When the CEO of a major tech corporation like Intel announces a new product, what we don’t expect to see is a button. But that is exactly what he showed off when he stood on a stage in Las Vegas this month. But, of course it was not a button. It was a full-fledged computer the size of a button. He called it Curie. Computers like curie that are small enough to fit on a button and sensors small enough to insert even in baby pacifiers are the products that are taking us into a future we never dreamed about. A sensor-embedded water bottle for the poor in the remotest corners of Africa that will alert them about impurities. A sensor-embedded pillow that will let the richest CEO get a good night’s sleep. This year a billion people around the world will buy their first smartphone. They will find out the power of the internet. They will find out that this is the greatest time to be alive. To be able to use self-driving cars, flexible pocketable super computers, smart water bottles, and intelligent walking sticks. To live in 2015.
What Tesla would be working on if he was alive today? A device that can charge our phones in 30 seconds and electric cars in a few minutes?
The most-awaited device of the year is expected to do to the smart watch what the iPhone did to the smartphone.
NuBryte Home Hub
A smart home is not just one that can connect to the Internet and which you can be controlled from a smartphone. A true smart home should learn from the user’s habits and adapt to them. There are already gadgets out there like the Nest Thermostat that learn from the users and change the temperature in the house automatically. The NuBryte Hub, a product that will be available this year, takes that concept a little further and applies it to aspects of the house like lighting and security. While it comes with preset modes like ‘Welcome Home’, ‘Bedtime Dinner’ and ‘Vacation Mode’, the device will also learn from the user’s routines over time and will start implementing those changes automatically. It also looks like something from a sci-fi movie, but since it costs around Rs 10,000 for a single unit, it is understandable.
Mark One 3D Printer
There used to be a time when if we needed a toy dinosaur or a door knob, we had to go to the shops to buy them and if it was not available there, then we would have to custom-order them according to our specifications. For the last one or two years, we could print them out at our own homes. In 2015, we can print them not just in cheap plastics but also in materials like kevlar, carbon fibre and fibre glass. And that too in style. With the Mark One 3D printer, which comes in a small, manageable size, whatever you print hardens during printing, so you don’t have to worry about all the usual problems you had to with other 3D printers, like chemical spills, post-curing and vacuum-bagging stray plastic pieces. Costing between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 6 lakh, the Mark One will let you design and print out bones, tools, prosthetics and toys without the limitations of traditional 3D printed materials.
Weird and Wonderful
Parrot Pot A smart flowerpot that can take care of your plants, Parrot Pot is capable of holding both soil and a supply of water. Loaded with sensors and using a bluetooth chip that can sync with your iPhone, it can measure the moisture in the soil, and water the plant when needed. And if it needs you to add more water or fertiliser, it can send notifications to your phone. Costing around Rs 4,000 and a battery life of six months, Parrot Pot is the best thing to have happened to the plant life.
Puzzlephone and Project Ara
Smartphones are getting more and more boring. And they are getting more and more short-lived. There is a new phone every few months with a little better camera, or a little better battery. What if we need not change our phone just because we need a little better cam-era? What if we can just swap out the camera? Or just the battery? Or just the screen? That is the idea behind modular phones. Be it Google’s Project Ara or the Finnish PuzzlePhone, both of which are expected to be available in 2015, you can buy small interchangeable modules of whichever part very cheaply and theoretically keep your phone forever without ruining your bank balance. By some estimates, the Project Ara phones could be available for as cheap as Rs 3,000. And if they succeed, it won’t be long before you will see bins full of camera modules and processor modules at your local kirana shop.
LG G Flex 2
The LG G Flex 2 is this year’s first curved phone, LG’s second curved phone, and is already being hailed as the first true curved phone. If you still did not get it, the clue is in the name— the phone comes with a slightly curved screen. The screen itself is a wonderful 5.5-inch full HD OLED beauty with wide-viewing angles. Apart from the curve, the second attraction is the glossy plastic back with a premium feel that houses all the buttons that you can find on this phone. The plastic is not just glossy, available in Platinum Silver and Flamenco Red, but is also self-healing, so any scratches will magically disappear within 10 seconds. Apart from these and the 13-megapixel camera on the back with Laser Auto Focus, the LG G Flex 2 is a common, very capable Android smartphone.
