Another year has gone by, and with it, we have had an entire portfolio of gadgets – some of them bordering on bizarre – to fill up our hi-tech cupboards. 2015 has been witness to a number of innovations – from 4K resolution on tiny displays, to more RAM on phones than laptops, to automated robots gaining prominence, to a smart and responsive sock (quite literally, that is a wearable gadget), this year has seen it all! While some of these will set the tone for what the tech-frenzy world will see in 2016, some will go on to become legends, while the rest will fade away into history books. Nevertheless, here’s taking a look back at the world of technology – at gadgets and more that were unveiled in 2015, that are worth carrying into the new year that follows us, soon.
Beginning with the one gadget that has become crucial to every individual’s existence, the smartphone segment has become a whole lot more competitive this year. And, it became more premium, too. Take for instance the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium – the world’s first smartphone to feature a 4K resolution display, packing in as much as 806 pixels per inch on a 5.5-inch panel. While this is not exactly discernible by the human eye, it signals a trend in high resolution displays, pointing at viewers preferring higher resolution in multimedia content with every passing day.
Chinese smartphone-maker LeTV also launched a phone, called the LeTV Le 1s, which is powered by nothing short of 6GB of RAM. This may seem ridiculous, seeing that a few present generation MacBooks are powered by 4GB of RAM. Sure, the context and nature of power usage is different, but packing in 6GB of RAM reflects a brute force attempt at fitting a device with practically unlimited power in order to appeal to power-hungry consumers. Surely, pint-sized supercomputers cannot be too far away.
Another technology in smartphones that caught attention this year is Force Touch – a technique by which screens can detect various levels of pressure, to carry out different tasks for each level of pressure applied. Apple fit its latest iPhones, the 6s and 6s Plus, with 3D Touch, and Huawei came up with Force Touch on its Mate S. This technology still has some ground to cover before it becomes mainstream, but this marked the beginning of a change in the way we operate touchscreen devices.
Aimed at a cross between productivity and entertainment, tablets had a thriving start, but couldn’t sustain itself amidst the confusion of its form factor and the services it really offered. This year was all about showing the might of a tablet, and the three technology powerhouses – Apple, Microsoft and Google – came up with expensive, monstrous devices that also happen to be tablets. Apple’s iPad Pro, Microsoft’s Surface Book and Google’s Pixel C were launched one after the other, packing in stellar builds and more power than ever. While Apple’s iPads have so far received decent user interest; though its steep pricing may deter many prospective buyers.
Microsoft has kept making Surface tablets, as an ideal example of what a Windows-powered workstation and entertainment station looks like. While Google’s Pixel C is a branch-off from the Chromebooks, the Android experience is yet to reassure people of its pricing command. Nevertheless, these three combined has shown us the true potential of a tablet, and we hope tablet makers take cue from these devices in 2016.
While travelling in vacuum at the speed of sound still has ground to cover, it is slowly becoming reality. Hyperloop, supported by SpaceX-Tesla CEO Elon Musk, is slowly gaining momentum. It is in talks with supportive governments over future rights and opportunities, the test track is nearly ready for operations, and round one of teams have been selected for designing Hyperloop pods. What once sounded like an optimist’s dream is now a genius’ reality. While services are practically impossible to begin in 2016, 2015 has been a year of acceptance for this technology, and one day we do hope to avoid traffic, and even friction.
In other news, an automated robot went haywire and crushed a man to death at a factory plant of Volkswagen. At nearly similar time, a “mother” robot was “taught” how to produce “baby” robots by itself. Before you assume more, this has been achieved by programming machine learning techniques, and scientists liked to call it experience learning, and the information collated by the robots to “learn” techniques has been directly related to the human gene pool. With all of this, and quantum computing picking up pace, robots are now more independent to think and fend for themselves than ever before. The day of the sentient fiends may be far away for now, and while these may just be the warning signs of mankind fulfilling its destiny, it can also be a benchmark in the next step for technology – to automate our lifestyle and change the way we live.
5. Unmanned aerial Internet services
Both Facebook and Google have their minds set on launching drones and balloons that will float miles above the surface, and beam network connectivity to areas that are till date relatively disconnected, or poorly connected. Facebook’s solution to this is a carbon fibre drone named Aquila, while Google has gone with an equipment-heavy parachute, named Project Loon. This can bring more people on to the Internet and spread out the world map in front of disconnected ones.
