updated 3/14/2011 2:10:34 PM ET 2011-03-14T18:10:34

From 3-D TV to the iPad, 2010 was an exciting year for technology. As 2011 draws near with the potential to be filled with even more surprises that could change the way we live, we take a sneak peek at what's expected to hit it big in the New Year:


Although computing tablets have been in the works well before 2010, the stars finally aligned when the iPad hit the market earlier this year. Since the tablet market is still relatively new, there is a lot of room for growth and tablet manufacturers are ready to make their big move.

Between 80 and 100 new tablets are expected to be introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next month. With so many tablets on offer, manufacturers will be jostling with one another to explain to the public how their tablet is different.

"They will be looking for ways to differentiate themselves with various sizes, colors, features and everything you can think of, and pricing will also be big part of the differentiating strategy," said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and director of research at the Consumer Electronics Association.

More 3-D TVs

The demand for 3-D TVs was a bit more tepid than the manufacturers had originally anticipated in 2010, which ultimately contributed to excess supply. While the economy was likely a factor, the most significant barrier was the cost of both the 3-D TV and the accompanying glasses. Followed by the cost concern was the worry of limited content, according to Michael Inouye, industry analyst at ABI Research. Plus, some consumers found the glasses aesthetically or physically disagreeable, and cited problems such as headaches as deterrents.

"However, considering most of the TV manufacturers have committed to 3-D and still see it as a way to help spur demand, it is expected that more efforts to push the technology will occur in 2011," Inouye said. "We might start to see more 'universal' 3-D glasses ; this was one of the points cited as a miscue by the TV manufacturers."

The 3-D content library is also expected to grow. While there has been support for 3-D from pay-TV operators, without more 3-D content on a regular basis, 3-D TVs will continue to have limited scope.

"We expect some of the problems, such as crosstalk – which is when two pictures on a 3-D image don't come together properly and cause blurriness – and flickering, to also improve, which should also help with the overall experience," Inouye said. "So while consumer demand for 3-D may or may not change dramatically, the number of 3-D TVs will continue to grow."

4G Networks, Smartphones

4G networks promise data speeds several times faster than most of us are currently used to and the technology is expected to become mainstream in 2011.

"4G is going to hit like a brick wall," said Mike Morgan, senior analyst of mobile devices at ABI Research. " Verizon is going to step in and make a big splash with 4G next year. When Sprint launched the EVO on a 4G network earlier this year ... it sold three million units in half a year, which is huge. Verizon is twice the addressable market with five times as many phones, so imagine what will happen once Verizon embraces 4G. Then Apple will have to step in. Everyone is going to be walking around with a 4G phone."

However, Morgan predicts that pricing plans for 4G devices will become a problem for carriers.

"Technically, smartphone users on a 4G network could use up their data plan allotment for the entire month in just 28 minutes," Morgan said. "It could get expensive, so phone companies will have a challenge on their hands."

Near Field Communications (mobile payment swipes)

Shoppers in parts of Asia are tapping their smartphones instead of swiping credit cards in the checkout line, thanks to a technology called near field communications (NFC). The growth of NFC in mobile devices in that part of the world is so dominant now that in South Korea, Visa is making a conventional plastic card optional for new customers, according to Mike Morgan of ABI Research.

"When NFC takes off in the United States, expansion will happen quickly," Morgan said. "By the end of 2011, expect to see people in front of you at the drug store tapping their phones to pay."

First, however, mobile providers have to install contactless chips in the hardware of new devices or build the technology into SIM cards. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said that the next version of the Android mobile operation system – dubbed Gingerbread – will proudly tout NFC. Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion also plans to follow suit by incorporating NFC in Blackberry handsets in the near future.

"We'd be fools not to use it," Jim Balsillie, RIM's co-chief executive officer, said at the Web 2.0 Summit in November.

Wireless speakers

Speakers will be big news in 2011, according to DuBravac of the Consumer Electronics Association. "Outside of the MP3 market, audio has been dwindling for years as shoppers sought out big TVs, not speakers. In the last year, however, sound bars have done well and now, wireless speaker technologies on the horizon are expected to impact the consumer appetite in 2011. Speakers will have the ability to stream audio over a wireless network directly from a user's iTunes."

This means you no longer have to plug your iPod or MP3 player into a speaker to get audio. Speakers would have direct access, via wireless networks, to your music files and play them whenever you want.

Although these types of speakers are not yet on the market, DuBravac said that Apple is expected to launch ones with so-called "AirPlay" capabilities included in the near future. AirPlay is already being used to give users the ability to instantly and wirelessly stream videos and audio from iTunes to other devices such as Apple TV.