Xiaomi Mi Note
The Mi Note comes from Xiaomi, the fastest-growing Chinese smartphone maker famous for giving away premium phones at very reasonable prices and notorious for ripping off Apple’s designs. The Mi Note is special because it is the first premium phablet from the company, particularly one that does not look like an iPhone. While the front is a slightly curved glass display like iPhone 6, the display itself is a massive 5.7-inch 1080p HD beauty. The back also sports a curved glass housing a 13-megapixel camera with 2-tone flash. When this dual-SIM phone eventually comes to India this year, it should bring an affordable, premium phablet to the masses.
The Yotaphone 2 is not your normal Android phone. Sure. It has a five-inch AMOLED display, comes in a sleek body, and works well with Android 5.0. But what makes it special is on the back. A 4.7-inch fully functional e-ink display. And since that beautiful display is capable of running Android in all its glory, you can do everything, from displaying widgets and wallpapers, to replying to email and reading a book. And if you so like, you can just use the e-ink display for everything that you do on your phone, thereby getting hundreds of hours of usage on a single charge.
Isn’t it deplorable that humanity, at least the well-off part of it, has reached a point where it can’t live without a smartphone? Isn’t it deplorable that many of us consider the phone an extension of our hands? And that most of us wait eagerly for the next great phone? Disgusted by these attitudes, probably, a bunch of entrepreneurs has come up with the NoPhone which is, as the name suggests, not a phone. It is a piece of phone-shaped slab made out of ‘smooth, cold plastic’ that you can hold in your hands as you try to wean yourself off the addiction that is the smartphone. The battery-free, shatter-proof, water-proof and completely wireless device will be available this year for around Rs 800 and comes with a complete instruction manual about how to hold it. Oh, there is also a selfie upgrade, a piece of mirror attached to the plastic, if you so desire, but it will put you back by Rs 1,000.
The 2015 upgrades
iPhone 6S: Will come in September and may have sapphire screens and a revolutionary 3D camera. Will run iOS 9, while sharing its look with the 6.
Samsung Galaxy S6: Rumoured to be a complete overhaul of the Galaxy series. Expect a metal chassis and a bent screen.
iPad Pro: Long-rumoured 12.2-inch screened iPad, to hit the market this year with an Apple Pen stylus aimed squarely at artists and professionals. If nothing else, it will be lighter and faster and thinner.
Microsoft Surface Mini: The long-awaited, killed by Satya 7-inch Windows tablet/computer hybrid, may finally see the light of the day this year. If Satya doesn’t get his hand on a shotgun again.
Weird and Wonderful
Literally everything from baby-feeding bottles to toilet seats are getting smarter this year, so why not the good old belt? French company Emiota wants to change that with the Belty. As you can imagine, it is a smart belt that can sync with an app on your iPhone. Using all the information it gathers from you regarding how active you are and how much you are eating, it acts as your wellness coach. And since it can tighten or loosen automatically depending on your position and even how much you ate, it makes sure you are always comfortable.
Dell Venue 8000
The Dell Venue 8000 is nothing like its name, which is a mouthful. It is the world’s thinnest tablet. For now. And it comes with a very unique design that is unlike any other tablet in the market. The most important part: the display is an 8.4-inch OLED screen that Dell calls an ‘infinity’ display because it seemingly stretches into infinity without any noticeable bezels around it. And for the first time for a tablet or phone, it comes with the Intel RealSense Depth camera which is capable of measuring depth in photos. What it means is that like the ones you shoot with Lytro camera, you can re-focus your photos whenever you want even after you make those photos.
Fuhu Nabi Big Tab XL
A US company famous for making adorable children’s tablets, Fuhu is coming up with a tablet so big that it can be used by the whole family. All at once. It is possible because it is a fully functional Android tablet with a huge 65-inch screen that you can hang up on a wall like an HDTV. And as the company wants the whole family to be able to play multiplayer games, it comes with 20-40 point capacitative touch with custom-built games and apps for everything from cooking to shopping. With access to Google Play store and an HDMI outlet, it can even replace your traditional TV.
Magic Leap is a tiny startup that wants to bring magic to life using a headset that will be ‘able to generate images indistinguishable from real objects’ which will be placed seamlessly into the real world. When the tech finally comes to market this year it will be able to project images in front of our eyes, so elephants can dance in our hands and children can have dragon fights.