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

For most of us, technology has reached the point where it can do everything we want. Next-generation games consoles hum quietly - or in the case of the Xbox 360, not so quietly - in our living rooms, delivering state of the art graphics, decent artificial intelligence and online gameplay.

We're using multi-core CPUs to compose our emails, and we're carrying our entire record collections in our pockets on Apple's iPods and Walkman phones. Blu-ray and HD DVD have launched; the iPhone is out; HD tellies are affordable and Apple's Leopard OS just won't match Microsoft Windows Vista in terms of headlines.

What's left to get excited about?

Thrilling technology launches aren't exactly clogging up our Google calendar. Can we get excited about slightly bigger TV screens? Should we look forward to writing emails a fraction of a millisecond faster? Come on now, being able to put your entire record collection in a slightly smaller pocket is hardly a reason to jump around and go "woo".

So will the next bunch of hardware in 2007 and 2008 make us go "hmmm" rather than "hurrah"? Don't count on it. There are some amazing things are around the corner and here are five of the technologies that will genuinely excite us (if we're allowed to get our hands on them).

1. Virtual Reality

Don't laugh. Yes, we said 'virtual reality'. So VR has had some bad press in the past. But there's still hope for this much maligned concept. Scientists in Sweden have found a way to give us out-of-body experiences that could have a real impact on gaming.

It seems that researchers at the Karolinska Institute not only gave their subjects virtual reality goggles, but also put a camera slightly behind them - which meant that their guinea pigs could see themselves in the virtual world projected for them.

The result? Utterly immersive VR. The research suggests ways in which game creators can exploit our brains to make virtual reality feel completely real.

Although the technology is still some years from hitting the high street, if you imagine a VR Bioshock or a VR Gears of War you'll understand why we're excited. There's a report of another similar study here.

And check out Iowa State's C6 10-foot by 10-foot virtual reality room. The designers have obviously been watching far too much Star Trek.

2. Gesture recognition

The touch screens in Apple's iPhone and Microsoft's Surface; the gesture recognition in Sony's EyeToy camera; the motion sensor in Nintendo's Wiimote... All could herald the future of computer interfaces.

Instead of banging away at a traditional QWERTY keyboard we'll be waving our hands in the air like we just don't care. The only downside? As Wii Sports players know all too well, even a short bit of Wiimote-waggling leaves you knackered.

You can watch Microsoft's eye-opening Surface demos on the Microsoft Surface site; the similar Multi-touch Interactive Experiments video on YouTube; and don't miss an amazing video of the Heliodisplay M2, a touch-screen/holographic display that floats in mid-air.

3. Next-generation wireless

While WiMAX has yet to appear in any major way in Europe, phone operators are getting smart with their 3G networks. Three's upgraded Turbo network, for example, uses HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) to deliver 2.5Mbps mobile broadband to laptop users for a tenner per month.

Within a few years 4G and/or WiMAX will take 3G's place, with the potential to deliver always-on Internet access at speeds of up to 100Mbps. Of course those speeds - like Wi-Fi speeds - are theoretical maximums rather than real-world figures, but that still means multi-megabit mobile broadband is just around the corner.

That's not the only wireless wonder, though. Now that Ultra Wideband has been approved for the UK we can expect high speed wireless connections instead of the spaghetti junction of cabling behind your home entertainment kit.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.