The coming of a new year inevitably brings a wave of new-gadget hype, with another crop of emerging technologies either set to become mainstream or fail to live up to expectations. It’s often hard initially to tell one from the other, so here’s a handy guide to identifying the gizmos you’ll want this year versus those that aren’t quite ready for prime time.
Prices on home 3D printers have been dropping rapidly. Their quality and ease of use has been improving, to the point they are becoming affordable and usable by just about everyone. The only question remaining is: why would anyone want one? So far, their limited size means they can only be used to print small items—coffee mugs, toys or smartphone cases—but that’s still too much trouble for anyone but tinkerers. Despite rapid advances, 3D printers are likely to remain the domain of hobbyists for the near future.
Makerbit Replicator Mini
Aimed at hobbyists looking to print toys.
Available through stores like Staples.
Matterform 3D Scanner
Uses lasers and a turntable to scan objects and create 3D models.
After years of gimmicks—think 3D or gesture- and voice-control—TV makers are at it again with ultra-high-definition. This is also known as 4K for the almost 4,000 pixels of horizontal resolution found on these much sharper screens. This innovation is likely to stick because, well, a better picture is a better picture. Prices are sky-high—between $4,000 and $5,000 for a 65-inch panel—but they’re set to come down fast. This may not be the year 4K goes mainstream, but 2015 looks likely.
Samsung’s affordable 8550 line of UHD panels will range from 50 to 75 inches.
TVs range from 49 to 70 inches; more than 140 compatible movies are available.
LG’s upcoming line will go from 65 to 98 inches.
Last year, Google Glass and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch both created the impression that so-called wearable computers will be multi-purpose tools similar to smartphones. Both flopped, possibly because of that approach. The wearables that have succeeded so far, and that probably will continue to do so in 2014, are dedicated devices that do just a few things well and are inexpensive as a result.
June Sunlight Detector
This bracelet gauges UV exposure and advises when to put on sunscreen.
This slim headband reads brainwaves and offers relaxation exercises.
Sensoria Fitness Socks
Sensoria’s sensor-laden machine-washable socks monitor runners’ techniques.