THE FU­TURE HAS LANDED

Hot Press - - Critical Mass -

Af­ter a year of pres­i­den­tial lunacy in Amer­ica, fake news, Rus­sian med­dling, hack­ing scan­dals, in­va­sive apps, and the an­ni­hi­la­tion of our last shred of em­pa­thy on so­cial me­dia, who knows what hi­lar­ity hu­man evo­lu­tion has in store for 2018.

Maybe we should look to Black Mir­ror to pre­dict events for the year ahead. Char­lie se­ries, could have har­vested story ideas at this month’s Con­sumer Elec­tronic Show (CES) track­ers for horses and un­der­pants that pro­tect wear­ers from smart­phone ra­di­a­tion.

Along­side 8K TVs and con­cept elec­tric cars, there was a CX-1 smart suit­case that fol­lows its owner at 7mph us­ing cam­era recog­ni­tion. Whether or not the suit­case will tire of trail­ing you in a busy air­port, and piss off to a ro­bot bar in­stead, re­mains to be seen.

Half­way through CES, a power-cut left at­ten­dees bump­ing into each other in the cav­ernous con­ven­tion cen­tre. Tech­nol­ogy changes lives – just don’t bet your life on it.

PHONES

Along­side the talk­ing toi­lets and ro­bot dogs, smart­phones didn’t get much of a look in at CES. 2018 prom­ises a num­ber of no­table launches, in­clud­ing a new hand­set from HTC, Ap­ple’s iPhone 9, and the next it­er­a­tion in the Sam­sung se­ries.

Chi­nese tech com­pany Vivo have sent smart­phone man­u­fac­tur­ers rac­ing back to the draw­ing board with its new Vivo phone, which fea­tures a fin­ger­print scan­ner built into the screen’s dis­play, rather than us­ing a tra­di­tional fin­ger­print but­ton.

Sony is launch­ing three smart­phones in its Xpe­ria se­ries: XA2, XA2 Ul­tra and L2. Each phone fea­tures a cam­era that can shoot 8MP self­ies at 120-de­grees. The wide an­gle al­lows you to in­clude more en­vi­ron­ment, friends (and photo-bombers).

Red, which pro­duces cam­eras for film and tele­vi­sion, is re­leas­ing its first phone. Red Hy­dro­gen has a 7” screen with holo­graphic dis­play modes. Hy­dro­gen might be the light­est el­e­ment on the pe­ri­odic ta­ble, but the cost of these phones weigh heavy.

CAM­ERAS

2018 is shap­ing up to be a big year for cam­eras. From the new and in­no­va­tive ( Google Clips, an AI-pow­ered, 12-megapixel cam­era) to up­dated ver­sions of pro­fes­sional DSLRs ( Canon EOS 5D X, Nikon D5S). One no­table an­nounce­ment at this year’s CES was Pana­sonic’s Lu­mix GH5S hy­brid mir­ror­less cam­era, which de­liv­ers the best video im­age qual­ity in a Lu­mix cam­era. GH5S shoots 4K 60/50p record­ing in Cin­ema 4K (4096 x 2160).

LAP­TOPS

Razer might sound like a hard­core band from Palo Alto, but the brand is one of the more in­no­va­tive com­puter man­u­fac­tur­ers on the mar­ket. Af­ter sculpt­ing eye-catch­ing PC desk­top gam­ing rigs and triple-screen lap­tops in the past, Razer has un­leashed a lap­top pow­ered by a mo­bile phone. Razer’s Project Linda is un­like tra­di­tional In­tel-pow­ered PCs. The lap­top fea­tures a dock­ing port for a Razer Phone. Slot the phone in­side, then use it as a touch­pad for the lap­top’s 13.3” dis­play. This con­cept lap­top fea­tures a back­lit key­board, a built-in power bank to charge the phone while ported, and 200GB of in­ter­nal stor­age.

Acer has Franken­steined a lap­top as thin as a smart­phone. Ace Swift 7, which mea­sures 8.98mm in girth, has a 1920 x 1080 res touch screen dis­play. Fac­tor in an In­tel i7 pro­ces­sor, 8GB RAM and 256 stor­age, and this spindly de­vices (out in April) punches above its weight.

Acer also flaunt an up­dated Chrome­book 11 at CES 2018.

Other tech brands have slimmed for Jan­uary. Dell reckon that its new XPS 13 is the small­est 13” lap­top in the world. The edge-to-edge screen has a 4K dis­play, ditch­ing the USB-A socket in favour of three USB-Cs. The XPS 13 comes with In­tel’s lat­est 8th Gen Core i5 and i7 quad­core pro­ces­sors, and has be­tween four to 16GB of mem­ory and up to 1TB of stor­age, de­pend­ing on which ver­sion you choose. Dell reckon the lap­top has 19 hours of bat­tery time: a con­tender for best travel lap­top of 2018 per­haps?

