2010 is nearly gone and we still don't have jetpacks, space odysseys or underwater colonies. But several new technologies and the gadgets that exploit them do offer a glimpse at a brighter, more scientastic future. Like catnip for early adopters, these all offer a sleeker, shinier and — yes — sometimes even more practical spin on meeting high-tech needs. Here's a sneak peak at some of the most promising.
UN65C8000 ($5999.99, Samsung) Those of you with Wall Street bonuses might be tempted to splurge on this 65- inch high-definition 1080p 3DTV set for its brilliant LED display and three- dimensional special effects. But you'd be missing its slickest innovation: the availability of iPhone-style apps, which the set can download online (via Ethernet or wireless adapter), ensuring it becomes more, not less, versatile with passing years. Grab a handful, and you can listen to tunes from Pandora, access The Office via Hulu or peruse your Twitter feed as the mood strikes.
HTC EVO ($199 with $100 mail-in rebate and two-year contract, Sprint) Among the first to offer 4G wireless speeds (roughly four to five faster than 3G, the current mobile standard), this versatile smartphone promises portable videoconferencing, doubles as a travel-ready WiFi hotspot and delivers lightning-quick Web browsing. Unfortunately, next-gen coverage is limited to only 60-odd cities such as Atlanta, New York and Chicago. Be certain to check Sprint's 4G coverage grid before buying one, so you don't find yourself waiting 10 minutes to pull up TMZ.com like all the other poor schlubs a mile down the digital turnpike.
iPad ($499 and up, Apple) Despite finally getting some competition from the Galaxy Tab, the first noteworthy Android tablet, Steve Jobs' slate PC remains the gold standard among eReaders with its dazzling 9.7-inch touchscreen and intuitive iBooks storefront. Magazines, newspapers and novels can also come interactive, letting you access audio clips, videos and online references embedded in multimedia manuscripts. From its gorgeous graphic layouts to its tens of thousands of immediately downloadable volumes, it's the closest mankind has come to a virtual newsstand yet.
OnLive Game System ($99, OnLive) Uses remote servers to process flashy video games, which are beamed right to your TV, letting you enjoy them on demand in seconds without expensive hardware or quaint anachronisms like discs, downloads or installations. Connect a notepad-sized adapter and wireless controller to your television and the Internet, and you can sample or buy titles without copping $300 graphics cards or enduring lengthy waits. Think "instant" solo and online play — like what Netflix has done for movies, only with Batman: Arkham Asylum instead of The Dark Knight.
3D HOME VIDEO
HDC-SDT750K ($1399.95, Panasonic) Filming concerts, vacations and bachelor parties is entertaining, and doubly so when flying bottles or escaped tigers literally pop from the screen. Just attach a special conversion lens included with purchase, and Panasonic's latest camcorder puts three-dimensional, high-definition 1080p recording (and yes, even boring old 2D options) within reach. Videos (best taped in well-lit environments) can then be burned to Blu-ray for viewing on compatible 3D TVs, or submitted to the Hollywood Foreign Press for awards consideration.