2012’s Biggest Tech Hits and Misses
The home technologies that made it big … and not so big in 2012, and what you should expect to see in 2013.
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December 26, 2012 by EH Staff

MISSES

Hard-buttoned Remotes

A bevy of buttons clustered on a handheld remote … yuck. Who wants to do all that key tapping when you can swipe and pinch your way through your channel guide? The days of hard-buttoned remotes are coming to an end, as more and more clickers are incorporating interactive touchpanels for control over every piece of A/V gear—plus maybe even the lights and thermostats.

Dedicated Home Control Touchpanels

Speaking of touchpanels, these cool, sleek displays commonly used to command the lights, thermostats and other electronic gear in your home are also going by the wayside, replaced by… you guessed it … the iPhone, iPad and other touchy-feely mobile devices. There’s almost nothing these portable devices can’t do when loaded with the right apps. For the price of an iPad and a (sometimes free) app, you’re on complete control of your home — something that used to cost well over $500 to do with a dedicated home control touchpanel.

3D TV

We hate to bully 3D around, but it’s such an easy target. It came into the world with such promise and so many publicity campaigns, but consumers have greeted it with a sideways look and a shrug. From people being convinced that stereo imaging gives them brain tumors to simply being annoyed at the glasses, there are too many reasons for TV viewers to not want to bother. It’s true; prices for the sets have come down dramatically. You really can’t buy a non-3D TV unless you’re shopping for a budget 32-inch model. The bigger problem is that movie studios haven’t kept up their end of the bargain by offering 3D versions of movies we all want to watch.

Smart Appliances

Every year we wonder if smart appliances will make out of their test beds, and they don’t. Oh, there are a few connected and kind of smart appliances out there from LG, Samsung, GE, Wolf and Sub-Zero, but for smart appliances to truly take off and be able to cut their energy usage automatically, they need to be connected to a smart grid—and that’s still in development. We’re hoping that Smart Energy Protocol (SEP) 2.0, which should be finalized this year and makes it possible for utility data to be sent from a smart meter over a home’s network, will help spur rollouts of both the smart grid and smart appliances.

What’s in Store for 2013

• THE CLOUD. You may already be experimenting with cloud services, but next year we expect an increasing number of home electronics manufacturers to enable their products to be programmed, updated and managed via the cloud. You’ll need fewer and fewer hard drives at your house, as all your important information will be stored in a virtual locker where you can get at it anywhere, anytime. Read: The Future of Movie Servers and Services

• GESTURE & VOICE CONTROL. What once was considered a gimmick is making some real headway in the home. We’ve already seen TVs that can be operated via voice and gestures, and manufacturers of home control system are starting to add this functionality, too. Creative custom electronics (CE) professionals have even figured out a way to utilize the iPhone Siri app as a way to control a home’s lights,A/V equipment and other gear. 2013 might be the year command via voice and gesture finally starts to get real.

• OLED TVS. OLED TVs and the few variants of the technology are going to be exciting to look for in 2013. In 2012 we were teased with a few prototypes that made videophiles drool. The perfect black levels and vibrant colors looked better than real life. Plus, the TVs are as thin as comic books. In 2013 expect to see more actual shipping models and larger sizes. Just don’t expect them to be priced less than a compact car. Read Understanding OLED TV.

• 4K. Where 3D failed, 4K has a real chance of catching on, and based on the prototypes shown at the fall CEATEC expo in Japan, there will be many more options from which to choose. Already Sony and LG have 4K TVs for sale. Sharp, Toshiba, Samsung and Panasonic can’t be far behind. 4K displays will allow you to put a larger screen in a smaller room, and who doesn’t want that? The format should also be a boon for 3D because you can have full 1080p for each eye with passive polarized glass. Just don’t hold your breath for 4K content.
Read our review of the very first 4K TV here.

• WIRELESS HDMI. Who needs pesky wires when you can do it wirelessly? This year we started to see more and more wireless HDMI products like those from Belkin, DVDO, Gefen, Knoll Systems and others, some of which operate in the 5GHz spectrum rather than the crowded and interference-prone 2.4GHz zone. And with OLED TVs that are millimeters thin, there may not even be room for video inputs. Wireless HDMI that can deliver 1080p to your screen is the answer. It’s already here, it works, and we’re bound to see more and more of it.

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