Kevin Hunt: Smart LEDs, A 1TB Jump Drive And A 'Connected' Fork


Here are a few things, technologically speaking, sure to arouse interest, awe, suspicion or ridicule in 2013:

Near field communication: NFC is making smartphones even smarter, allowing devices to exchange information without a wireless network. It's not just for smart TVs or music systems either. LG's new lineup of refrigerators, ovens, washing machines and even a vacuum cleaner include NFC technology.

Tap a physical touch point on the appliance with an NFC-enabled smartphone, and they're paired; you can now control the appliance with your smartphone. (Once paired, it will also work over a wireless network.) Next time your wash is done, your smartphone will know first.

It's an imperfect technology, however. LG's freshness tracker monitors expiration dates of the NFC-equipped refrigerator's contents, but the user must first enter the dates manually — but it's getting closer to consumer relevance.

Panasonic RP-BTGS10 bone conduction Bluetooth headphones: It sounds like a government experiment on humans from the 1940s, but bone conduction is actually considered a safer way to listen to headphones. Each earpiece is placed on the temple, directing sound through the cranial bones into the auditory nerve. The wearer, theoretically, is more alert to the surrounding world — "Hey, maybe I should get off the tracks because I can now hear a train whistle" — and less susceptible to hearing damage. (Estimated $199, to arrive late summer)

DIAL (Discovery and Launch): A new wireless protocol from Netflix and YouTube, similar to Apple's AirPlay, that permits direct streaming from a smartphone or tablet to a smart TV. It would work like this: Discover "Lincoln" on a Netflix smartphone app, then launch it on the television. Google TV devices already have DIAL. Hulu has committed to it, and several TV manufacturers have shown interest.

Kingston HyperX Predator 1TB flash drive: The new king of USB 3.0 flash drives is coming this year: 1 terrabyte of storage on a little brushed-aluminum stick. A 512-gigabyte version is available at about $800. Expect the king to cost maybe double that. (kingston.com, price undetermined)

GreenWave Reality Connected Lighting Solution: A do-it-yourself kit with four LED light bulbs, with a connector for your wireless router and a remote control, controllable by a smartphone or iPad app. The kit is expected to cost $200, with additional bulbs about $20 each. (greenwavereality.com)

Lucien Elements Chrome Argent case for iPhone 5: A protective case made of aircraft-grade aluminum imbedded with Swarovski crystals. This protective case could probably use a protective case. (lucienelements.com, $850)

Dish Network's Hopper with Sling DVR set-top box: The satellite-television provider followed last year's introduction of a Hopper DVR box that included commercial-skipping technology with a new version loaded with built-in Slingbox features. With Sling, Hopper users can watch television on mobile devices.

This move should make the networks dislike Hopper and Dish even more: CBS, which has sued Dish over the Hopper's commercial-skipping ability, recently vetoed the new Hopper's best-new-product designation at the recent Consumer Electronics Show by the network-owned CNET.com.

Samsung 85S9 Ultra High-Definition TV: UHDTV has four times the resolution of HDTV (up to 4320p) but still isn't a practical consumer product. So let's dream a little with Samsung's 85-inch UHDTV, with 2160p resolution, an LED/LCD screen, a quad-core processor to run the smart TV, a built-in camera, a remote control with touchpad and a funky "floating" stand. It's expected to arrive in the first half of the year. (samsung.com, price undetermined)

JBL OnBeat Venue LT speaker dock: The new OnBeat stands out as one of the few speaker docks with Apple's new Lightning connector. The switch from the ubiquitous 30-pin Apple connector to the eight-pin Lightning could kill the speaker dock; look for more no-dock Bluetooth speakers in 2013. Just in case: JBL includes Bluetooth technology in the Venue LT for audio streaming. (jbl.com, $200)

Hapilabs HAPIfork: Technological overkill? A know-it-all fork that registers, via a mobile app, when you start and finish a meal, the amount of "fork servings" per minute and the duration of each "fork serving." Can this fork, expected to cost about $99, actually help dieters, cure digestive problems and decrease gastric reflux? (hapilabs.com, price undetermined)

khunt@tribune.com

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