Watch live TV on any screen, anywhere
This year, you won’t need a living room to have a Super Bowl party. You won’t even need a TV. For the first time, broadcasters in select cities will send the game live not just to big-screen TVs but also to cellphones, netbooks and other mobile devices.
Previously, the only way to access TV on a mobile screen was by paying a subscription service to send video over an unreliable 3G wireless broadband network, and the service didn’t deliver local channels. Today, after the death of analog TV freed up parts of the broadcast spectrum for use by cellular providers, television broadcasters for 30 stations in 17 major cities have spent up to $150,000 per tower to install transmitters that send free, live broadcasts directly to specially equipped mobile devices. It costs broadcasters less than a penny a minute to provide the service, compared with the $4-per-minute price that cellular carriers pay. This new service, called Mobile Digital TV, allows any wireless device equipped with a tuner chip to receive signals directly from transmission towers.
Look for consumer products capable of receiving the signal to arrive in stores this year. This month, USB dongles that act like TV antennas for your laptop will go on sale nationwide. TV-ready cellphones, as well as add-on dongles for current phones, will be available by the second half of the year.
2010's sci-fi blockbusters
Iron Man 2
Robert Downey, Jr., returns to his double role as industrialist Tony Stark and crime fighter Iron Man. This time, he takes on Russian villain Whiplash and faces the Black Widow, along with industry rival Justin Hammer. It’s Iron Man, so you know what to expect: lots of tech, big explosions and droll commentary.
Sam Flynn struggles in a fight for life or death in the cyberworld of programs and games where his father Kevin (the protagonist in the first Tron) has been lost for 25 years. This sequel to the 1982 CGI classic has the same producer as the original. We just can’t wait to see the revamped light cycles.
Two anticipated time sinks that will destroy our social lives
Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty
Starcraft2.com; available by June
Seven years—that’s how long it took for Blizzard to develop the follow-up to its 11-million-copies-sold real-time strategy game StarCraft. SCII features an auto-matchmaking system that will pit you against players of similar skill level. Bring on the Zerg!
Xbox 360, PS3, PC; available in spring
Save the floating city of Ark with the help of SMART (Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain) in this first-person shooter [below]. The SMART button sends your character where you want him to go with the fewest button pushes, so no more getting stuck on a table or behind a crate, a quirk of older first-person games.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.