Now that the new year is under way, what technological developments are set to shake up 2012?

Ultrabooks, internet TVs, 3D printers and 1 million volt Tesla Coils (a machine that allows electricity to ‘jump’ through the air): some of the tech the lucky few dream of buying with their earnings from summer internships and graduate jobs (well, maybe not the Tesla Coil). These were among the 20,000 products announced at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. With this electric start to the year, what will the everyday consumer actually be able to buy in 2012?

The ultrabook (essentially a Macbook Air-sized Windows laptop) is the next big thing in the computing world according to Intel. Early models are already on the market around the £900 mark, which is about the same price as the Air, with a very similar spec. Nevertheless, the Air comes with a solid state drive as standard instead of the conventional hard drive, something that will cost more in ultrabooks. With a slightly higher battery life than a Macbook Air, many will find ultrabooks more practical on the move. However, it is very difficult to fault the build and design quality of the Apple.

Of course the tablet PC was out in force in 2011, and this trend will continue into 2012, with a plethora of new machines becoming available. The French have put their twist on the market with QooQ, a waterproof tablet specifically designed for use in the kitchen. This device gives access to 3,500 recipes and videos in addition to the basic functions expected from a tablet. At a price of around £290, QooQ is only available in its home country at the moment, but they plan to have expanded into foreign markets by the end of the year.

Although you may not believe it, 3D printers have existed for some time now. The big change is that they are set to become commercially viable to the general public during 2012. The printers work by building up the layers of plastic on top of each other. Would you be willing to fork out around £1100 just to create useless plastic items: from bottle tops to your own face?

By far, the biggest noise made at CES was for internet-enabled televisions. These next generation multimedia machines aim to bring all the features of the World Wide Web to their viewers. But is that what we want? When we are browsing the web, we usually know what we are looking for. However, when we sit down to watch TV, we don’t. This aside, there were certainly some useful new additions on show at CES. Samsung have developed a Skype enabled TV so that your family can view you in all your hungover, high definition glory. Additionally, the camera recognises gestures and faces, allowing each user to save their particular settings and favourite shows.

Panasonic have implemented a similar feature, and tailored it for the sport fans. If you are called whilst watching the rugby, the TV is muted and the screen splits. The caller is oblivious to the fact that you are conversing and watching the TV at the same time (unless a try is scored of course!).

In late 2010, Google released Google TV, perhaps a little too early because it didn’t really take off. Now they have come back with version 2.0. With yet another set top box to plug into your TV, this will undoubtedly bring a wide range of new features, without the higher costs of buying a new television. Similar to their Android phone operating system, Google TV will focus on apps. There are only a few big names such as YouTube and Netflix but when the service is expanded to Europe in the second half of this year, Google will surely have added new partnerships and features to their product.

One notable company missing from the battle of the TVs was Apple. They already have a service (and yes it includes a set top box) called Apple TV. Even with the might of iTunes behind it, the product hasn’t really been that popular. I expect there will be a major upgrade to their service as they try to snap up a bigger share of this emerging market. Although there has not yet been much talk about Apple’s next iPhone, it is already hotly anticipated. As Steve Jobs’ last project to have influenced, there will be extra interest and demand.

Let’s hope that with all these new products, the technology of 2012 generates as big a buzz as that Tesla coil!


Chris Jones

Image credit – Chris Jones