7 Tech Innovations That May Become Mainstream In 2014

Posted by Harshad

7 Tech Innovations That May Become Mainstream In 2014

7 Tech Innovations That May Become Mainstream In 2014

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 07:01 AM PST

2013 has been a year that saw gadgets breaking new grounds yet again – take the iPad Air for example, it’s thinner, lighter, and faster than any of its predecessors. 2014 promises to be another exciting year as we’ll see even more powerful gadgets that will stretch the boundaries of portability, power consumption efficiency, and functionality even further. For starters, we have the integration of e-ink display on smartphones, giving us smartphones that also double as e-readers.

In this post, we’ll be taking a look at 7 tech innovations that may become mainstream in 2014. While some of these have already been introduced into the market, they have yet to be fully implemented on the consumer level. Either way, we’re excited to be able to use and even own one of these technologies in the very near future.

1. Smart Wearable Gadgets

Pebble Technology was one of the first to kick off the smart watch race. The Pebble smart watch can connect itself with a smartphone via Bluetooth, and allows you to read messages and notifications without reaching for your phone.


Big companies like Samsung soon followed suit by creating their own rendition, Galaxy Gear that is able to not only show notifications, but also make calls and even take pictures. Since many companies have already filed smart watch patents, 2014 should unfold even more smart watches to consumers, especially in early January at CES 2014.


Other than smart watches, Google Glass was another hit in the wearable tech category. The launch of Glass also started the high-tech eyewear race where many other companies began launching their own version of Glass. We’ve mentioned before that augmented reality would be an upcoming trend and technologies like Glass will be one of the things that would take us there.

Google Glass

Other than that, 2013 also saw the release of wearable health and fitness trackers such as the Jawbone Up, Fitbit Force and Nike Fuelband. A few exciting fitness trackers that are coming to the market in 2014 are Amiigo, PUSH, and AIRO. There are even reports of Samsung’s very own fitness tracker.

2. Unique Smartphone Designs

Most smartphones on the market today have similar hardware specifications. The only thing that makes a smartphone stand out is its design and feel (inclusive of screen size), special features (waterproof Xperia Z1 or customizable Moto X) and an affordable price (Nexus 5). They all look pretty much the same; some have rounder edges, some feel more plastic with slight differences in button layouts and so on.

LG G Flex

Towards the end of 2013, a few unique smartphone designs were unveiled. Samsung introduced a prototype flexible OLED with a "side" display for notifications, whereas LG unveiled G Flex, a smartphone that curves inwards on the long edge of the smartphone. And more recently, we have also seen the release of YotaPhone, a smartphone with an e-ink display on its back.

Curved Smartphone
(Image Source: The Verge)

We will most likely see even more creative and unique smartphone designs in 2014; even Apple might succumb to breaking their design standards and join the race in fear of being left out.

3. Programmable Smart Robots

Quadcopters are quickly gaining popularity with viral videos of Amazon’s Prime Air service. Although the service won’t be available for a few more years (due to the amount of planning and regulation needed), consumers can look forward to smart quadcopters like Spiri.

Spiri is a programmable flying robot that has an onboard camera and range finder to help you achieve whatever you program it to do.


Then there’s this video by MIT and you’ll be more than amazed at these robot cubes that can move about on their own and assemble themselves into anything they are programmed to do. Magnets are used to attach the blocks to one another while flywheels inside the body of each cube generate enough momentum for them to move and even jump in the air.


There’s no real application to what these modular robots can actually do right now as it’s still in the very early stages of research, but this modular idea means that a machine isn’t limited to a single task but can assemble itself into another machine to achieve another task.

4. Internet Advancements

As far as Internet connection speeds are concerned, there hadn’t been a major jump since fiber optics were introduced. But then came Google Fibre with its 1Gbps Internet connection that is about 100 times faster than what most users have today.

Google Fiber

With a service like Google Fibre, you can get a download speed of over 100MegaBytes per second, which means you can download a 1GB file in about 10 seconds. As of now, there are services covering certain areas in the US; for the rest of the world, it’s a waiting game.

Fiber Speedtest

Other than super high-speed gigabit Internet, another upcoming trend is inflight Wi-Fi that airline companies like JetBlue have recently implemented. As of now, they are offering basic Internet surfing for free and the option of streaming of media for $9/hour. This will definitely come in very handy for business people who travel by air all the time.

5. Home Entertainment Systems

1080p high definition (HD) content has become a norm; coupled with high-speed Internet, users can stream all sorts of content to their large-screen televisions without any hassle. The new video standard that is fast rising in popularity is 4K. 4K refers to the number of pixels there are on the display. In this case, the resolution is 3840 x 2160 pixels; imagine four 1080p displays stacked in a 2-by-2 layout.