Nintendo 3DS

The growth of 3-D will go beyond TV manufacturers next year, as Nintendo is expected to make a big splash with its 3-D-capable version of its popular DS handheld gaming console. Nintendo 3DS will be the first handheld gaming console to include a 3-D screen — and will be one of very few devices, prototype or otherwise, that doesn't require glasses to view content in 3-D. It has the same two-screen form factor of previous Nintendo DS handhelds, but the top screen is larger (3.5 inches) and displays 3-D content to the naked eye.

According to Dutch video game publisher Henk Rogers, who first discovered Tetris at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in 1988 and still manages its licensing rights today, this is the new wave of the video gaming industry.

"Whether it's 3-D or using systems like Microsoft's Kinect where your body serves as the controller, the experience is becoming so much more personal and interactive," Rogers told TechNewsDaily. "Plus, the games are starting to look more like what you would see in 'The Minority Report.'"

2D quick response codes (QR Codes)

Two-dimensional quick response, or "QR," codes are becoming increasingly embedded into digital and print marketing campaigns, giving consumers access to related digital information on the Web. When an image of the code is captured by a quick response scanner or mobile phone camera, the user's device is connected to an abundance of information, social media sites or coupons related to the product or marketing campaign. QR codes have already started to make their way to billboards, TV programming and print ads.

For example, someone who spots a movie ad in a newspaper can take a picture of the 2-D code with their smartphone and then a movie trailer will promptly open on their handheld device. Afterward, the user would be presented with a menu to buy tickets or get more info about the movie.

"2011 is expected to be the year people really start to notice the power of these scan codes," according to Dan Smigrod, CEO and chief creative officer of Great!, an Atlanta-based marketing firm.

"Just as companies include their Web address or Facebook page in their advertising, we'll see more with 2-D codes in 2011 to further engage consumers."

Major U.S. media companies, from broadcast companies to magazines and newspapers, are currently finding ways to educate consumers about scan codes. In fact, popular TV show "CSI: New York" used scan code as part of a recent story line.

GPS, Internet-enabled cameras

Cameras are expected to become even more feature-laden next year with the inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi, which would allow users to upload images to photo-sharing and social networking sites while they are on the go. Cameras with GPS capabilities give photographers the chance to geo-tag their photos with location coordinates – longitude and latitude – so when it’s uploaded to a site, it reveals exactly where the photo was taken. This information could then be linked up to Google Maps or other road trip software.

Cloud-gaming services

Internet gaming, or "cloud gaming," is quickly becoming the next big thing in the gaming world. With the release of the first major cloud gaming service, OnLive, gaming has taken a step away from the home console into the expanse of the Internet.

With cloud gaming, all of the graphics processing normally performed by the console or computer is done on remote servers. This means the entire program is streamed across the Internet in the same way that music and video are now streamed across the Web. This allows complex, high-resolution games to be played on less powerful and much cheaper devices than ever before. In a sense, players don't purchase the game — they purchase access to it.

In a way, cloud gaming has been around for a while. For instance, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 both have massive online multiplayer communities supported by server farms. But it's not quite the same thing -- all players have had the game installed and run on their console in their living room. The new cloud-based gaming services take the concept a step further.

Other gaming services Gakai and GameString are on the cloud gaming watch list for 2011, as well.

The death of hard drives

The decline of the hard drive is already being helped along by netbooks, which are so small and compact they tend to use solid-state flash drives instead of hard drives for storage. Flash drives, like the ones used to store photos on your camera, have no moving parts so they're less likely to break, and are smaller than regular hard drives, which saves space and weight.

Apple recently replaced spinning hard drives with flash memory in its MacBook Air to save on speed, and many companies are expected to follow suit in the near future. Meanwhile, the release of Google's Chrome netbook expected for debut by mid-2011 is touting less hard drive space and will rely more on cloud storage.

Internet-connected TVs

Since overall demand for TVs was down in 2010, manufacturers will be looking for new ways to created added value to the viewing experience in the New Year. The focus will be on getting the most out of your set, such as streaming distributed content via sites such as Hulu, Netflix and on-demand services such as

" Internet-enabled devices will definitely help the TV category overall next year," said DuBravac of the Consumer Electronics Association. "Consumers and companies are still trying to figure out the true potential for these types of TVs, but it has the potential to lead to some truly dynamic things."

For example, if a commercial for a car or sweater comes on TV, a viewer sitting on the couch will be able to bring up information about the item with the click of a remote-control button. From there, they could read about the product, make a purchase (thanks to partnerships with click-to-buy vendors such as PayPal) or link it to their Facebook page. Industry experts think there may even be a 'like' button on remote controls in the future.

However, that feature is not expected to debut until after 2011.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily


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