Tech transformers: 10 big innovations making our gadgets better

Some pieces of tech offer slight improvements, but these ones will be game changers

Technology often moves quite slowly: every barnstorming new product is usually followed by years or even decades of incremental improvements.

But from time to time a new technology comes along and transforms everything, leaving you wondering how you ever managed without it.

So which up-coming pieces of tech could transform the whole world, and which ones offer more hype than hope? Here are the current contenders.

1. Lytro cameras

Lytro Illum

Lytro Illum is the underdog now, but could quickly be top of the pack

The newly announced Lytro Illum is the first high-end camera to use light field technology, and it's the second camera from the company. Unlike traditional photos, light field images can be refocused after you take them - so if you'd rather look at the background than the foreground, you can change the focus with a click.

It's enormously clever and has the potential to revolutionise photography. But Lytro is a real underdog here: its images require a plugin to view and it's taking on a massive and well established market. Fans hope it will become the Dyson of digital photography.

2. Project Ara

Project Ara

Prepare for DIY everything, Project Ara is leading a wave of customisable tech

Google's modular phone programme, Project Ara, could be much bigger than just phones. It's just as applicable to tablets, and Toshiba hopes to bring it to wearables too. Sensors and other key components would be swappable, so for example you might take the camera out of your phone and stick it in your smartwatch when you're going out, popping it into your tablet when you get home.

3. Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift VR Headset

VR headsets could be use for much than simply immersive gaming

Facebook didn't buy Oculus VR just because it fancied doing some VR gaming: it believes the headset could be the future of movies and perhaps even social networking too. There are applications in architecture and education and 3D modelling, and it might just help people with phobias or PTSD too.

4. iWatch

iWatch render close

Watch out for the iWatch which could be the successor to the iPod

Yes, we know: so far it's all hype and no trousers. But one of the most interesting rumours is that the iWatch is being positioned as the replacement for the iPod and as a controller for the next Apple TV, essentially making it the One Ring To Rule Them All. Maybe those iRing rumours weren't so far-fetched after all.

5. Project Christine

Project Christine Razer

Casual gamers will finally be able to upgrade their PCs and play with top level specs

Wouldn't it be great if consoles were as powerful and as expandable as gaming PCs while keeping their basic simplicity? Razer thinks so, and its Project Christine does for gaming what Project Ara does for smartphones. It's a fully modular PC where swapping out a graphics card is no more complex than unplugging a USB device. It's not a big deal for hardcore gamers, we know, but awfully attractive to more casual users.

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.