It’s late night and I’m on a flight to Mumbai to be part of Kaun Banega Crorepati (Behind the Scenes at KBC in next week’s column) again. It’s a Sunday and has been an exhausting one as I’ve attended a wedding in the afternoon and a reception in the evening. As I plonk myself down on my seat, the last thing I want is to have a long conversation with the passenger in the next seat. I’m usually over-exuberantly friendly and a very chatty flyer but I’m more or less done with my ‘people’s person persona’ as I’ve exhausted it all on the ‘munde di side de log’ and ‘kuddi di friends’ and the auntiejis who want advice on a new phone while the unclejis look disapprovingly at me as they are pretty sure they know more than me. Thus I plonk, shut my eyes, exaggerate a long loud groan to signify how tired I am to all and slide my body into a comfortable position. Aah... bliss.
“Don’t you think that instead of reviewing products already out in the market, you should talk about future innovations that will change our lives?” I open my eyes and trace the source of the very loud and assertive voice. My bleary eyes finally focus and find that it’s the passenger sitting next to me and also find that he’s very determined to have his say. Now that he’s got me up and has my attention he introduces himself as Mr Majumdar, says he knows me very well – then proceeds to call me Rohit and tells me how he never misses my show called Tech Boys (!!). I don’t have the heart or the stamina to correct him on either and as I start to reply – my feeble attempt to answer his query is brushed aside. I am then given a very passionate and forceful 15-minute discourse by him on why reviewing products already out in the market is of no use as “what humans truly need is to have knowledge for the future, to be ready for the future”. This is a man on a mission and in some ways I actually agree with him. This one is for you Mr Majumdar – a quick synopsis of five innovations that will truly change our lives in 2013.
Flexible screens; but not the way you think
2013 will be the year when flexible screens will finally move from being just prototypes to actual consumer products. They just won’t work the way you visualise it right now. The Holy Grail has been a product the size of a matchbox, which when unfolded several times becomes a nine-inch screen. What most people forget is that the screen may bend but it also needs the inside components to do the same. Thus the micro chips, the processor, the storage, the body, the frame – everything inside and outside must flex and fold! And that isn’t going to happen in 2013. Right now, look for flexible screens that work on OLED technology, move to resin and plastic instead of glass and become much lighter and thinner. The big advantage will be that these screens won’t break when the device falls from your hand and will be impervious to normal scratches and wear and tear. Expect a few devices to bend and fold halfway or roll the screen away from the body.
The 3D printer
The most misunderstood technology of them all. Here’s a device that has the potential to change our lives in more ways than one can imagine and yet has lived under a cloud of complexity. The 3D printer is a very simple product. It’s basically an object builder. Feed in a design and watch it go to work by layering plastic and polymers. You can build literally anything from it, including 3D models, samples of your new product, or even your brand new iPhone cover. There’s a whole community out there that is already exchanging designs or building designs for a small fee. Eventually these will work with just a good quality photograph – just scan one in and it’ll make an exact replica.
Movies from a new dimension
In 1928, the first movie to be shot at 24 frames per second was released. Believe it or not, we still stick to that 85-year-old technology for all the movies we see today. That is about to change with movies being shot in 48 frames per second and moving to 60 soon. The result is an immersive, almost hypnotic experience that goes far beyond 3D or IMAX. The motion is super smooth, colours truly pop and scene detailing is impossibly sharp. Expect Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit to be the first movie to have this technology. The second big change here is going to be the final burial of our current 1080P HD standard as we move to 4K technology. This is four times the current resolution of HD and almost every company will have televisions, projectors as well as source players that will handle all this glorious HD. Higher frame rates and higher resolution combined will make 2013 the year screen clarity moved from good to jaw-dropping.
Tyres that never tire
The greatest irritation of owning a car or two-wheeler has to be the tyres. A flat tyre or the effort to keep pressure regulated is a constant irritant. While Run Flat tyres have changed that a bit, self inflating tyres will complete that equation. These will come with a sensor built in, the minute they find that the pressure inside has dropped – a built-in regulator, valve and pumping tube will take care of it. No more standing in line at petrol pumps and then getting horribly wrong tyre pressure due to faulty equipment.
I’ve always found wearable tech to be a bit of a joke. Silly virtual reality helmets, space suit-like clothing, wires dangling all over your body – it all makes you look like a complete ass and even the experience isn’t all that great. 2013 will change that in a hurry and from multiple directions. Devices like the Google Glasses (small screen on one side that combines real life and augmented reality), Talking Gloves (sensor-laden gloves that recognise sign language and convert it to text on a phone screen), Myontech Underwear (has sensors built in that tell you exactly how well each muscle was used in a workout), Sleep Sensors (analysis of your sleep and breathing pattern and can pinpoint diseases even before they start) and the next generation of activity trackers from Nike Fuelband and Fitbit. It’s a brave new world of unobtrusive wearable tech that function without making you feel like a prat.
There are a lot more life-changing innovations coming up, which I shall save up for my series of ‘end of year’ columns. I close my eyes once again, groan louder and shift my body even lower. Maybe, just maybe, I can get some sleep for the few minutes left, before I land. Aah, bliss!
“Is there any way you can help me to get onto the KBC hot seat? I’ve been trying for the last five years”. Mr Majumdar was back...
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni
From HT Brunch, December 2
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch