What's the 'next big thing' in technology?

Looking for thrills in a post Blu-ray, PS3 & iPhone world

Later this year the first wireless electricity products will go on sale. Powercast wowed this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with its system for transmitting power via radio frequencies. While this electromagnetic induction technology can't power an electric car, it's perfectly capable of providing permanent power to a phone within a 10m radius.

4. Genuinely smart cars

Did we just say electric cars? Climate change is encouraging car firms to develop greener technologies - spectacularly so in the case of the electric-powered Tesla sports car, which could persuade even Jeremy Clarkson to hug a tree. Intel also showed off an electric Smart car (see photo 5) at its recent IDF love-in.

But humble old petrol-burners are becoming smarter too. New Lexuses and Toyotas can park themselves, various manufacturers are experimenting with head-up displays that project information on the windscreen (see photo 6) and night vision cameras that can see in the dark.

BMW is fitting auto-stop technology that cuts the engine when it isn't needed and kicks back in again when it is, and of course there are the endless technologies that make cars safer: ESP, Brake Assist, adaptive speed control and so on. It's just a matter of time before your car checks the weather, traffic data and your horoscope and says: "you know what? It's pretty busy out there... maybe you should just stay in bed."

5. Electronic paper

Screens aren't just getting bigger, they're getting thinner too - and workable electronic paper is nearly ready for prime time. Stick a cheap Wi-Fi module into an electronic paper system and you've got the ultimate information display.

The Readius, from Polymer Vision, shows just what's possible here. The device uses a regular mobile phone SIM card to maintain an EDGE/UMTS connection to a mobile phone network. The provider can then deliver newspapers, books, email, local maps, websites and more on demand.

And, as we've seen from the One Laptop Per Child project, it's possible to create low-power LCD displays that offer crystal clear black and white text in direct sunlight and backlit colour when the lights go down.

After years of hype electronic paper is getting very close to the point where we'd actually use it. In fact, we want to use it. Fact is, e-paper is likely to change the world of print in exactly the same way MP3s and iPods changed the music industry. Need to know more? Read about e-paper in the articles below.

E-paper advertising on Tokyo's trains
LG Philips develops oil and water displays
E-paper fashion watch from Seiko Japan

And finally...

We've saved the best, most exciting thing till last. As if mobile broadband, smart cars, electronic paper and decent virtual reality weren't enough, inf 2008 something even more amazing is coming. That something will be small. It will be portable. And it will probably be brown.

Yes! Microsoft's working on another Zune! We can't wait.

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