Transport & Technology special
With a limited edition cover by Julio Le Parc
The technological gallop has its downsides, not least the visual ubiquity that has crept into high tech design in recent years, and the dominance of just a few big names (you know who you are). We dipped into the silicon stream to pick out three devices that take a break from convention, introducing new names, simple design and a whole new way of looking at the world.Writer: Jonathan Bell
If you're not keen on wielding a fluoro-coloured kid's tablet or a Chinese smartphone, then perhaps the world's most talked-about personal tech is for you. Google Glass is gradually disseminating through the world - not on general sale, so you have to know the right people. Either the future of practically everything or the start of society's inexorable slide into decline, depending on who you listen to, Glass puts a screen right in front of your face. Activated by voice and subtle(ish) touch, the applications for this kind of always-on information - and instant electronic documentation - are quite literally endless. We expect to get to grips with the device in the months to come, but right now it's a glorified navigation device and camera, bound up in a pair of undeniably futuristic looking eye glasses that are, shall we say, aimed at the statement-making techno-pioneer. Once these things get into the wild, apps and implications are anyone's guess. Keep an eye open.
Google Glass will be available in 2014
The One Laptop Per Child initiative has steered a tricky course through thickets of criticism, ultimately overcoming the doubters to deliver well over two and half million stripped down, ultra-simple devices to children's educational programmes around the globe. But technology moves fast. Since the XO-1 debuted as a concept back in 2005, portable computing has shifted focus to touch screen devices: enter the XO Tablet, a joint venture between OLPC and Vivitar, better known for their photographic products. The new tablet is unashamedly pitched at American kids, not the developing world, hence its $150 sticker price and availability in Walmart. As before, the design has been overseen by Yves Béhar and Fuseproject and is characterised by bold colours, a rubberised case, complete with carry handle, and a specially developed operating system, the XO Learning System Interface, sitting on top of an Android core.
XO Kid's Tablet PC, $159
Huawei Ascend P6
The ubiquity of the smartphone (now outselling 'dumb' phones for the first time around the globe) is matched only by the fragmentation of the marketplace; we're taking no sides in the pocket OS battles, but are happy to wave a few flags for things that catch our eye. Huawei isn't a familiar name, but as China's answer to Samsung, you can be sure the telecoms behemoth (the world's largest) will be a lot more familiar in years to come. The first stage of Huawei's consumer assault is the Ascend P6, a prosaic name for an elegant device. The P6's opening claim to fame is that it's the world's slimmest smartphone (although it might not hold that title for long), a 6mm thick aluminium-bodied device that's more squared off than current market trends. Android provides the OS, but although the P6 is firmly pitched at the premium end of the market, Huawei (pronounced Wah-way), use their fiscal muscle to keep prices well below equivalent rivals.
Huawei Ascend P6, £290
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