It’s been a good year for screens.
In one way or another, those pixel-pushing output devices have found a bunch of ways to reach out from their bezels this year and really get interactive. We may never look at them (hah!) the same way again.
• Year of the tablet: Right off the bat in January, the Apple iPad triggered an arms race in the world of tablet computing devices. With its multitouch interface, slim design and gigantic library of apps, the iPad took the imagination of techies the world over by storm. It wasn’t long before everyone was declaring it the future of computing / gaming / publishing / porn / etc.
It also wasn’t long before cheapo knockoffs started appearing, either. Vastly slower processors, more primitive touch sensitivity and allegedly non-licensed operating systems all explained how some tablets could cost one-fifth as much as the iPad. By the end of the year, though, big names were catching up. The ViewSonic ViewPad line and Samsung Galaxy Tab married the Android operating system with quality hardware to give the iPad real competition.
• Year of 3D: For a while just about every movie was coming out in 3D. Good for the few films that had actually been produced in 3D; not so good for those latching onto the trend and retrofitting themselves in post-production. The fad seems to have calmed down somewhat, with computer-animated films taking up the mantle until more live-action films start using the type of cameras James Cameron put to work in Avatar.
Even if we’re in a transition period from 3D-as-gimmick to 3D-as-legitimate-technique, it hasn’t slowed home theater sales. Regular old HDTVs have become downright affordable as fancier 3D-capable models fill all the brackets from $1,000 upward. And that doesn’t even include the glasses or content, although bundles abound. For only two grand, you can pick up a giant flatscreen, two pairs of glasses, a 3D Blu-ray player and a copy of ... uh, Monsters vs. Aliens or the latest Shrek. Yeah, early adopters do tend to suffer.
• Year of full-body gaming: Yeah, the Nintendo Wii came out years ago. And the Wii MotionPlus attachment was released in the summer of 2009, making the Wii remotes more accurate. But it wasn’t until 2010 that MotionPlus was built into the controllers bundled with Wii consoles.
Oh, and 2010 was also the year that Sony and Microsoft got their motion-control acts together.
Truth be told, the Move accessory for the Playstation 3 is pretty underwhelming. Oh, it works, but it’s basically just a Wii remote with a glowing ball stuck on top. Unlike the Wii’s sensor bar, the Move’s Eye Camera is not in the least inconspicuous, sitting there in front of your television glaring at you. So, congratulations on taking four years to inelegantly copy Nintendo, Sony.
Microsoft at least tried to innovate with its Kinect for Xbox 360. Again, it’s a camera (and infrared laser sensor) sitting in front of the telly, but you don’t need to hold a controller at all. All the commercials feature an adorable little girl scratching the adorable chin of an adorable virtual tiger cub from the game Kinectimals. Awww.
Will we soon see a 3D, motion-capture, multitouch portable gaming machine? Maybe. Next year? Maybe not.