Hot or not: tech trends for 2013

Some technologies are poised to break out in 2013; others are doomed to whither away and die, while the rest won’t fully arrive for some time to come.

Join us on a whirlwind tour of 10 technology trends for the coming year, and find out which are hot and which are not.

HOT: Fly-by spies
Surveillance has never been so cheap or so easy. For just $300, you can buy a small remote-controlled copter with a video camera and launch your own spy network. Drones have been deployed by police departments from Seattle to Miami as roving CCTV cameras; they’ve also been used to track endangered rhinos in the wild and by Occupy Wall Street protestors to provide bird’s-eye coverage of street actions. Their use has become so widespread that state and federal officials are mulling legislation to regulate unmanned aerial vehicles. Until then, though, the sky’s the limit.


NOT: Ultra HD screens

Ultra-HD displays were all the rage at CES this year, but don’t expect to find one hanging from your or anyone else’s living room wall any time soon. Why? The usual reasons: Content formulated to look its best at 4320p will be ultra-rare for some time to come, and the 4K sets available today are still ultra expensive — try $20,000 for an 84-inch model. Even a “budget priced” 50-incher could run you five times the cost of a standard 1080p panel. If you’re like most of us, you probably bought a state-of-the-art flat panel within the last three or four years. Unlike computers, televisions don’t go obsolete that quickly, no matter how much you might want them to

HOT: The body computer

Google Goggles, the Fitbit, and the Nike+ FuelBand were just the beginning of the merger between physical bodies and digital devices. At CES, Puzzlebox demonstrated a toy helicopter you could control using brainwaves. Interaxon’s Muse headband measures your brainwaves and displays them on your smartphone or tablet, so you can learn how to manage stress. This year will see a slew of similar devices that interact with our bodies to clock our workouts, monitor our health, or just soften us up for the Singularity. Remember, resistance is futile.

NOT: Ultrabooks

Last year was supposed to be the year of the Ultrabook. It wasn’t, and this year they aren’t looking so hot either. Intel’s answer to the MacBook Air was years late and several dollars too much to lure PC users away from their tablet fixation. Market forecasters IHS iSuppli, which had predicted more than 22 million of the uberthin ultralights would ship in 2012, later slashed that guesstimate to slightly over 10 million. Of course, the chipmaker says even thinner more powerful models are poised to make a strong showing in 2013. We say the odds are slim.

HOT: Smarter Web pages

HTML4 is dead; long live HTML5. Recently declared “feature complete” by the Worldwide Web Consortium, the new markup language has changed how websites look and feel, as well as put a bullet into the head of Adobe Flash (may it rest in pieces). Meanwhile, major sites are moving to responsive Web pages that automatically adjust to fit any device they’re displayed on, whether it’s a big screen in your living room or a small one in your pocket. Remember how crappy websites look on your mobile device? You soon won’t. Now if we could just bump up the IQ of the people who are looking at them..

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