Tech gadgets come and go, and few register as more than a fleeting fad for most consumers. The impact of those gadgets that do take hold though, move the market in ways that are transformational, habit-changing and just plain fun. Here are a few gadgets that you should be paying attention to right now.
If you put a toddler in front of a laptop that’s displaying a game or picture, one of the first things the child will do it touch the screen. If nothing happens, and the screen doesn’t respond to the child’s touch, you’ll witness a look of pure befuddlement cross the toddler’s face.
The days when you interacted with a computer via mouse and keyboard are on the way out. Laptops without touchscreens are old-fashioned, and devices and applications with gestural interfaces—that respond to your movements—are already beginning to replace the traditional point-and-click interface.
If you’re looking to purchase a touchscreen laptop, Samsung’s ATIV Book ($829.99-$1,269.99) offers a good value among touchscreen ultrabooks, and the Lenovo IdeaPad ($599.99-$1,499) is also a great option.
Released in late July, Google’s Chromecast takes your streaming media habits to the high-def. big screen—of your living room that is. The $35 device, which looks like a flash drive that has a micro USB port on one end and a HDMI plug on the other, plugs into your television. When connected to WiFi, you can send content from your smartphone, tablet or laptop to your television.
Chromecast competes with Apple Airplay, which does the same thing when used through Apple TV, but Chromecast isn’t platform specific and it currently supports Netflix, YouTube Google Play and Chrome.
Other options to geek out your living room include the abovementioned Apple TV ($99.99) and Roku 3 ($99.99), which are both digital boxes let you stream online videos and music through your television. Roku’s latest iteration even includes a remote with a built-in headphone jack so you can listen to that late-night horror flick without giving your kids nightmares.
Music and audio devices right now are all about mobility, sound quality and the illusive “cool factor.” Jawbone makes some great portable, battery-powered speakers that work with any Bluetooth-capable devices. Jawbone’s JAMBOX ($179.99) is perfect for business travelers or office dwellers looking to add a little music to their Monday morning routine.
JAMBOX is wireless and doesn’t require you to dock your device, which means you can do away with those frustrating times when all you have is an Android smartphone and Apple speakers and you’re left with a music-less dinner party.
It also includes a microphone and works as a speakerphone when using Skype, Google Hangouts and Facetime. With 360-degree audio, JAMBOX looks cool and you can customize the colors and grill of your speakers.
Though they sacrifice a bit on sound quality, VoxLinc’s AfterShokz headphones ($69.95-$119.95) are a must for the biker or runner in your family. The headphones mount on your cheekbone and use bone conduction technology to deliver sound through your cheekbones, instead of earbuds, which use the eardrums to transmit sound.
This means that you can still hear ambient noise when you’re out biking, walking, running, or engaging in any activity where you want to zone out to your favorite band, but also need to maintain awareness of your surroundings. AfterShokz headphones come in wired and wireless versions, and as an added bonus, unlike earbuds, they are comfortable to wear over a long period of time.
When Apple users upgrade their iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices to iOS 7 in the fall, they’re in for more than an aesthetics upgrade. Apple’s new mobile operating system, first showcased at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, is aesthetically different—its flat, clean interface replaces many embellishments and ornamental designs—but features also receive a significant upgrade and fine-tuning. Look for changes to features such as multitasking, animation, sharing and maps.