This year has been a gradual stepping stone for wearable gadgets across the tech industry. We have seen a $17,000 Apple Watch Edition with gold-plated livery, we have seen Android Wear picking up pace with the LG Watch Urbane and Moto 360 (2nd generation); and we have seen a number of unusual wearables, one of which happen to be a fitness band that is meant to be placed on a water bottle.
The Hug is a wearable gadget that fits on a water bottle, reading hand movements, gestures and shakes to calculate the amount of water that you drink, the number of sips you have taken, and based on intervals and data you put in via your phone, calculate how hydrated/dehydrated you are.
The Sensoria Fitness Socks are also an unusual mention. The otherwise-nonchalant pair of socks has integrated microfiber sensors, that read the way you walk and the amount of pressure you exert while walking on the bones, thereby warning you to correct your posture and rectify any future health issues that may arise out of this.
Quell is yet another novel technology – a band that is to be worn just underneath your knee, to cure chronic pain. Incorporating Wearable Intensive Nerve Stimulation (WINS), Quell has been certified as a drug-free relief to chronic pain. According to its official description, the wearable knee cap taps into your body’s pain stimulus system, and blocks pain signals from transmitting, thereby providing relief. It may not be a cure at source, but it relieves the pain for some time.
With all of these, 2016 seems to be the year when we will have to take all of these very seriously.
7. Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a world of connected gadgets and everyday objects, that are responsive and can be controlled by you even when you are not around them. For instance, IoT gives you the power to ask your bathroom water heater to keep warm water ready, so that you do not need to wait for taking a refreshing bath after returning home. IoT appliances and gadgets have made the maximum amount of noise in recent times. Almost everything now has a connected version, which is not only the appliance, but can keep you updated of current device status, remind you of particular services and maintenance times, and allow you to control it from far away. 2015 has been a year of such gadgets, and while they still remain far from perfect and prone to several threats including attacks, the foundation has been laid for connected homes and environment in 2016.
To note a few, the Bruno Trash Can is a major notable invention. A dustbin that connects to your home WiFi and your smartphone, Bruno can suck in surrounding dirt and dust, along with being a regular garbage bin. Its specialties? Bruno can remind you to take out the garbage bins and clean it regularly, hence aiding you in maintaining hygiene at residence.
As if that were not notable enough, Parrot H2O is a connected gadget for your plants. Keeping in mind the basic requirements of plants, Parrot H2O is a twig-shaped gadget that resides on plant soil to feed you constant updates regarding nutrients, water and sunlight that the corresponding plant requires.
Other notable IoT appliances include the Motorola Scout 5000, a connected pet tracker, Mi Smart Water Purifier by Xiaomi, and the likes. With wireless synchronisation support being thrown into almost every second gadget, it seems that the time is right for IoT to take the next step forward, from the successful prologue that 2015 was.
8. A few notable mentions
Among others, the Lexus Slide deserves special mention for being one of the world’s first working hoverboard prototypes. Working on principles of magnetic levitation with internally wired electromagnets, liquid nitrogen cooling circuit, and premium wood and carbon fibre used in the exterior, the Lexus Slide is the first device that looks and feels like a skateboard ready for takeoff. The only catch, it works on surfaces made of metal. Nevertheless, it is a considerable jump into the future.
Soundwall is another creative venture that caught the eyeballs in 2015. Converting art pieces hanging on your wall into speakers, Soundwall is powered by a Raspberry Pi 2 and connects via WiFi to convert artworks into speakers. It may not be the best in terms of audio quality, but it still is a novelty.
Another mention goes to the Toshiba Chihiraaico humanoid robot, that was meant to convey warmth in automated conversations in an uncannily human way. What ended up happening is a rather creepy turnout, but the humanoid creation is possibly the closest make of a humanoid till date, yet again surfacing the projected robot-assisted doomsday predictions.
2015 was a diverse year, a year which saw extravagant launches, practical innovations, foundation of an entirely new segment in technology, and a few other memorable yet bizarre gadgets. With everything combined, it has indeed been an intriguing year for technology analysts, enthusiasts and consumers alike. Here’s bidding technology a happy holiday season, with the promise of never-ending innovation on the other side!