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Cameras and Cell Phones

Artwork: Chip Taylor
Hassle-Free Handoffs
The next generation of cell phones will use both digital cell networks and other wireless technologies (such as 802.11g). And they'll hand off from one type of connection to another without you knowing or caring that they are changing over.

The Death of Syncing
Having to sync your PDA or cell phone is a hassle, so we're looking forward to technology that can automatically synchronize data between a PC and a handheld. Danger's Sidekick already does something similar: All of the data is held on a central server, and then sent to the phone. A system like this that works with PCs and PDAs would make keeping track of phone numbers much easier.

A Camera Phone as Good as a Digital Camera
Samsung has recently demonstrated the SPH-V8200, a camera phone that takes 8-megapixel images. Although the company isn't selling it yet, we would certainly buy a few if it meant we wouldn't have to carry around both a cell phone and a digital camera anymore.

No More Digital Camera Shutter Lag
Current digital cameras have a mild case of the lags--an irritating pause occurs between your pressing the shutter and the camera's taking the photo. Faster, more-efficient image processing chips will make lag a thing of the past, resulting in the same near-instant picture taking that you get with film cameras.

2015's New Mainstream Camera: 20 Megapixels
The price of digital cameras will continue to slide, while the resolution will continue to increase. Analyst Ron Glaz of IDC thinks that shoppers will be able to buy a 10-megapixel camera for less than $300 by the end of 2007, and a 20-megapixel camera for less than $300 by 2015.

Thousands of Photos on One Memory Card
New technologies (such as the experimental atomic force probe tip technology that companies like Nanochip are working on) can store tens of gigabits on a single chip. It's a few years away from being ready, but one day your digital camera's memory card could hold thousands of images, not hundreds.

Cheap HD Camcorders
Right now high-definition camcorders are much more expensive than their standard-definition cousins. Prices are falling, however, and in a few years standard-definition camcorders will occupy the same low-end niche that analog camcorders do now: Only real cheapskates will buy them.

AVCHD Camcorders
AVCHD is a new camcorder format that captures high-definition video to DVD. We're looking forward to testing forthcoming models from Sony. Canon, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sharp are also involved. In the future you'll see AVCHD camcorders that record video to flash memory cards.

Wireless Camcorders
We've already seen wireless cameras, which send still images over wireless networks to a PC. Camcorders are next, since 802.11g networks provide enough bandwidth to transmit high-definition video. Within a few years camcorders will be able to shoot high-def video and then wirelessly transmit it to a PC for editing.

Home HD Movies
Though high-definition camcorders are available, home users still have no low-cost, easy way to create permanent high-definition copies of their home movies. This will change: Blu-ray and HD DVD burners are expensive right now, but prices will drop over the next year as more manufacturers launch their products.

Facial Recognition for Photos
Google is adding facial recognition to the next version of Picasa, which will analyze photos and create an index of faces for searching. It'll make deleting pictures of ex-boyfriends/girlfriends much easier.

A Shift From 2D Photos to 3D Environments
The increased processing power of computers allows for new ways to handle images. The Photosynth project from Microsoft, for instance, takes a group of 2D photographs and transforms them into a 3D environment that provides a whole new way to browse pictures.

Advanced Photo Tagging
Adding tags to photos is nothing new, but Windows Vista will integrate it into the OS, allowing you to search for images on your PC in the same way you search for files: by entering a part of a name.

Paying by Cell Phone
Some credit cards already have built-in RFID chips that enable so-called contactless payment--the ability to register charges without actually swiping the card. In the next few years, similar technology will let you use an RFID-equipped cell phone to replace a wallet full of credit cards. The e-payment company MobileLime says it is developing software that will permit you to choose which of your phone-linked accounts you want to use to make a payment; you then wave the phone at a point-of-sale receiver to complete the transaction.

Tiny Projectors
Light Blue Optics' matchbook-size PVPro Projector uses lasers to create a 15-inch-diagonal video image, and the whole assembly is small enough to be integrated into cell phones, portable video players, and laptops. The current prototype projects a monochrome image (for a retro-PC-display look), but the company hopes to have a full-color version ready by year's end. The Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has created a competing design.

A Better Web on Your Phone
Internet access on a cell phone is awkward these days, with many sites still not formatting their content for such a tiny screen. But thanks to faster access and better technology, you'll soon see information on your phone that looks like it belongs there, including better mapping services and even financial-transaction details via secure RSS.

A Real Music Phone
We're still waiting for the mythical iPhone, but in the meantime at least Microsoft has confirmed that it will be building a phone based on its Zune brand. The Zune multimedia player goes on sale in November.

Special Report: Tomorrow's Technology

The Future of Your PC The Future of Robots
The Future of Cell Phones The Future of Privacy
The Future of the Web The Future of Nanotech
The Future of OSs The Future of You
The Future of Fun 100 Fearless Forecasts
Incredible Tech: Lies Ahead A Look Back
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