HP is mak­ing ri­vals, um, en­vi­ous of its Envy lap­tops. HP Envy x2, un­veiled in Ve­gas, is a lap­top-tablet 2-in-1 con­coc­tion, pow­ered by a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 835. The de­vice will be avail­able in 4GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB mod­els.

HP’s other con­vert­ible, Spec­tre 15x360, hits the shelves in March. This lap­top-tablet hy­brid fea­tures a 15.6” touch­screen 4K dis­play and sup­ports HP’s tilt pen sty­lus. You’ll get 13.5 hours out of the bat­tery, ac­cord­ing to the mar­ket­ing peo­ple in HP, and the de­vice’s Fast Charge tech­nol­ogy brings the juice back 50 per cent within 30 min­utes.

Other brands drop­ping de­vices at CES 2018 in­cluded Len­ovo, who an­nounced the Snap­dragon-pow­ered Len­ovo Miix 630, por­ta­ble

2-in-1. LG, mean­while, kept up with this year’s slim­ming fad with its new range of LG Gram lap­tops.

GAD­GETS

Tech trends come and go. 2018 prom­ises to be the year of the vir­tual as­sis­tant. Right now, Google ap­pears to be lead­ing the way with Ama­zon and Ap­ple in hot pur­suit.

Last year vir­tual re­al­ity head­sets made every­one look like we were au­di­tion­ing for a job in Daft Punk. VR still has a grip on our reti­nas as HTC re­leases a new Vive Pro for 2018, up­dat­ing the orig­i­nal ver­sion with built-in head­phones and an im­proved dis­play res­o­lu­tion. Len­ovo’s Mi­rage Solo doesn’t re­quire a smart­phone. The tech is built-in.

AU­DIO

Af­ter wow­ing au­dio­philes in 2017 with prod­ucts such as the BeoPlay P2 por­ta­ble blue­tooth speaker, B&O Play is back in the sad­dle this year with H9i head­phones, fea­tur­ing en­hanced noise-can­cel­la­tion and a prox­im­ity sen­sor that turns off mu­sic when you re­move the cans from your skull. B&O is also launch­ing Google As­sis­tant speak­ers in

2018.

LG and Sony are also bow­ing at the feet of Google’s As­sis­tant. LG with its Smart ThinQ speaker; Sony with a range of in-ear head­phones that sup­port As­sis­tant.

Mean­while, Sony is spit­ting up an ear­ful of Dolby with its new range of sound­bars, HTZ9F and HT-X9000F, for sur­round cin­ema-es­que au­dio.

Sam­sung also plans to make sweet mu­sic with its NW700 Sound+ sound­bar.

Tele­vi­sions

LG’s new OLED and Su­per UHD LED TVs will be equipped with voice recog­ni­tion and cater for Google As­sis­tant. Other boxes on dis­play at this month’s CES in­cluded Pana­sonic’s FZ950 and FZ800 new OLED mod­els, avail­able in 55 and 65-inch sizes. Sam­sung is ru­moured to be drop­ping (not lit­er­ally; they’re not The Rolling Stones circa 1972) an 8K tele­vi­sion later in the year. Mean­while, Bravia is launch­ing its A8F telly.

Con­nected homes

Now that toi­lets, ket­tles, win­dows and wash basins are be­ing in­te­grated with smart tech­nol­ogy, we can ex­pect our de­vices to start con­spir­ing against us in 2018. This year her­alds an avalanche of prod­ucts that jump to at­ten­tion when we bark or­ders. Sam­sung’s WW6850N wash­ing ma­chine cleans clothes 35% faster than its ri­vals. Hive View, a smart in­door cam­era, of­fers peace of mind. You can set up this cam­era to live-stream your home while you’re out, ac­cess­ing the cam­era (and its recorded his­tory) through a Hive app. The cam­era de­tects in­trud­ers, but sadly won’t elec­tro­cute them like R2D2.

In a sign that the ro­bot revo­lu­tion is still in its teething stages, one of the high­lights of CES 2018 was when LG’s VP of mar­ket­ing tried to il­licit a re­sponse from Cloi, LG’s home-help­ing ro­bot. The digital but­ler, how­ever, re­mained tightlipped and non-com­mit­tal.

WITH PAVEL BART ER This page top: the Vive VR head­set it with the best.

Op­po­site page top: the Razer Project Linda and be­low, B&O's head­phones

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