4K Resolution

However, since only a handful of manufacturers are producing 4K televisions and computer monitors, the prices are quite high at the moment. 4K content is also minimal due to the lack of 4K recording devices. But once more content starts trinkling in, there should be more consumers that would opt for 4K televisions. Just like everything else, once demand is there, more manufacturers would start producing, consequently making it more affordable for all consumers.

(Image Source: GeForce)

Besides these expensive Samsung 4K displays, Smart TV’s have also become a trend in home entertainment with features like streaming of online content, home screen personalization for multiple users, and apps. Cloud gaming could also make be making its way to your living room soon with the likes of the latest gaming consoles such as PlayStation 4, Xbox One and upcoming Steam Machine.

6. Home Automation

The next trend for 2014 is automation. Our homes are slowly turning into "smart" homes of the future with innovative inventions like the Smart Power Strip, a device that allows you to do things like switching any of your plugged electrical appliances on and off anytime, anywhere using your smartphone.

Smart Power Strip

A company called SmartThings has also come up with a system that can automate almost all the electrical appliances of your home. The SmartThings system offers features like motion detection, time scheduling, and automatic locking. All the information is fed to your smartphone and notifications will appear on your phone to let you know if appliances are accidentally left on or if someone returns home.


With SmartThings, your coffee machine can begin making coffee the moment you step out of bed and be ready by the time you’re done dressing up. Cooling or heating can also be turned on while you’re making your way home. All these features may sound like something you would see only in movies, but it’s going to be something all homes will have soon.

7. Smart In-Car Systems

We’ve recently written a geek’s wishlist about 9 smart car technologies we want to see in the near future, and that "near future" may actually turn out to be 2014. According to recent reports and photos, the beta version of iOS 7.1 has included a built-in setting for the iOS in the Car feature. So, if iOS 7.1 gets updated to include the feature, iPhone users will be able to seamlessly integrate Apple iOS features into the dash displays of their cars.

Toyota Vii
(Image Source: Toyota)

iOS In The Car should set the standard for true integration with smartphones in a car. Recent reports also show that Google’s Android is thinking about entering the automotive scene by collaborating with Audi for an in-car entertainment and information system in time for CES 2014 in January.


20 Useful Microsoft Windows 8.1 Tips & Tricks

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 05:01 AM PST

With the upgrade from Windows 8 to 8.1, Microsoft has made several changes mainly to improve on certain aspects that Windows 8 has received criticism for. For starters, there’s the return of the good old Start button, ability to create a lock screen slideshow, and even support for 3D printing!

start screen intro

We have got for you here a list of 20 useful tips and tricks for Windows 8.1. Whether you are entirely new to or beginning to get familiar with Windows 8.1, the following list should help you get the most out of this latest offering by Microsoft.

1. View Options From the Start Button

The Start button is back. It is similar to the Start button found on Windows 7. Left-click on the button (bottom left of the screen) and it will redirect you to the Start Screen. If you right-click on it, it will show options for Run, Search, Desktop, Shut Down, and many more.

start button options

2. Log In Straight to Desktop

When you start your computer, by default it will take you to the Start Screen. There is a way to start your computer and go straight to the Desktop instead. Right-click on the desktop toolbar, select Properties and go to the Navigation tab. Under the Start Screen options, enable the box "When I sign in or close all applications on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start".

log in desktop

3. Customize Home Screen Tiles

Besides resizing icons, you can also customize your home screen tiles on Windows 8.1. To move and group tiles, just go to your Start Screen and right-click on any of the tiles. After grouping your tiles, you can also name them by filling in the Name Group field.

customize home screen tiles

4. Customize Start Screen Background

Windows 8.1 also allows you to customize your start screen. Just swipe the Settings Charm menu and tap on Settings. Click on Personalize to change the colors of the background as well as the accent.

customize start screen background

5. Create A Lock Screen Slideshow

Previously, your Windows lock screen could only be a static photo. On Windows 8.1, you are able to create a lock screen slideshow with your favorite photos. To do this, go to the Settings Charm menu, click on Change PC Settings, select PC and Devices then click on Lock Screen. Enable the option On to create a lock screen slideshow.

lock screen slideshow

6. Use Internet Explorer 11 Reading View

When you load any webpage using Internet Explorer 11, a Reading View icon can be seen on the address bar. If you click on it, Internet Explorer will automatically reload the page and display a clean version – free of ads. This makes it very easy to read as there are no distractions. However, this feature is not available for the desktop version of Internet Explorer 11.

internet explorer reading mode

7. Make Use of 3D Printing Support

Windows 8.1 is the first operating system to provide support for 3D printing! You can print from the Windows Store apps and desktop applications. For more information on how this works, click here.

