15 biggest tech trends of 2011

The 15 things that are going to make us jump and shout this year

According to the plot of Aeon Flux we’re all going to be wiped out by a virus in 2011. Doubtful. But the sci-fi film might have got something right: that the world would be ruled by a congress of scientists. If this year’s emerging gadgetry is anything to go by, that’s an idea that gets our vote. Here are the 15 things set to rock the world of tech this year…

We’ll see flatscreen 3DTVs… without glasses

Ask the man in the street what he thinks of 3DTV and he’ll grumble a bit about the price, before grumbling a lot about the glasses. All the big manufacturers are developing 3D that works without the silly face furniture. Notably, Sony has demoed a glasses-free 3DTV with no restrictive viewing angles, while Toshiba has promised to bring its version to market sometime after April this year.

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Phones will double up as netbooks

The age of dual-core smartphones (or superphones) is here. They’re powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip – a Cortex A9 processor working alongside GeForce graphics to make a powerful computer. LG’s Optimus 2X was first out of the gate, followed by Motorola’s Atrix, which will dock into your TV to output smooth 1080p or into a laptop-shaped dock to turn your phone into a full-on multitalking netbook.

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Photography is going old-school

That’s not to say we’re all going to start using 35mm film again. But while modernising the imaging tech inside the body, the camera designers are harking back to photography’s golden age on the outside. Consider Fujifilm’s X100 (pictured), with its rugged, muscular charm, or Polaroid’s gorgeous Grey Label GL30.

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Everything will have apps

This may not come as a massive surprise, but the app revolution isn’t stopping at your phone, TV, tablet and laptop. 2011 will be remembered as the year even cars and ovens got their own apps. Probably not iFart, mind. But you’ll be able to demist the windscreen while you’re eating breakfast and have messages sent to you when the soufflé’s ready.

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Home movies will enter the third dimension

Why? Because they can. And because YouTube supports 3D and has been begging for some decent, affordable kit to arrive to encourage punters to start shooting in 3D. Sony’s making an early sprint for this category with its HDR-TD10 (pictured) and Bloggie 3D. But there will be more. Many more.

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Your hi-fi will ditch its wires for AirPlay

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a newish kid on the streaming media block – Apple. And the company’s AirPlay tech is now finding its way into some big-name hi-fi. B&W’s new Zeppelin Air (pictured) leads a charge that includes Klipsch, Denon and Marantz (the latter two manufacturers’ devices can – in some cases – get AirPlay functionality via a software upgrade). Considering Apple’s ongoing dominance of portable audio and the ubiquity of iTunes, AirPlay’s in for a big year.

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Mobile computing is getting a new face

Lines are becoming blurred in portable computing. Currently, the fog is coming down between tablets and laptops. Asus’ Android Honeycomb Eee Pad Slider (pictured) and Transformer started blowing the smoke, followed swiftly by Samsung’s TX100 running Windows 7. But what do we call them? Tabtops?

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Musicians will become headphone designers (even the dead ones)

Oh, Monster and Dr Dre – what have you done? Signeo Soul by Ludacris and Sleek by 50 Cent (pictured) are already bouncing to the Beats groove, while Monster is trumpeting its new Miles Davis-inspired earwear. Bob Marley’s new signature range has its own brand (in your face, Dre). You can see them all here. Right, who’s next?

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Non-Apple tablets will make their mark

Tablets running Google’s phone OS have had an inauspicious introduction to the world. Apart from Samsung’s 7in Galaxy Tab, they’ve largely failed to impress. But that’s because they were running on software designed for mobiles. Android Honeycomb, debuted on Motorola's Xoom, is a tablet-only reboot of the OS and – from what we’ve seen so far – it could revolutionise the tablet marketplace. BlackBerry’s PlayBook and HP’s webOS-based tablet could also be contenders.

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The hybrid phone-tablet will carve itself a niche

Phone screens over 4in are no longer novelties. Meanwhile the likes of Dell’s 5in Streak – claiming to be tablets – are encroaching on mobile phone turf. Both of 2011’s first dual-core smartphones, LG’s Optimus Black and Motorola’s Atrix, have four-inchers and more smarts than your average tablet. Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc has 4.2in of glass. If these things are planning to establish themselves as a category, they’re going to need a name. Pholet? Moblet? Tabile? Oh, we give up…

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TV is going to box clever

You might think your TV’s already pretty smart, but it’s about to meet the maths club – a generation of TVs that browse the web, flitting between live TV, YouTube, on-demand video, download stores, apps and network streaming. Plus, they’ll search the whole lot at once, so scrabbling around trying to find a DVD that’s gone in the wrong box will seem positively Stone Age. LG wants to help your TV feel less stupid with its Smart TV Upgrader. Expect more to follow.

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Near Field Communication (NFC) will become indispensible

There’s nothing new about NFC, but in an age of super-smart, super-fast phones, it has the potential to become much more fun, and useful on a day-to-day basis. It could replace your keyring and wallet or let you check in on Foursquare with a quick knock. Google’s Nexus S is spearheading the movement, and while it might take a while to get going you can expect to see movie posters automatically loading movie trailers to your phone before the year is through.

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Cars will become big gadgets with wheels

Electric cars are still fighting their way into the mainstream, but motoring is about to get much more techy. Chevrolet is building antennae into the body of its 2011 Camaro, while BMWs and Minis are about to start reading out new tweets to you as you drive. Oh, and there’s a new hybrid hero in town, Audi’s twin-turbo V6 e-tron Spyder (pictured). We’ll take six.

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Photorealism and 3D will take off in gaming

If 2010’s game mojo was building up to hi-def motion control in the shape of Move and Kinect, 2011 is set to the be year we’re flooded with 3D titles. Good ones, too. Killzone 3, Crysis 2, Mass Effect 2, WipEout HD, Motorstorm Apocalypse, Virtua Tennis 4 and Uncharted 3 3D are all on the way. We’ll also be seeing game graphic realism pushed to new levels with LA Noire, for which Rockstar has used advanced facial expression capture techniques. You can see a list of our most anticipated 2011 games here.

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Mobile screens will get their moment in the sun

Last year we started to see phone screens take themselves seriously, notably with the advent of Samsung’s Super AMOLED on the Bada (and subsequently Galaxy S) and Apple’s Retina Display on the iPhone 4. This year things are already warming up with LG’s Optimus Black, punting a dazzling 700 nits of brightness. Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Arc, meanwhile, has a scaled-down Bravia TV picture engine feeding its display. Should be a bright year.

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