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The hidden gems of 2011

It’s time to take stock of what the tech world has come up with till now. And 2011 has been spectacular. Great new products, serious innovation, fat and juicy controversies and a new breed of CEOs who have taken the fight to the enemy camp – it’s all good. Rajiv Makhni writes.

india Updated: Aug 12, 2011 12:27 IST
Rajiv Makhni

It’s that time of the year. Smack bang in the middle, halfway through and time to take stock of what the tech world has come up with till now. And 2011 has been spectacular. Great new products, serious innovation, fat and juicy controversies and a new breed of CEOs who have taken the fight to the enemy camp – it’s all good. But rather than doing a report card and pointing out some of the good stuff, I’ve taken on a different quest this week.

The good stuff, we all know, more or less: Apple’s iPad 2, Samsung’s Series 9 laptops and the Galaxy S II, Casio’s Tryx camera, Motorola’s Atrix phone, Canon EOS Rebel T3i and a bagful of other noteworthy devices. But almost every year, some sensational products drop between the cracks. Products with great features and capabilities that don’t generate the press and attention they deserve. Here are some hidden gems of 2011.

A R Drone

What looks like a fun toy is actually a great showcase of how far we’ve come with miniaturisation of technology and the levels we’ve reached with cramming it all together. The amount of wiz bang stuff in this little toy just two years ago would have cost $10,000. It’s a four-motor quadcopter that sets up its own WiFi connection with an iPhone or Linux device. Macbook

Your iPhone then becomes the controller – tilt to turn, swipe the touchscreen to take it up or down and jam it to make the drone zip across the skyline. It has two on-board cameras that relay video wirelessly back to the iPhone (great for spying on your neighbours) and it uses sensors to make sure that if you lose control, it takes over the flying on its own. At $299, it’s expensive if you think of it as a toy – and extremely cheap if you see it as out-of-the-box tech.

BlackBerry Presenter
Here’s some forward thinking. Solid-state pico projectors are about to flood the market. These little things will be able to give you a 100-inch image from a 3- inch beamer. But how do you use it? The whole purpose of the small and light package is defeated if you still have to carry a massive laptop with it. Enter the diminutive BB presenter. Attach it to a pico projector, connect wirelessly via bluetooth to your phone and off you go with your big presentation. Hopefully all this will come built in with your phone soon. Till then, we need the BBP.

Eye Fi Mobile X2 / Seagate GoFlex Satellite
It’s easy to crib about the jailed environment of Apple’s iPad and iPhones where you can’t attach USB hard drives or insert an SD card; it’s even sillier not to use the solutions that already exist. The Eye Fi is an SDHC card that has built-in WiFi. Insert it into a digital camera, connect the camera to a phone or tablet via Wi-Fi, and then use an iOS or Android app to store the pictures, transfer or upload them wherever you like. The Satellite drive does the same but gives you 500 GB to wirelessly play with, plus directory apps for your iPhone or Android device.

Insignia Infocast
It sits by your bedside, opens up the whole wide world for you and doesn’t need you to fire up your computer or phone or tablet. The Infocast gives instant access to view and share photos and videos, more than 1,500 Web apps for news, weather, sports, games, and will even allow your friends to send a wake-up call for you with their own style of music and video. Listen to your favourite music, radio stations, podcasts or even fire up a best of Youtube video session. An idea whose time has come.

ThinkGeek iCade
Every gamer, tablet user and arcade lover’s wet dream. Insert iPad into the slot on the arcade cabinet, fire up the right game, mash the buttons and controller and transport yourself back to the amazing retro arcade world of the 90s. Works with almost all games and versions for other OSes are in the works. And it costs $100. Atari’s greatest hits – here I come.

ZaggThe Zagg

I’m not too strong on accessories and usually don’t add on things to any device I’ve bought. But this is sweet. Aircraft-grade aluminum and a finish that makes it look like it’s come out of the same factory that built the iPad 2, heavy duty protection, super thin and light, adds almost no bulk and the best part – it has an embedded easy-to-use bluetooth physical keyboard that works brilliantly. Also has hard keys for controlling music and browsing and movies. Once again – versions for other tablets are on their way.

It’s not just small companies that have fantastic products and haven’t got enough noise out there. There are even mainstream products from companies that haven’t got the buzz they should have. The all-new Barnes and Nobles Nook (far better than the Amazon Kindle), Nintendos 3DS (great tech marred by very few games), Sony’s Handycam HDR-TD10 (dual lens 3D, two processors and a 3D preview screen) and many more. All in all – 2011 is all about brilliant products and great technology. All it needs is for you to dig deep to find them.

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, June 12

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