Preview 2008 - Gadgets and Gizmos

The world of tomorrow

Dave Cook takes a look at the gadgets and gizmos that might be improving your life in 2008 and beyond

From James Bond to your office colleagues, everyone loves gadgets. Technology is growing at such a fast pace that buying that new phone or MP3 player sometimes seems a bit of a gamble. You never know when the gadget you’ve just bought will be replaced by a snazzier model.

Music is an integral part of many household items. From shower radios to mobile phones everyone can listen to their favourite tracks at any time. So where could music players go next year? Specialists predicted that Apple would release an iPhone many years before they actually hit the shelves just a few months ago, and while they seem to do everything the user could need, newer, better players are not far away.

Tech news website CNET predicts the MP3 business will be worth $58bn in 2008. Why such a massive leap? Well, next year sees the release of portable jukebox players that run on Flash software. Playing music and films as standard, they also incorporate picture viewers, wi-fi channels, books, vibrant touch screens and many more features. Their screens are larger than most handheld multimedia devices and look a lot clearer to boot. While performing many of the tasks iPod Touch does already, they offer larger hard drive space with changeable memory cards, play a larger range of file types and use attractive animated menu systems. Think twice before shelling out on a new MP3 player just yet, though, because the Flash versions might be more to your liking. That said, you must never rule out Apple themselves and their much rumoured ‘Widescreen iPod’, designed with movies and video specifically in mind.

And there’s good news for anyone who has seen recent 3D action flick Beowulf: Japanese telecom giant NTT recently unveiled the Spaceillusion, a portable 3D screen that’s perfect for viewing movies on the go. Consisting of two LCD screens sandwiched 10mm apart, the gadget creates the illusion of 3D without needing to wear the daft looking glasses to make it work. The method is ingenious as it sends half of the onscreen pixels to your left eye and the other half to your right making the picture focus in the third dimension. It’s like something out of a sci-fi film but will be with us sometime this year with full-sized TV screen versions currently in the works.

For those who can’t stand household chores there may be hope for you in the future. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has invented DishMaker, a gadget that melts down dirty plates and makes new ones. The plastic dishes are made from fully recyclable material that can be re-used over 150 times. Stored as flat plastic discs, you can also program the machine to make you a cup or bowl instead. This is the stuff of dreams for many people although it is only at the prototype stage so will sadly not be in the shops for a while.

Last but by no means least is a new spin on the men’s room urinal. Not content with placing ads in restrooms across the UK, the next step is urinal gaming. Patrons visiting the loo can pay the urinal a pound and take part in a host of games that reward ‘accuracy’ and ‘quantity’ with big prizes. The more the player relieves himself the snazzier the prize, and if you can imagine the look of a smug gentleman walking proudly out of the toilet in your local carrying an iPod that he’s just won you may find yourself either intrigued or terrified by the notion.

Whatever gadgets you like to use it will never be too long before a more advanced and therefore fashionable upgrade hits the stores and for those who simply can’t afford to keep up it can be pretty annoying. But, as the digital TV/MP3 lifestyle becomes the norm, technology will enter a new generation meaning that the once unaffordable will quickly become cheap (just look at the price drop in flatscreen TVs over the last few years) so don’t panic if the products mentioned here get your mouth watering while terrifying your wallet. Futurecasting and predicting what gadgets will hit the stores well in advance means that people can budget for them better. Just start saving your pennies now.

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