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Friday, November 6, 2009

5 New Technologies That Will Change Everything

PC World just ran an article about 5 New Technologies That Will Change Everything that's interesting enough to have a bit excerpted. These technologies are either here already or just around the corner, but it looks like they'll make an impact on our everyday digital lives.

USB 3.0 - The 3.0 revision of USB, dubbed SuperSpeed by the folks who control testing and licensing at the USB Implementors Forum (USB-IF), is on track to deliver more than 3.2 gigabits per second (gbps) of actual throughput. That transfer rate will make USB 3.0 five to ten times faster than most other standard desktop peripheral standards.

In addition, USB 3.0 can shoot full-speed data in both directions at the same time, an upgrade from 2.0's "half duplex" (one direction at a time) rates. USB 3.0 jacks will accept 1.0 and 2.0 plug ends for backward compatibility, but 3.0 cables will work only with 3.0 jacks.

This technology could be a game-changer for device connectivity. A modern desktop computer today may include jacks to accommodate ethernet, USB 2.0, FireWire 400 or 800 (IEEE 1394a or 1394b) or both, DVI or DisplayPort or both, and — on some — eSATA. USB 3.0 could eliminate all of these except ethernet. In their place, a computer may have several USB 3.0 ports, delivering data to monitors, retrieving it from scanners, and exchanging it with hard drives. The improved speed comes at a good time, as much-faster flash memory drives are in the pipeline.

USB 3.0 is fast enough to allow uncompressed 1080p video (currently our highest-definition video format) at 60 frames per second, says Jeff Ravencraft, president and chair of the USB-IF. That would enable a camcorder to forgo video compression hardware and patent licensing fees for MPEG-4. The user could either stream video live from a simple camcorder (with no video processing required) or store it on an internal drive for later rapid transfer; neither of these methods is feasible today without heavy compression. Citing 3.0's versatility, some analysts see the standard as a possible complement--or even alternative — to the consumer HDMI connection found on today's Blu-ray players.

The new USB flavor could also turn computers into real charging stations. Whereas USB 2.0 can produce 100 milliamperes (mA) of trickle charge for each port, USB 3.0 ups that quantity to 150mA per device. USB 2.0 tops out at 500mA for a hub; the maximum for USB 3.0 is 900mA.

Video Streaming Over Wi-Fi - Wired ethernet has consistently achieved higher data speeds than Wi-Fi, but wireless standards groups are constantly trying to figure out ways to help Wi-Fi catch up. By 2012, two new protocols — 802.11ac and 802.11ad — should be handling over-the-air data transmission at 1 gbps or faster.

As a result, future users can have multiple high-definition video streams and gaming streams active across a house and within a room. Central media servers, Blu-ray players, and other set-top boxes can sit anywhere in the home, streaming content to end devices in any location. For example, an HD video display, plugged in with just a power cord, can stand across the room from a Blu-ray player, satellite receiver, or computer — no need for expensive, unsightly cables.

3-D Television - When television makers introduced HDTVs, it was inevitable that they would figure out a way to render the technology obsolete not long after everyone bought a set. And they have. The next wave in home viewing is 3DTV — a 2-D picture with some stereoscopic depth.

As 3D filmmaking and film projection technology have improved, Hollywood has begun building a (still small) library of depth-enhanced movies. The potential to synthesize 2-D movies into 3-D could feed demand, however — the way colorizing technology increased interest in black-and-white films in some circles in the 1980s. For movies based on computer animation — such as Toy Story 3D, a newly rendered version of the first two movies in the series — it's already happening.

Augmented Reality In Mobile Devices - Augmented reality is a catchall term for overlaying what we see with computer-generated contextual data or visual substitutions. The point of the technology is to enhance our ability to interact with things around us by providing us with information immediately relevant to those things.

At work, you might walk around the office and see the name and department of each person you pass painted on them — along with a graphical indicator showing what tasks you owe them or they owe you. Though many case scenarios involve “heads-up” displays embedded in windshields or inside eyeglasses, the augmented reality we have today exists primarily on the “heads-down” screens of smartphones.

Several companies have released programs that overlay position- and context-based data onto a continuous video camera feed. The data comes from various radios and sensors built into modern smartphones, including GPS radios (for identifying position by satellite data), accelerometers (for measuring changes in speed and orientation), and magnetometers (for finding position relative to magnetic north).

HTML 5 - Remember when every Website had a badge that read "optimized for Netscape Navigator" or "requires Internet Explorer 4"? In the old days, people made Web pages that worked best with — or only with — certain browsers. To some extent, they still do.

The new flavor of the HTML — the standard program for writing Web pages — is called HTML5 (Hypertext Markup Language version 5); and HTML5 aims to put that practice to bed for good.

Specifically, HTML5 may do away with the need for audio, video and interactive plug-ins. It will allow designers to create Web sites that work essentially the same on every browser — whether on a desktop, a laptop or a mobile device — and it will give users a better, faster, richer Web experience.

Instead of leaving each browser maker to rely on a combination of its in-house technology and third-party plug-ins for multimedia, HTML5 requires that the browser have built-in methods for audio, video and 2D graphics display. Patent and licensing issues cloud the question of which audio and video formats will achieve universal support, but companies have plenty of motivation to work out those details.

In turn, Web site designers and Web app developers won't have to deal with multiple incompatible formats and workarounds in their efforts to create the same user experience in every browser.

This is an especially valuable advance for mobile devices, as their browsers today typically have only limited multimedia support. The iPhone’s Safari browser, for example, doesn't handle Adobe Flash — even though Flash is a prime method of delivering video content across platforms and browsers.

Check out the full article for more complete explanations of each technology.


David Moss said...


Thanks for your insights on new technologies. While I'm a big fan of the promise of HTML5, the reality will likely be that Microsoft will not adhere to HTML5, instead adding its own quirks to Internet Explorer. Given that it's still the dominant browser, it will be a while before developers can code to one standard.

Anonymous said...

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