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This is the future…

…but will it work? Here’s a sneak preview of the technology we’ll be using next year.

Man has always tried to foresee tomorrow’s events; to peer into the crystal ball and try to capture the future in a cave drawing, a watercolour, a literary work, a sculpture.

Yet the future ages badly like a prematurely plucked bud. Take the original series of Star Trek, for instance. All the beeping monitors and flashing lights on board the USS Enterprise are meant to represent the horizon of time and beyond. Yet they look as old-fashioned as a lava lamp. And what on earth (or rather, in space) is William Shatner wearing? If that is the future of fashion, then we’ll be looking like the past.

But at the same time, the future is ageless. It’s the Nineteen Eighty-Four conundrum. When George Orwell published his dystopian vision in 1949, the year which the novel referred to was still in the future. Nowadays, it may have passed, and yet 1984 remains stuck in the future and Winston Smith’s gin-soaked tears flow forever. It’s a mind-boggler for the thought police.

But this toing and froing of the future is what keeps us in anticipation mode. We want to know what the future will look like. And we want to see what tomorrow’s technology will achieve. Well, let’s have a look at 2013’s technology.

Touchy feely

Nowadays, most tablets and smartphones come with touch-screen technology. And yet, this technology is concealed behind a hard glass panel and only works in 2D.

Touchence, a company created out of a Tokyo University venture, has invented a soft touch sensor that can respond to interaction and pressure in 3D. This sensor, called the Shokkaku Cube, is made of foam-like material that can be touched and pinched using various levels of pressure.

This invention also heralds the arrival of flexible, film-based touch sensors. Using roll-to-roll metal mesh technology, these touch-screens provide flawless touch performance without compromising optical clarity.

Next year, Samsung will also hopefully launch its flexible mobile display screen. The flexible AMOLED from Samsung has been on the cards for quite some time, but there have been some issues with mass scale production. Fingers crossed, we’ll have it in 2013 as that will solve our sitting-on-the-mobile problem.

A picture of space

The Global Astrometric Interferometer for Astrophysics will be launched in October 2013. A five-year space mission conducted by the European Space Agency, it aims to complete a catalogue of over one billion stars, which is approximately one per cent of all stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

By gathering data on the stars’ positions, brightness, gravity and spectral characteristics, Gaia will be able to form a highly detailed 3D map. It will be a sort of stellar census which will give us a better idea of the origin and evolution of the Milky Way.

True,, the Gaia project will not reap results any time soon – and yet, it will help us see where we came from and where we’re going.

The future in 3D

Following the release of Avatar in 2009, 3D moved away from its blurry past and is conquering the future. Since then, we’ve had the first FIFA World Cup in 3D, our cinemas are showing more films in 3D and compatibility has been incorporated into a range of consumer products.

In 2013, 3D will become a more widespread technology and will be incorporated into televisions, video games, mobiles and the internet, immersing us in a virtual world that is more realistic and interactive.

Game on

Now that Nintendo has launched the Wii U, we can only expect the next generation PlayStation and Xbox to be launched in 2013.

No launch date has been set for the launch of the PS4, codenamed ‘Orbis’ – however, it will probably see the light of day by the end of next year. No official data is forthcoming, but the PS4 will probably be built around an AMD x64 CPU and will be able to handle screen resolutions of up to 4000 x 2000 pixels.

In a recent interview, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said that there’s a good chance that the next instalment in the Tom Clancy adventures will be available as a next-gen game. Which means that it could be the launch title on PS4.

As for the Xbox 720, this will probably be built around motion detection and the second version of Kinect. Microsoft has also recently filed a patent related to projecting augmented reality 3D images on to the walls of the room where you’re playing – that sounds like fun.

A tablet a day

The Microsoft Surface tablet is gathering momentum to challenge the iPad. In fact, Microsoft, which has already been selling its device in the US and Canada and online in Australia, China, France, the UK and Germany, has recently stepped up manufacturing of its tablet and has introduced it to third-party retailers this week.

In 2013, the pro model of the Surface with an Intel i5 dual-core processor will probably be launched.

Next year, Fujitsu will also be launching its own tablet – the Lifebook 2013. We’ve been talking about it for a year now, since this concept has been available since last January. Well, we’re not sure if we can actually call it a tablet. In fact, the concept is neither here nor there – but it can work. The Lifebook 2013 will combine all the technology that you normally use into one – if you need a camera, detach it from the tablet and use it as a handheld camera. You want to use it as a tablet – pull out the screen. Put it back and you have a laptop. Now that’s clever.

Firefox and Kindle phones

Google and Apple have one, so why hasn’t Firefox come up with a mobile operating system yet? Well, come 2013, we’ll probably see the launch of devices running Mozilla’s Firefox OS for tablets and smartphones. Rumours have it that this OS will support rich content with HTML5 and will probably be cheaper than Android. There is already an online simulator through which you can experience Firefox OS on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Another rumour which is gathering momentum is the launch of the Kindle phone in 2013. The Wall Street Journal recently cited unnamed sources saying that the Kindle phone will have a five-inch display and will be consumer-focused with custom apps for reading books and watching videos.

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