Tech’s endless march looks set to continue in 2012, with stacks of new and improved technologies set to make life easier and more fun. From proper contactless payments coming to mobile phones and improved gaming systems to 3D printing getting the mainstream breakthrough it deserves, here’s our pick of 10 of the best new technologies to get excited about in 2012.
NFC… no, really
NFC has been threatening to take off properly for years. But 2012 could just be the year it goes properly mainstream. As well as Google Wallet landing on these shores after its launch in the US in summer 2011, BlackBerry has some truly amazing plans, embedding your work security pass into your phone, meaning you can scan yourself into the office. The days of begging for a temporary card because you’ve left yours at home are coming to an end.
Siri has led the way with speech recognition in 2011. And you can expect the tech behind it land in stacks of new gadgets in 2012. Google’s Majel, named after the speaking computer in Star Trek, is set to land on Android phones, offering Siri-like deep integration. Meanwhile, rumours are flying that Microsoft’s Kinect 2 will be able to lip read, bringing an added level of control to motion controlled gaming.
Printing in 2D remains an awkward and clunky experience. And until now, 3D printing has also been similarly difficult for average consumers. 2012 should see that change though, as services like Sculpteo take off. It lets you upload your schematics to their website, before reeling off 3D prints and sending them straight to you. Expect big printer names to also reveal stacks of in-home 3D printers next year.
Properly smart TV
Smart TV has gained some traction in 2011. But gossip about a flatscreen Apple TV, controlled largely by Siri, means it should really become a must-have technology for regular telly addicts as well as tech-mad gadget hounds. The idea of being able to call up your favourite shows, channels and apps on an Apple TV is brilliantly exciting.
4k is another emergent tech that’s been waiting in the wings for years. But CES, the mega gadget show in Las Vegas in January, should see the likes of Sony and Samsung reveal TVs using the double HD standard, with a dash of 3D thrown in for good measure. Toshiba’s stunning 55-inch Regza 55X3 has already shown the way for this futuristic tech.
Tablet gaming controls
The Wii U’s unique tablet controller, offering gamers the chance to switch from playing on the TV to the controller’s panel, looks set to be every bit as revolutionary as the original Wii’s motion control. Adding a new level of interaction, working with regular Wiimote’s, you can bet that if it sells, Microsoft and Sony will be looking to follow suit with similar products later in the year.
Optical zoom camera phones
Samsung has already been pumping out camera phones with optical zooms for some time. But expect to see stacks more manufacturers starting to offer phones with optical zoom lenses in 2012, as they look to turn the screw even further on compact camera makers. Nokia is mooted to be leading the way, its cameras already setting the standard with digital zoom tech.
Super high-res tablets
The iPad 3 looks set to be getting a Retina Display, amping up its resolution to an eyeball-stroking 2048×1536 pixels. But Apple won’t be getting things all their own way, with Samsung rumoured to be working on an 11-inch slate with a 2560×1600 panel, outdoing the iPad 3 and running Android Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s expected to be shown off at MWC in February.
NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3 chip looks set to land in stacks of new phones in 2012, promising lightning fast speeds. Android handsets are likely to benefit from this initially, although Apple will doubtless be looking to keep up with the Joneses and load up the iPhone 5 with a quad-core processor.
The service everyone thought would land when the Swedish streaming type showed off its new app package. Spotify movies are starting to look nailed on and could see the company grow massively in 2012. The idea of being able to stream video from the same app as your music collection is hugely alluring. Make it happen Mr Ek!