The Tech Battlegrounds to Watch For In 2013 - The Jewish Voice
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The Tech Battlegrounds to Watch For In 2013

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The Ubi promises to push the boundaries of hands-free technology.
The Ubi promises to push the boundaries of hands-free technology.
Google Glass

Although they won’t be available to consumers until at least 2014, a first batch of ‘Explorer Edition’ Google Glasses aimed at developers will be released early this year. Perhaps more than any other single piece of technology Google’s wearable technology has the potential to change society. The lenses project any content from directions to email over our vision, literally overlaying our digital lives onto our ‘real’ ones. In 2012 Google orchestrated a number of high-profile events featuring the glasses, including skydiving and modelling, presumably in an attempt to both hype the product as well as normalize the concept.

The tech industry has long held a flame for wearable gadgets but previous experiments have been almost parodies of convenience, confirming to the public that the form is reserved only for hobbyists and the delusional. Google’s incremental approach – courting developers and drip-feeding media onto the internet – seems designed to solve these issues; simultaneously streamlining the image and the product itself. However, a recent interview with project leader Babak Parviz indicates that this approach might just as equally be a result of difficulty with the Glasses. Parviz states that there’s still “a lot of experimentation going on” and responded to all technical queries with variations of ‘we’re working on it’. Wearable tech still has a long way to go but 2013 should hold some exciting developments.

Ubi (and the Internet of Things)

Kickstarted for just under $230,000 dollars in September 2012, the Ubi is “an always-on voice activated computer” and one of the many gadgets currently promising to turn your house into a sci-fi wonderland of biddable computers. Like Google glasses the Ubi springs from a long-cherished tech dream that has so far been impractical, in this case the ‘Internet of Things’. The definition of this concept has shifted over the years but it is now being linked with a range of small computing devices that can automate your home environment.

The Ubi comes equipped with a number of sensors: temperature, humidity, air pressure and ambient light. While its microphone is sensitive up to 15ft feet, twinned with a wi-fi connection this allows you to conduct Google voice searches as you would with Siri, and plugs directly into wall-sockets though you’ll need an adaptor for the UK. However, as with Google Glasses there is a practicality issue: to get the most out of the Ubi or similar projects, such as Twinerequires some not-inconsiderable tech know-how and a lot of enthusiasm – for some people it just won’t be worth the effort.

Not that this will stop the developing ‘Internet of Things’. More consumer-friendly options such as Nest, a slick ‘learning thermostat’ brought to you by the head of the team responsible for the iPod, will also be available in 2013. As projects like these hit the mainstream the concept of programming your own home will hopefully become approachable too.

Apple TV

Now, it wouldn’t be meandering speculation about shiny future-tech without giving Apple its due. And as much as I’d like wax lyrical about the aesthetic possibilities of iOS7 now that Scott Forstall has been ousted and the anti-skeumorphic Jonathan Ives is in charge, 2013 is more likely to be remembered by Apple-fanatics as the year that Apple TV finally took off.

Although an ‘Apple TV’ already exists it’s nothing more than a content streamer; lacking the ability to browse the web, check your email, or even watch free-to-air TV channels. A true Apple product would be a real game-changer, something that streamlined the standard confusion of cables, remotes, and horribly-designed menus into a single user experience, whilst also providing a new platform with apps and media already available on iTunes.

Through the iPod and iTunes Apple have shown that they are more than capable of revolutionizing lumbering media industries, and though the proliferation of internet-capable TVs indicates an already steady change in how we use our TVs, an entry by Apple into the arena could be as big of a game changer as it was with tablets.

Developing an integrated ‘television-like’ device would also make sense if the company wants to continue its current revenue growth. As Darcy Travlos at Forbes puts it: “A television-like device would serve as the next step-function up in Apple’s growth trajectory, and a catalyst for the next five to seven year product cycle.” Travlos also mentions the important fact that “most people who own one Apple device own an average of 2.6 devices”. The company’s proven track-record in merging its devices into a single ecosystem would surely come into play here, with a TV completing a nearly-full line-up of media technology, a temptingly convenient solution for many. If 2013 becomes Apple’s year for TV, it would probably become Apple’s year all over.

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