motorola Etna, LG Optimus 2X, Samsung SCH-I520.

Quantum Dot LED Display

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Currently, LCD screens on TVs, phones and computers filter out more than 90% of the light they produce, making them terribly inefficient, according to the MIT Technology Review. Quantum dots, nanomaterials that turn backlight into colors that match display filters, cure this problem. LG will integrate the technology into its new products, leading to better energy efficiency, improved battery life and better color. QLEDs, as they’re called, still have lots of potential. In the future, they may be twice as energy-efficient as current LEDs, and they can be printed on thin substrates, making them cost-efficient to manufacture.

3D mobile TV

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LG has designed a tiny 3D TV that appears to be approximately the size of an iPhone, and is LG’s smallest 3D TV in the line up. While we don’t have much information on it now, we do know it will be powered by a LG2161R MDTV chip with NRT (non-real Time) technology, and its display will be in 3D. Based on the pic, LG’s mini 3D TV also sports an external retractable antenna.

LG has said the device will be able to receive 3D TV broadcasts — even while flying down the freeway in your Lamborghini. LG’s new device will receive a 3D broadcast while users are moving at speeds of up to 200/km per hour. This means your daily commute on the subway just got way cooler.

Robotic Walking Pants

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Exoskeletons are walking their way into mainstream medicine. One of the most impressive of these is the ReWalk, a pair of leg braces with sensors and motorized joints that let paraplegics walk with crutches, according to Sci-Tech Today. The $100,000, 35-pound device is a suit of sorts, held up by a harness and charged by a backpack you wear. After you pull on the suit, sensors in the legs react when you lean and move your upper body. And yes, it does make robotic clanging noises when you move, according to Sci-Tech. Still, it’s an impressive step forward for paraplegics.