3D printing support

8. Customize Privacy Options

Windows 8.1 offers you options to set what devices and data are used by apps found in the Windows Store. You can allow or block apps from accessing your personal information. You are also able to turn off your advertising ID so that advertisers do not use your personal data to display personalised ads. To customize these settings, go to Change PC settings and navigate to Privacy.

privacy options

9. Smart Files

Smart Files is a new feature on Windows 8.1 that allows you to view your SkyDrive files without having to download everything onto your computer. When you browse through your SkyDrive folder in File Explorer, you’ll see a column called Availability.

By default, all the files are listed as Online-only, which means that as long as you are connected to the Internet, you can view the files without actually having them on your computer’s hard drive. If you want a particular SkyDrive file or folder to be available offline, just right-click on it and select the Make available offline option.

turn off smart files

10. Customize Quiet Hours

Integrated notification pop-ups were first introduced on Windows 8. What’s new on Windows 8.1 is the option to turn the notifications off or set a period of time for which the notifications may appear. To do this, go to Change PC settings, click on Search and Apps, select Notifications, and configure the relevant options.

customize quiet hours

11. More Windowing Options for New Style Apps

On Windows 8, users could split their screen to run up to 8 apps on two 2560 x 1600 monitors. Depending on your screen size, some may only be able to split and run 2 apps. On Windows 8.1, you can do all that and more – you can add another app and resize it so that it runs horizontally (see screenshot). However, that works only if the developer has allowed it for the app.

windowing options for new style apps

12. Scale Each Screen Independently

In the past, Windows allowed you to scale up icons and fonts to a maximum of 500%. However, what is best for your screen may not necessarily translate on a secondary display. Text and icons may not be in proportion to one another. To solve this problem, Windows 8.1 allows you to scale each screen independently. To customize these settings, right-click on the Windows Desktop, select Screen Resolution, and select Make text and other items larger or smaller.

screen resolution

13. Discover The App Bars

The App bar is featured on every new Windows 8.1 app. To enable this option, right-click on the app’s screen and it will show the app’s functions and options.

app bar

14. Configure Automatic App Updates

Unlike Windows 8, app updates in Windows 8.1 will be automatically installed by default without the user’s consent. To stop this from happening, open Windows Store and access the Settings Charm menu – the charm must only be activated once in the Windows Store or else it will not display the required menus. In the Settings Charm menu, select Settings and navigate to App Updates. Enable or disable the option to automatically update apps.

control app updates

15. Prevent Apps From Running in The Background

Previously on Windows 8, when you drag a Start Screen app down to the bottom of the screen, it will close the app. However, on Windows 8.1, this action will only make the app disappear – it is still running in the background. To close the app, drag the app down to the bottom of the screen but instead of letting it go, hold on to it. Wait until the app card flips over, and only now the app is closed.

stop apps from running

16. Use Hands-Free Mode

One of the coolest features that not many know about is found in the new Food & Drink app. If you do not like to get your computer all dirty when you are cooking, then this app is for you. Going through the recipe, you can set the app on Hands-Free Mode. It will detect your hand motion via your computer’s webcam.

hands free mode

17. Restore Libraries

By default, Windows 8.1 has hidden Libraries. If you want to get it back, open File Explorer and you will find the newly renamed This PC view. Here, select View, and click on Navigation pane. Lastly, enable the option to Show Libraries.

restore libraries

18. Delete Old Windows Installation Files

When you upgrade from an old version of Windows, Windows keeps a C:\Windows.old with your old files. You can delete this folder to free up some storage space. To do this, Search for Disk Cleanup, and click on Free up disk space shortcut. Next, click on Clean up system files, enable the Previous Windows Installation(s) option, and run a disk cleanup. If this option does not appear, that means there is nothing to clean up.

delete old windows file

19. Use Help & Tips App

For further help on how to get the most out of Windows 8.1, an app has been added to guide you on pretty much everything. There are short animations to show you the correct gestures and concepts to master Windows 8.1. You can find this app on the Start Screen, titled Help+Tips.

help and tips app

20. Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Last but not least, we have put together a list of 15 new keyboard shortcuts you can use on Windows 8.1.

Shortcut Action
Windows Key + S Open Search Charm to search Windows and Web
Windows Key + Q Search within the opened app
Windows Key + F Search files
Windows Key + Z Get Commands and Context Menus within an app
Windows Key + . + Right Arrow Snap app to the right
Windows Key + . + Left Arrow Snap app to the left
Ctrl + plus (+) Zoom in on Start Screen
Ctrl + Minus (-) Zoom out on Start Screen
Windows Key + Down Arrow Close an app
Windows Key + Start Typing Search your PC
Windows Key + O Lock the screen orientation (portrait or landscape)
Windows Key + Ctrl + Spacebar Change to a previously selected input language
Windows Key + P Choose a presentation display mode
Windows Key + X Open Start Button options
Windows Key + Home Minimize all but the active desktop window


Fresh Resources for Designers and Developers — January 2014

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 02:01 AM PST

Hey it’s a new year! Happy new year to all our readers and thanks for checking in on us for more fresh resources for designers. Like all our previous rounds, we have a few cool tools for you to try out in this compilation as well.

