It’s safe to say 2012 has been a fruitful year for technology, and it’s not likely that things will slow down through 2013. In fact, 2013 looks to be intense, tech-wise: The industry will likely continue to shift and change, hardware manufacturers will engage in price wars, the competition between tablets will be ferocious, video games will become more portable, and the world will be more connected than ever.
Here are five likely technology trends for 2013.
Video game consoles continue to struggle – There’s still a place for dedicated video game consoles, but they’re going to continue to struggle against the competition thanks to the rising popularity of tablet games. Nintendo’s Wii U took a step in the right direction with its semi-portable tablet controller that lets the player experience games without having to hog the TV, but what do Sony and Microsoft have in store?
Tablets fight for dominance – Tablet computers are gradually replacing PCs and laptops, and computer manufacturers have certainly noticed. 2013 will usher in affordable new models designed to take on the iPad—and each other.
Games continue to move to portable platforms – On the topic of tablets, video games will continue to shift from home consoles to tablets, phones, and dedicated handheld systems. A strengthening game library and increased cross-compatibility with the PlayStation 3 should give the PlayStation Vita a boost, and the Nintendo 3DS will continue to do well with the help of Nintendo’s franchises.
Price wars – What happens when hardware manufacturers are desperate to get your attention in a market that’s humming with activity? Sales. Lots of them. Keep your eyes open for slashed prices on smartphones, tablets, and games—particularly downloadable games on the App Store, Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, and Nintendo’s networks.
More free Wi-Fi access at retail – Need to get out of the house, but not quite ready to detach yourself from the content feeding tube? No problem. More and more retail spaces, particularly restaurants and cafes, should have you covered with free Wi-Fi access. McDonalds and Starbucks already want you to hang out and surf over a latte—or a hamburger.
For more 2013 business trends, take a look at Gartner Inc’s 2013 trends.
As we fade out of 2012 and step up into 2013, we get to look forward to everything the new year will bring us: Prosperity, new chances, and tons of cool gadgets. As tech evolves, we’re granted new ways to work, rest, play, and even exercise.
Here are 10 of the best new gadgets for 2013.
Neural Impulse Actuator – Video games are still attempting to move away from the controller, and one of the latest attempts is the Neural Impulse Actuator. This headband streams your body’s biosignals directly into any PC game, negating the need for a computer or a mouse. That’s right: It is now possible to kill dragons with your mind.
HD media router – If you live in a house that swears by tech, you’re going to need an HD media router sooner than later. It allows multiple people in a household to play games, make VOIP calls, watch streaming movies, and lots more without glitches or lags.
TSir wristband charger – If you’re on the go a lot and you start to feel a little nervous when your phone drops to 40% battery power with no outlet in sight, you’re definitely going to want to consider getting the TSir wristband charger. It powers up almost every portable device that utilizes a USB connection, making it ideal for long trips and extended waits in a queue.
USB hubs – These days, USB hubs are as important as electrical outlets. Guess what: That demand is only going to grow. If you haven’t done so already, use a USB hub to split up one USB connection into several and plug in as many accessories as you want.
Wearable Video Cameras – Remember when you used to have to lug around a heavy camera to capture family memories? Not anymore. Wearable cameras like the GoPro HD Hero clip onto your person and leave your hands free. Said cameras are a particularly good option for extreme sports fiends looking to capture footage of their adventures.
Xbox Next/720 – We don’t know what Microsoft aims to call its follow-up to the Xbox 360, but the “Xbox 720” or “Xbox Next” are popular guesses. The Xbox 360 is nearly seven years old, and we’ll almost certainly hear more about its successor in 2013—if we don’t get to buy it outright. We don’t know what it’ll be like, but given Microsoft’s success in the hardware market, it’s hard not to be excited.
PlayStation 4 – Likewise, we don’t know what Sony has in mind for the PlayStation 4, but we can lay down bets that we’ll hear and/or see something in 2013. What features will the PlayStation 4 have? What lessons did Sony take away from the PlayStation 3’s slow start?
Wii U – Unlike the “PlayStation 4” or the “Xbox 720,” the Wii U is a tangible thing that you can play with. With its unique tablet controller, creative MiiVerse community, and the strength of Nintendo’s franchises, it’s going to be fun to see the Wii U come into its own through 2013.
