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Gadgets that are ready to gather dust.

Gadgets that are ready to gather dust.
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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The relentless march of technology makes today's shiny new gizmo tomorrow's wardrobe clutter. Check out these gadgets destined to become digital dinosaurs.


Mounting in-home search expeditions to find lost remote controls will be a thing of the past thanks to advances in technology that could do away with the couch-burrowing devices.

Technologists have predicted that future generations of TVs and stereos will be controlled by voice as well as gestures.

Samsung has showcased a new line of smart TVs that turn themselves on when they hear the words "Hi TV", switch channels in response to voice commands, and let users browse the web through hand gestures. Remote control hogs, your days could be numbered.


Voice and gesture control technology could also usher the computer mouse out the door. Touchscreen technology, such as on smartphones and tablet computers, lets users swipe to scroll, tap to select, and pinch and unpinch to shrink and expand images and text - making the humble mouse largely redundant. That technology is yet to make it to the traditional desktop PC environment, but pundits predict computers will increasingly become touch (and voice) focused input devices that run on operating systems navigated by icons.


Touted as the more petite and portable sister in the laptop computer family, the netbook enjoyed a brief stint in the limelight. Then along came the iPad, and a slew of other tablet computers that were more portable, prettier and built for simple web browsing, entertainment, and light computing use - just like netbooks. Notebook computers - with more computing power - have also come down in price, putting even more of a squeeze on the netbook.


Burning music and movies to discs is so last century. In the next 10 years media distribution is expected to become entirely digital, with USB sticks, external hard drives and cloud or online storage becoming the preferred storage options. Some commentators have suggested that in a decade we won't be using physical storage such as USB or external drives at all, with consumers instead storing all their content in online services.


Vacuuming the house will become painless with the advent of robot vacuums such as the Robo Tap, which uses an "indoor positioning system" to move around and vacuum your floors. The domestic droid, which was recently featured in a home innovation show in London, also lets you tap particularly dirty spots on the floor twice with your foot - you need to tuck a small remote into your shoe - to single them out for extra vacuuming attention. The Robo Tap is yet to go on sale, but for US$600 you can get the iRobot Roomba, pictured below, which zooms about doing your vacuuming while you put your feet up.


Smartphones today are packing pretty impressive cameras - the iPhone 4S has an 8 megapixel camera capable of filming video in full high-definition. Smartphones also let you easily share your pics via email and online, and have special apps to give your photos different effects. Given the rocketing growth in smartphone use, cheaper handheld digital cameras look to be on the way out - why carry two gadgets when one will suffice? More sophisticated - and expensive - cameras for serious snappers should be safe, though.


If you've got a phone that not's quite a smartphone but smarter than your basic phone and text- capable mobile, it may be the last "feature phone" you own. United States-based researcher Creative Strategies predicts 80 per cent of all phones sold in 2015 will be smartphones, and every phone sold in 2018 will be a smartphone - as prices drop and carriers push consumers on to the internet and app capable phones, which generate higher revenue for them.


Smartphones are also threatening to sideline the consumer standalone car GPS market, as smartphone users can choose from a range of navigation apps and buy phone cradles for their dashboards. GPS unit manufacturers such as TomTom and Navman have pre- empted the decline of the products and released their own navigation apps. GPS systems are also expected to become standard features in new cars.


E-readers have only been around for a few years but already their days could be numbered, thanks to the ability of tablet computers - which are getting cheaper and cheaper - to do much the same thing. Tablet owners can download apps for buying and reading electronic books and magazines, and while their screens are not designed to replicate the experience of reading a paper book like ereader screens, manufacturers are already working to rectify this. Ereader manufacturers have already begun to add "tablet" features such as touchscreens and web browsers to the devices so they can do more than "just" display ebooks.


Another victim of the all- singing, all-dancing smartphone, the MP3 player is quickly being relegated to the rubbish bin or sidelined as an exercise gadget only. Smartphones today have plenty of memory for music and video and ever-improving sound quality, and - unlike most MP3 players - can connect to the internet to download content. Not even the iPod is immune. Apple, which typically releases new versions of its pet "i" gadgets every year, has not updated the iPod Classic since September 2009.

- Sources: Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Cnet, Techlicious, The Guardian, The Globe & Mail, Electrolux Design Lab, TechDusts.

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