Jan. 1, 2013 at 6:27 AM ET
Although we’re not yet time traveling or commuting via hoverboard, we’ve made some impressive technological advances: Robot vacuums, refrigerators with apps, holographic celebrities. The future has indeed arrived. Wondering what’s around the corner? Here are some amazing trends you’ll begin to see more and more in 2013.
Trend No. 1: Mobile payments
We’re getting closer to being able to leave our wallets at home and pay for everything with our mobile phones. And the race is on to be the keeper of your new digital wallet.
What's now:Google Wallet stores your credit and debit cards on your phone and allows you to pay in-store at over 100,000 merchants by simply tapping your phone to a terminal by the register. Problem is, it uses a technology called NFC (Near-Field Communication) that isn’t available in many smartphones today.
What's coming: LevelUp is growing fast, cropping up at thousands of retailers and offers mobile payments with benefits. The LevelUp app creates a QR code (usable on a wide variety of phones) for each transaction, charging your card without exposing your numbers.
Just wave your phone at a LevelUp terminal and you’ve paid for that muffin. In case you’re worried about security, no credit card information is stored on the app at all and the whole thing can be disabled remotely if your phone is stolen.Plus, using LevelUp lets retailers offer you special discounts and loyalty rewards, so your morning muffin could earn you a free cup of coffee.
Also check out Wallaby, a single “smart” credit card which compiles all your credit and debit card information and automatically chooses the best card for each transaction. Carry Wallaby and leave the rest of your stack of plastic at home — you’ll never have to worry about deciphering all those confusing cash back, miles, or points rules.
Trend No. 2: Gesture-based user interfaces
First, there was click-and-drag. Then there was tap-and-swipe. Now, say hello to the wave-and-point. Soon, our bodies will the tools we use to interact with our devices.
What's now: Kinect for Xbox 360 allows users to select games, movies and more by hand-waving at the Kinect camera. It’s fun if you’re doing the Dougie in a dancing game, but for selecting items on a menu it’s still pretty tough to control.
What's coming: The Samsung MV900F, a camera that uses gestures to help you get in the shot. Put your camera on a tripod or prop it on a table; hand motions help you zoom in and out, as well as take the picture.
Also check out Leap, an iPod-sized box that enables gesture-controls on your desktop or laptop. Surprisingly accurate whether you’re answering emails or playing games, and it’s available for pre-order now.
Trend No. 3: Technology you wear
We may carry our phones with us all the time, but now we’re about to start wearing our devices outside of the pocket. Technology is literally being woven into the fabric of our clothes.
What's now:We’ve adapted to the idea of sharing quite a bit through social media; now small recording devices are documenting everything visually. Looxcie features live video streaming (just remember to turn it off when you go to the bathroom!). There’s also the Contour, a small, mountable camera which can stream live video to your phone, also turning your phone into a remote for stopping/starting. And, naturally, it’s super easy to share youvnLOP:>?r footage across all your social networks.
What's coming:Memoto is a tiny “lifelogging” camera that can be pinned on your collar and takes photos every 30 seconds. Autographer is also a wearable camera. It uses an algorithm to select candid or “unseen” moments, resulting in a surprising mix that you can also turn into stop-motion videos.
Although the idea of wearing a watch may seem like a step backward, it’s not. Keep your eye on Pebble, a customizable watch with its own helpful apps plus a Bluetooth connection to your iPhone or Android, providing you with updates (emails, Facebook notifications, weather alerts).
An even more advanced fashion statement would be the tshirtOS, the “world’s first programmable t-shirt,” which features a teeny-tiny camera and microphone, controlled by your mobile. There’s also a customizable, light-up LED screen for added fun. This product is still in prototype form, but you can voice your support on Facebook to make it a reality.
Trend No. 4: 'The Internet of things'
Increasingly, we’re seeing physical products embedded with sensors, giving us the ability to communicate with our cars, coffee makers, even our pets. Ever wondered what your cat is up to during the day? Get ready to find out.
What's now: Nike+ iPod Sensor tucks into your shoe and revamps your workout. Statistics on your run (like calories burned, distance traveled, steps taken), are delivered to your iPhone as you run and the info is sharable with a virtual community of supportive runners.
What's coming:Hue by Philips, a personal wireless lighting system you can control remotely with your phone. Imagine dimming the lights (or even changing their color) without leaving the couch.
There’s also Twine, a set of small wireless sensors that lets you digitally monitor practically everything in your home: Place a moisture-sensitive sensor in your basement and instantly know if there’s a flood. Put a temperature-sensitive sensor in the baby’s room, and monitor the temperature during naptime from your office. Or put a movement sensor on your pantry door and know exactly when the cookie was stolen from the cookie jar. The possibilities are endless.
So now that you know what’s in store for 2013, there’s no better time than the present to start planning for tomorrow.
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Carley Knobloch is a personal tech expert and host of Digitwirl.com. Carley scours the Web to find gadgets and apps that make managing life a little easier. Her Webby-nominated show "Digitwirl" offers up bite-sized tech tips and gadgets that save time and money. Carley also decodes social media on eHow's Tech channel and "The Ricki Lake Show." She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, two kids, a springer spaniel, and myriad tablets.