Among the more impressive rivals to the iPad is BlackBerry’s 7.6-inch PlayBook (pictured; $500;blackberry.com), arriving this spring. However, its rich touch-based experience uses a proprietary operating system that’s likely to keep its price tag high; by adopting the Android 3.0 system, other manufacturers will be able to offer better values. Among the first is Motorola’s Xoom ($600; motorola.com), which sports dual-core 1GHz processors, front and rear cameras and a 10.1-inch screen. Expect even more stripped-down models to appear from a multitude of sources—AOC says it will offer a $200 model—as tablets try to move netbooks to the bin.
By reducing bezel width to just 0.2 inches, Samsung added an extra inch of viewing area to its D8000 (pictured) and D7000 LED televisions (samsung.com), out this spring, without increasing the overall size of the sets. But the real test of a TV these days is its ability to pull content from the Internet. By the end of the year, to accompany its Viera models, Panasonic (panasonic.com) will start offering four- to ten-inch tablets that can access various online resources, from streaming video to e-books to social networking—and they double as secondary screens.
A boxy shape has been a hallmark of camera design since the earliest days of photography, so the outside-the-box thinking behind Casio’s Tryx camera (pictured; $250;casio.com), coming in April, is refreshing. Its basic elements—lens, screen and body—swivel and flip into almost any position, then fold back into a compact half-inch-thin frame, while a sensitive 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, a wide-angle 21-mm lens and HD-video capability promise quality images. Meanwhile, new cameras like the Olympus XZ-1($500; olympusamerica.com) are taking the best features of big digital SLRs and putting them into compact boxes that are easy to tote. The XZ-1 features a superfast wide-angle lens and large, light-gathering CCD sensors usually found in more expensive SLR models.
For its next generation of cars, Audi(audi.com) aims to transform the driving experience with a raft of innovations, relying largely on a new mobile processor called Tegra that generates high-resolution graphics quickly. Drivers will be able to program the car’s instruments to display a variety of information: Arrows indicating direction will get larger as a turn nears, for example. And the car itself will be able to maintain an Internet connection that supports up to eight devices being used by passengers.
PixelOptics’ futuristic emPower glasses ($1,200; pixeloptics.com )have lenses that are covered with a transparent layer of liquid crystals whose molecular structure alters as needed for viewing either near or far. For reading, the wearer taps the side of the frames and an electric current reorients the crystals, changing the refraction of light as dictated by the prescription. The wearer taps again and the lens goes back to its standard setting, for seeing into the distance. Miniature chips, accelerometers and batteries make the changes noiselessly and quickly.
Noise-canceling headphones certainly help to make airplane travel more tolerable, but in an age where every ounce of carry-on luggage counts, their bulky size has become a liability. Sennheiser solves the space and weight problem with its new CXC 700 earbuds ($230; sennheiserusa.com), whose innovative three-position button suppresses different ranges of frequencies
Noise cancellation is also a feature of Andrea Electronics’ Superbeam headphones ($130; andreaelectronics.com), available this June, but the real attraction, especially for Skype users, is the elimination of the boom microphone extension. Instead, microphones embedded in the housing pick up spoken words like tractor beams while disregarding extraneous noise.
The major benefit of Lenovo’s 21.5-inch B320 ($700; lenovo.com ), available in June, is its versatility: It works as both a PC and a high-definition TV, and it’s relatively easy to toggle back and forth between modes—or access both at once using the picture-in-picture capability.
Compare yesterday’s run with today’s using the Nike+ SportWatch(from $200; tomtom.com), a collaboration between Nike and TomTom, coming out in April. Working in conjunction with Nike’s running-shoe sensors, the watch tracks location, time, distance, pace and calories burned and keeps a record of past performances, all data that can be downloaded to a PC. It also sends reminders about your next scheduled run and gives you a virtual pat on the back if you beat.
Home security doesn’t get much simpler than this. The Vue Personal Video Network (vuezone.com)comprises a collection of small, battery-operated cameras installed indoors and outdoors. With full panning and zooming capabilities, the cameras can be controlled and checked remotely from a computer or a smartphone; motion activation also sends a picture alert. A basic two-camera setup lists for $270; each additional camera runs $100. There’s also an annual service fee of $20 (the first year is complimentary), and a broadband network must be in place
The Android operating system for mobile phones is on the rise, breathing new life into mobile phone offerings from companies that rival Apple. Case in point: Sony Ericsson’s new Xperia Arc(sonyericsson.com), coming this spring. Like most Android phones, it has Google Maps and access to a wide array of apps. It also comes with a large 4.2-inch touch screen and a versatile 8.1-megapixel camera with software for easy uploads. But what’s really amazing is how thin it is: just 8.7 millimeters, or roughly a third of an inch
Klipsch is already well known for its high-quality horn-loaded speakers, which are components of the company’s new Gallery Studio Media System (pictured; from $400;klipsch.com). Due out this fall, the system connects wirelessly via WiFi and can be controlled using an Apple iPad or iPhone. Also this fall, McIntosh Laboratory, another high-end American audio manufacturer, plans to introduce an amplifier-speaker combination (from $2,000;mcintoshlabs.com).
Any driver who has ever nodded off during a long trip or drowsily veered into another lane knows how scary those situations can be. Developed in Denmark, the Anti Sleep Pilot($200;antisleeppilot.com) is a dashboard-mounted device that monitors fatigue, relying mainly on periodic alertness responses that require the driver to touch the device, and also tracking personal data, driving conditions and car speed (thanks to a built-in accelerometer). When fatigue sets in, the Anti Sleep Pilot issues both visual and audible alerts that signal it’s time for a break. An app, for use on a dashboard-mounted iPhone, is also available for $20.
Instant messaging, SMS, Skype, email, Facebook: The newly updated VoxOx (voxox.com) desktop program puts all those modes of communication into one manageable window so that staying up-to-date with friends and colleagues no longer requires checking multiple devices In addition, VoxOx offers a bevy of other communication tools, including on-the-fly translation of e-mail. The only charge is for outbound texts, faxes and calls.
Are you smarter than your washing machine? That’s a question you may ask yourself after checking out Maytag’s Maxima (from $1,600;maytag.com), which uses algorithms to determine how much detergent is necessary and precisely when to add it for maximum cleaning. A decade ago, washing machines used upward of 40 gallons per cycle; the Maxima only needs 11.5. When paired with its companion dryer, the Maxima uses 48 percent less energy than models
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