We have a couple of tools to help with typography, a jQuery plugin that sticks to the top of your web page no matter how far down your visitors scroll, and a personal assistant called Jarvis to help you navigate better in WP Admin and more. We hope you will find them useful. Let’s check them out.


Devdocs collects a number of API documentation (Docs) and present them in a more organized and easily-searchable way. At the time of the writing, it holds around 25 Docs including CSS, JavaScript, WordPress and jQuery. Want to include Docs that you frequently have to deal with? You can vote for it here.

Responsive Design Weekly

In 2012, Responsive Web Design was a huge hit that suddenly changed the way we build our websites. But the web design and development industry updates at a fast pace. If you want to keep up, better sign up for a newsletter in Responsive Design Weekly to receive the best articles, tips, and tutorials around RWD regularly.


Scut, which stands for Sass-CSS Utitilies, is a collection of reusable Sass mixins and functions to implement common web design pattern and layout with ease. These include for creating circle, triangle, box alignment, box positioning, and unit conversion.


Echo is a lightweight JavaScript (JS) library for image lazy-load. It allows us to load images on demand or only when they would be viewed. It is thus increase webpage load performance. Unlike other scripts that offer similar solutions, Echo is built purely on JS; it is not dependant on any third-party JS libraries.

Type Scale

Type Scale is a tool that you can use to find the perfect font scaling for your website. You can set the base font size, the scaling method, the preview text, the font family, and the font weight. And you can see the results immediately (how the sizing will look in paragraphs).

Font Combiner

Font Combiner is a great tool for anyone who is meticulous about typography matter. With it, you can set your own font specification such as the kerning, hinting, and spacing. You can also download the glyphs in PNG and SVG.


stickUp is jQuery plugin to make elements stick to the top of the browser window. It makes “the element” visible while we scroll the page. It also comes with a feature called “One Pager”, which is very useful when you use it in a single page website. It will highlight the menu to show visitors where they are currently on.


Jetpack is plugin that gives your blog a boost with a set of plugins. But it displays the plugins in a presentation that seems out place from the WordPress UI standard. It also makes activating and deactivating the plugins less intuitive. To fix this, Rockeeter will display the plugins in a list – like in the Plugins page.


The problem with using a cache plugin is that they do not update the changes of your files immediately, so you need to move to the browser to check the changes. If you encounter this problem, you can replace your cache plugin with Busted. It will refresh the browser cache for a file upon modification.


If you are a fan of Iron Man, you should know that Jarvis is his personal assistant who repeatedly saves his life. This Jarvis version can also be your personal assistant, but only in navigating through WordPress WP-Admin quickly.


Building Design Specification In Photoshop With SpecKing

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 11:01 PM PST

Let’s say you are the web designer working with web developers who will translate your PSD into codes. Before handing the PSD to them, you will need to label your design with the right specifications such as the sizes, margin, and font property. This is so that your PSD file can be accurately translated into a web document by the programmer.

However, this task can be very tedious, not to mention time consuming, especially if you have a bunch of layers, text, and elements. SpecKing is a Photoshop plugin that can simplify this process by allowing you to measure and annotate your design in a single click.


Note that SpecKing requires, at minimum, Photoshop CS5 to run. To install it, double-click the SpecKing.zxp file, and follow the installation process.

Then, open Photoshop, go to Window > Extension menu, and select Specking. We can find the SpecKing panel on the sidebar.

Measuring Sizes

As mentioned previously, SpecKing allows us to measure the size of layers, group of layers, and selections. To do so, select the layer and click on the Measure Size button.

Dashboard UI Design by Asif Aleem

To change the label colors, we need to specify the background and foreground color on the toolbox before clicking on the Measure Size button.

The label position, as you can see above, will be placed outside the layer. But, SpecKing also allows us to place the label in the middle, like so.

We can also significantly increase our productivity by selecting multiple layers, and then give it a specification label with a single click.

Measuring Distances

With SpecKing, we can also measure distances. Select the layer, go to the second tab on the SpecKing Panel, and click on the Measure Distance button.

By default, it will measure the layer’s distances, relative to the document. Make a selection upon certain layers so that the measurement will be relative to the selection area, for example:

Text Specification

We can also show the text specification – font family, font size, font color, and line height etc – so that the developers can immediately pick them up, instead of selecting each and every text layer to check the specification in the Text Panel.

To show the text specification, select the text layer, and go to the third tab on SpecKing Panel and click on Get Text Property.

And we will get the text specification instantly.

By using Specking, you can generate your design specifications in a snap. This will help the project run along more smoothly, precisely and quickly.



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