The future envisioned by science fiction is becoming more of a reality each day. This month we feature five devices that are advancing their category of products while bringing us into a world that more closely resembles the futures that we have only read about in sci-fi novels or seen in movies: A thermostat that thinks for itself, a computer controlled using only hand motions, a tablet cover that recognizes keystrokes. What’s next: The medical tricorder from Star Trek? It looks like the future is now.
Tablets: New Competition Surfaces
Microsoft has finally gotten into the tablet game and has dubbed its new line of tablets Surfaces, including the Surface for Windows RT (set to compete against similar tablets) and the Surface for Windows 8 Pro (which will be pitted against Ultrabooks). Both have a 10.6-inch HD display (though the Pro is Full HD 1080p) and a built-in kickstand, but what makes them truly unique are their two available covers. The Touch Cover is 3-mm thin, completely flat, and can recognize keystrokes as gestures allowing it to double as a keyboard. For more traditional typing, the TypeCover is slightly thicker at 5-mm and features protruding keys that you can actually feel. The Windows RT version will also come with built-in apps such as Office while the Windows 8 Pro is compatible with a pen/stylus accessory. Neither pricing nor release dates were available at press time.
Thermostats: Smart Way To Conserve
The Nest Learning Thermostat
($249) helps you save money on energy by learning more about you—after one week it will know your typical schedule and automatically adjust itself going forward. Other key features that keep energy consumption down include Auto-Away (it senses when you have left the house and turns off the air), Airwave (turns off the AC a few minutes early but keeps the fan running to spread the still cool air), and Energy History (a breakdown of your energy use and what impacts your bill the most). The Nest can also be controlled from anywhere using your laptop or smartphone.
Scanners: To The Cloud
Fujitsu’s newest addition to its line of portable scanners makes documents incredibly mobile. The ScanSnap S1300i ($295) can send anything you scan right to your Android or iOS compatible devices and even upload files straight to cloud-base programs such as Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs, SugarSync and Salesforce Chatter. Contracts, bills, invoices, business cards, etc., can all be scanned on the road, uploaded, and easily accessed. The S1300i also offers faster speeds than its predecessors at up to 12 double-sided color pages
Laptops: Five Million Little Pixels
Apple’s new MacBook Pro ($1,799 and up) takes laptop screen resolution to an entirely new level. It has a 15.4-inch Retina display with 5.1 million pixels—3 million more pixels than an HDTV. All of those extra pixels result in a 2880-by-1800 resolution and a 29 times higher contrast ratio than a standard MacBook Pro. The newest model also has all-flash storage in place of a typical hard drive and the latest quad-core Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors, both of which make the machine as speedy as ever.
Peripherals: One Giant Leap
It’s hard to imagine being able to use a computer without a keyboard or mouse, but Leap Motion has re-imagined that connection. The Leap ($70) is a USB peripheral that creates a 3D interaction space of eight cubic feet around your computer, allowing you to manipulate it with hand gestures. Think Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Swipe your hand in the air and the screen flips to the next page. The Leap Motion website also claims that this technology is “200 times more accurate than anything else on the market” (such as the motion-controlled video game systems). It is not clear whether this will completely revolutionize our everyday interactions with computers, but it could have an impact in certain industries such as engineering, design, and healthcare.