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Consumer Tech Releases 2020

Even smarter smartphones

A global 5G network, offering more reliable internet connections and blisteringly fast download speeds, is drawing nearer. With the arrival of 5G comes the next generation of 5G-compatible smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G and Apple’s iPhone 12. The S10 boasts 3D facial scanning and cutting-edge multimedia editing technology. The latest iPhone iteration will see the usual bells and whistles given a nip and tuck with greater memory, a triple-lens camera and an organic light-emitted diode (OLED) screen among the improvements.

Mind-reading hat

Neuro-technology start-up, NextMind, is releasing a wearable sensor that will allow users to control devices with the power of thought alone. The lightweight, “non-invasive” device sits on the back of the head and scans neural signals passing across the wearer’s visual cortex. Machine learning algorithms then decode the information and translate it into commands. It’s being released as part of a package geared towards video gaming but this revolutionary brain-computer interface offers the prospect of real-time, gesture-free interaction with any device connected to the Internet of Things.

Invisible car bonnet

Continental has developed a “Transparent Hood” system which gives drivers a clear view of the ground directly in front of and below their vehicle. Images from four cameras are digitally stitched together to form a coherent picture which gives the impression of the car bonnet being see-through. When the vehicle slows down, the on-board screen displays this projection. It will allow drivers to navigate rugged terrain more safely and avoid damage to their vehicle when parking or negotiating high curbs.

Ultra HD TV

Samsung, Sony and LG are all preparing to unveil the latest in ultra-high definition TV screens with a resolution width of 8000 pixels, twice the number of current models. A sea of minuscule dots will provide sumptuous detail and depth, ushering in a new visual standard for TV viewing. One drawback is the current lack of 8K content. Until broadcasters catch up, the screens will use deep-learning artificial intelligence to upscale 4K and HD images to the higher resolution. Expect exquisite definition and eye-watering price tags.

Laser-guided cars

Chinese firm, RoboSense, is pioneering LiDAR technology which underpins the navigation of self-driving cars. The company is set to release a ‘Smart LiDAR Sensor’ which uses pulsed lasers rather than radio waves to build a 360-degree virtual map of a vehicle’s surroundings. This will allow vehicles to better detect and interpret hazards as they come into view. German competitor Blickfeld is releasing two new smaller, simpler LiDAR devices which will be easier for car manufacturers to integrate into new models. Costs are reducing all the time, making it likely that these devices will soon be incorporated into intelligent vehicles as standard.

3D cameras

Apple’s new iPad Pro will feature a rear-facing, 3D-sensing camera working in tandem with two front-facing wide-angle lenses. The camera employs a “time-of-flight” system which measures the time it takes for light to bounce off objects in order to digitally reconstruct buildings, rooms and people. This will allow for changes to be made to focal depth and the angles of light sources as you’re taking the photo. The innovation will further reduce the narrowing quality gap between smartphone and professional photography. The release is part of the firm’s big push into augmented reality products with AR glasses and a virtual reality headset just around the corner.

Intelligent lock

A new smart lock from PassiveBolt will go on sale in the next few months. The “Shepherd Lock” has won an industry innovation award and promises to revolutionise home security. Instead of employing less reliable fingerprint technology, the lock uses an electronic key that can take the form of a physical fob or be digitally stored on a phone. The smart lock self-monitors 24/7. When lock-picking or tampering is detected the door is automatically dead-bolted. The homeowner is immediately informed through a secure mobile app which can also be used to monitor who has gone in and out of the property and at what time.

Next generation watches

A flagship smartwatch release from Google will mark its latest foray into the burgeoning wearable tech market. The Pixel Watch is rumoured to incorporate a cutting-edge, ultra-low power chip produced by the semiconductor giant Qualcomm, which will significantly improve connectivity and battery life. It will be like having a smartphone on your wrist, with wearers able to make payments, use Google Maps, monitor their fitness and check their diaries without reaching into their pocket. Microsoft, which has struggled to break into the wearables market, is also thought to be testing a prototype of a business-oriented, highly durable smartwatch.