Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Year in Computing

Best technology of 2008 ...

"Thanks to renewed interest in hands-on computing, researchers have continued to push the boundaries of displays and interfaces. This year, researchers at Microsoft demoed a back-of-the-screen touch pad, and a startup based in New York called Perceptive Pixel came up with an intuitive way of sliding an on-screen object underneath another based on the touch force. (See "What's Next for Computer Interfaces?") Touch screens came down in cost, becoming available to the average hacker. Engineers at Nordt, a research studio based in New York, introduced a product called TouchKit, which lets anyone make and modify his or her own touch-screen table for less than $1,000. (See "Open-Source, Multitouch Display.") And Microsoft researchers demonstrated an easy, cheap way to turn a normal display into a multitouch surface. (See "A Low-Cost Multitouch Screen.") Taking things one step further, Samsung partnered with software provider Reactrix to entirely remove the need for touch with a gesture-based interface: a screen that incorporates computer vision software to "see" the hand movements of people standing in front of it. (See "A Display That Tracks Your Movements.")

Storing More for Less
Advances in flash memory continued according to Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors on chips doubles roughly every two years. Even so, this year, researchers provided details of up-and-coming memory technologies that could overcome some of the drawbacks of flash: its slowness and the way it starts leaking data after about 10 years. One possible successor, phase-change memory, which stores data by altering the crystal structure of a material (rather than using the charge within transistors), seems likely to enter the market in 2009. Over the past year, companies including Samsung and a Swiss startup called Numonyx have begun sending out test samples to gadget makers. (See "A Memory Breakthrough" and "A New Memory Company.") The inventor of the magnetic spin valve used in hard drives-IBM's Stu Parkin--introduced a technology called racetrack memory, in which nanowires hold data in the form of magnetic spin. (See "IBM's Faster, Denser Memory.") According to Parkin, racetrack memory matches the durability of flash memory, the speed of phase-change memory, and the capacity of spinning magnetic hard disks."    (Continued via Technology Review, Kate Greene)    [Usability Resources]


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