Wireless Activity Tracker – If getting into shape is in the cards for 2013, you might want to invest in a wireless activity tracker. These devices keep tabs on your exercise regime, including distance, pace, and calories burned. Some models also alert you when you’ve reached your daily goal.
Camelbak’s All-Clear Water Bottle – If you spend a lot of time outdoors, then you already know that public water fountains dish out some mysterious-tasting fare, and bottled water isn’t great for the environment. Consider Camelbak’s All-Clear Water Bottle, which makes tap water or natural water more potable within 60 seconds.
We’ve looked earlier at the top-level overview of online virtual worlds, and how they’re essentially social networks but with a greater focus on graphics. We’ve also previously examined a few of the common concerns parents have about their kids taking part in these. So to make sure all modern parents and interested parties have a solid understanding of what’s at play here, here’s a look at the most common characteristics of virtual worlds via a handy MMOs and online gaming dictionary, which provides a guide to popular in-game terms.
AVATARS: This is the virtual representation of your character onscreen, and is something that players can highly customize. Usually, when you first play a virtual world, you can tweak many of the basics of your appearance, but as you play more, you’ll earn special items and upgrades that can be used to enhance or change your avatar’s appearance.
BETA: This is a term used by video game developers to indicate that a product is not quite final yet and is still in the testing phases. This doesn’t mean it’s not accessible to the public though. The beta phase of a virtual world usually means that they are still doing lots of tinkering with how things will work, and they may make drastic changes still based on how everything is being used.
CHAT: This is a key feature in online virtual worlds, as it’s one of the more obvious ways that users who are habituating the same online space can communicate one another. Any reputable online virtual world will have chat safeguards in place such as pre-scripted chat, safe chat, whitelisted users, blacklisted words as well as restrictions on just who others can chat with.
CURRENCY: Most online virtual worlds contain some sort of in-game currency which allow users to buy items or upgrades for their dwelling or avatar. Whether it’s called Rox in Moshi Monsters, Taro in FusionFall or simply Coins as found in a number of destinations, this currency is earned not only by playing games and collecting items in world, but often is given as a reward for logging in daily in the form of bonus mini-games.
EMOTE: Emotes are ways that players can communicate with others in the game world without chatting. In essence, they’re short animations for characters. So it could be a happy dance, a laugh, a cheer, and they’re all prompted by a simple button press. Emotes let players either act silly or do some basic virtual body-language without needing to chat.
FRIENDS: Friends in the game world are generally different than friends in real-life, although for younger kids it’s good to keep friend relationships restricted to those that are already known to them, and older kids may actually derive more enjoyment from online experiences if doing them with online friends. Friends in virtual worlds are usually defined by mutual acceptance, although characters can friend any other avatar they come across in hopes to expand their list. Again, just because your friends in a virtual world doesn’t mean you’ve ever met in real life.
MEMBERSHIP: Although most virtual worlds offer at least some basic, enjoyable free-to-play experiences, nearly all offer premium memberships which provide, for an additional monthly or yearly subscription fee, access to extra areas, games, items and more within the game. If your kids dabble in virtual worlds, be prepared for the inevitable please for membership, which can run anywhere from around $5 per month to more than $75 per year.
MODERATORS: Moderators are humans that participate and monitor virtual worlds and their chat functionality to not only assist users who need help, but also to deal with any players that are exhibiting negative or troubling behavior. Moderators may be secretly roaming the world as a player character, or be on the ready should inappropriate chat get flagged by the system or by other users.
REPORTING: Although moderators are on hand, it’s important for players to realize the power they have to report negative behavior or other game issues to the game’s developers. Although it’s easy to block other users and then report their behavior, players are also encouraged to report any problems or bugs they see so the developers can fix them. This is especially true of games that are in beta versions.
SERVERS: Each server represents a separate instance of a game world, so for some of the more popular online games that have multiple server options available, essentially each server represents a parallel universe. It’s important to note the name of the server you’re playing on, especially if you are trying to meet any of your friends online. If you choose to play on different servers, you won’t be able to play together in the virtual world.
With a basic understanding of the concepts, concerns and key terms for virtual worlds under your belt, you’re likely ready for some specific recommendations. Next up is our look at some of our favorite online virtual worlds for kids.