So, we're out of 2012 and into 2013 and the tech rumour mill is gaining momentum. This year’s trends seem to be heading very much towards portable devices - though there's also a great deal of speculation surrounding the next iteration of home game consoles and even some new players entering the market.
Let's dive in, shall we?
Next Generation Consoles
There's rumours all over the net regarding the 'PlayStation 4' and 'Xbox 720' suggesting that programmers have hit the limit of the current console's hardware power and that the next generation is due for release this year. Nintendo are ahead of the game already, having released the Wii-U but it hasn't excited the world like its predecessor - with sales over Christmas lower than originally predicted.
There's further speculation that this upcoming generation might be the last time we see a dedicated game console, though 'dedicated' is stretching it a bit already for the Xbox 360 and PS3 given their rather good media playing capabilities. It’s been suggested that after this generation we'll be looking at something more like a server, hosting and playing media files all over the house at the same time as it's being used for playing games. There'll most likely be further ties to portable devices via 'the cloud' meaning you can also watch your films, listen to your music and play your games on the move via your phone or portable console.
Steam to enter Console Market?
Staying with the theme, there’s a new boy looking to have a piece of the home console market. Valve, developers of the Steam platform - arguably the most successful online gaming service – are looking to bring out the Steam console which will enable gamers to play all their steam games on their home TV. It looks like this will essentially be a high- spec PC, and Valve's CEO, Gabe Newell, is very keen that it's not restrictive in any way. Steam’s intentions? Yes, you’ll be able to install Windows on it if you want and yes, it's Steam so homebrew games will positively be encouraged and yes, it will be capable of all the latest wireless media streaming - to multiple screens!
As with many new things it's too early for anything to be set in stone yet, but that just means that there's room to incorporate new technology as it's released. An exciting prospect and one I can't wait to find out more about.
New Portable Consoles
Done with gaming? No. No, no, no. Not yet. This year’s CES has shown that portable gaming may well become the next big thing, with both Razer and nVidia showing off working versions of the Edge and Project Shield respectively. Both are very different approaches to portable gaming, but both look extremely capable. The Edge can be used in different configurations with different cases and Project Shield can stream games directly from any PC with a sufficiently powerful nVidia graphics card.
H.265 - A New Video Codec?
What’s this? No more gaming? There is other tech out there you know... apparently!
Codec is a contraction of ‘Compressor/Decompressor’. Codecs enable you to stream the sort of picture and audio quality that would normally require huge amounts of bandwidth over a home broadband connection.
Now the science bit (concentrate!) is out of the way, what does this all mean?
At present, nearly all commercial online video uses the h.264 video codec. It’s pretty good, you can certainly see the difference over standard definition TV if you have a capable screen and the stream quality is good enough. The new h.265 standard means we could soon see one of today’s 4Mb/s HD streams being compressed sufficiently to run on a broadband connection capable of a little over 1Mb/s.
There’s more information on this at the ThinkBroadband blog but it doesn’t look like the author is a fan...
Christmas is past and the time for giving is over... but with payday approaching why not treat yourself? Here's some suggestions for things that we've been admiring in the office.
Pebble watch: This is a bluetooth enabled watch that links to your mobile and displays your calls, texts, tweets, music... well anything your phone can offer really, all on your wrist. Yet anotherKickstarter success story, the Pebble is definitely sleek and best of all it has an SDK available for developers to create their own apps. One of us here has ordered one already, let's see if any others follow.
Picade: Personally I've had a Pi model B kicking about for a few months that's had nothing done to it (literally nothing, I've not even powered it on - sorry to all those out there still waiting for one!). However, Picade saves the day! A desk-sized, Raspberry Pi powered, hackable arcade cabinet - honestly, what's not to like?
We hope that's whetted your appetite for some of the varied new toys and technologies coming this year, it certainly seems like there'll be a lot of them! Anything on here you want to discuss? Something vital you think we’ve missed off the list? Why not drop us a comment letting us know what you think?