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I’m Being Sealed in Carbonite Like Han Solo

Happy New Year and all that jazz… but I want to get right down to business today.

In a matter of hours, I’ll be jetting off to Las Vegas. Not for gambling and general debauchery… Instead, I’m getting sealed inside a carbonite cube like Hans Solo in Return of the Jedi.

But unlike Han Solo, I won’t be in there alone…

Besides myself, this invitation-only cube will host a few other pre-selected tech analysts, and a slew of new consumer technologies.

So in the spirit of new innovation, I’d like to focus on a couple of the most fascinating emerging technologies that I’m sure to find inside. Technologies that are about to disrupt the entire consumer marketplace…

Han Solo Tech #1: Can You “Wear” Me Now?

Amid all the fashionable predictions for 2014, let me add one of my own: This will be the “Year of the Wearables.”

Wearable technology, that is.

There’s no question that wearable tech is a major emerging trend that’s only set to grow from here. In fact, it’s poised to break out significantly this year, especially when it comes to health and fitness.

But be warned… you’ll need to prepare yourself for two unavoidable things:

  1. Get used to the term “wearables” – it will become a major part of the consumer lexicon.
  2. You’ll be wearing technology in places that your wildest dreams never imagined. Forget clip-on devices or bracelets… 2014 will introduce you to smart socks and gym shirts with nanotechnology woven directly into the fibers. We’ll even see smart bras!

At CES, we’ll see a boatload of wearable devices introduced in just about every consumer category. But there’s nothing more eagerly awaited than Google Glass…

Okay Glass, What Do You Actually Do?

The tech world is tripping over itself to get its hands on these titanium-framed wearable computers. At the moment, the device is just a prototype, with only a few thousand beta testers in the world.

I’m one of them…


This is the “Explorer Edition” of Google Glass – only intended for developers and early testers. Here’s what I’ve found with Glass so far…

  • It takes photos and videos…
  • It sends text messages…
  • It makes phone calls…
  • It searches Google…
  • It gives you turn-by-turn navigation with maps…
  • It shows the weather, gives the time, and reads headline summaries from The New York Times.
  • It can launch a Google Hangout

Some of the features require tethering. Others, like Google Hangouts and Google Search, can be performed over Wi-Fi. When offline, Glass only takes photos and videos.

While Glass isn’t quite ready for everyday folks just yet, expect to see a more consumer-friendly Glass hit the stores sometime this year.

Han Solo Tech #2: The Steam Machine

Augmented reality is the next wave in gaming technology.

The concept itself is already soaring in popularity – and no viable product has even hit the marketplace yet!

But once devices like the Oculus Rift – a virtual reality, head-mounted display – finally launch this year, gaming technology will never be the same again.

So what’s a company to do if it wants to compete with the likes of Oculus Rift?

Enter, Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of Valve Corporation, the video game developers responsible for gangbuster games like Half-Life, Portal, Team Fortress and the digital distribution platform, “Steam.”

Newell is one of the richest guys on the planet, with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion. That ranks him 854th out of 1,226 global billionaires. But he’s not done yet.

Newell and his team at Valve have an ambitious strategy for reinventing the videogame console.

It’s called Steambox.

Steambox is a “living room gaming PC” that consolidates all your gaming and computing needs into one hub.

It’s also completely revamping gaming controllers. The company’s idea evolved from one trackpad into two trackpads, which then evolved into a controller with one giant touch surface.

In addition, the entire shape of the controller is concave so the fleshy base of a user’s thumbs won’t interfere with the touchpads.

Valve wanted to put biometric sensors into the controller, but soon discovered that since hands are always moving around, they’re not a good source of biofeedback. So instead, it added tiny solenoid actuators to give users haptic feedback. In layman’s terms, it means you feel a buzz on your finger when you push a button. How You Feeling? Valve Knows…

Valve also plans to release a virtual reality headset this year that will measure your body’s reaction to games at the earlobe. The device will know when you’re scared or excited and will adjust the experience to match your emotion.

The company has also released a beta version of the operating system, and even shipped prototypes to a few happy gamers for testing.

Expect more details – including an unveiling of new models – at Valve’s CES press conference on Monday. Check out Valve’s “Big Picture” with Steam below…

As I mentioned, I’ll be in the thick of the action at CES 2014 to hear from Valve and a host of other tech companies behind today’s hottest trends who are showcasing their innovations at the event.

And naturally, I’ll bring you all the stories right here in upcoming columns. If you can’t wait till then, you can catch all the very latest Consumer Electronic Show 2014 content in my live posts from the scene. Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page too…

Your eyes in the Pipeline,

Marty Biancuzzo

Marty Biancuzzo

, Technology Analyst

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