Looking for this year’s list? 2019’s Best of What’s New winners, this way. >>
In large part, the items on year’s list of the best new gadgets don’t change the world as much as they change the way we, as tech-loving super nerds, see it. This year’s Best of What’s New gadgets category includes leaps forward in both virtual and augmented reality, which were welcome reprieves from the increasingly hectic world of, well, actual reality. Other honorees help us combat common problems: Tougher glass prevents broken smartphone screens, and a sleep aid blocks noise but lets through crucial alarms. Perhaps most importantly, however, fidget spinners were officially nowhere to be seen in 2018. Rest in the clearance bin, little buddies.
One Creator Edition by Magic Leap
Most augmented-reality experiences make your smartphone’s screen a window into an altered version of the real world, which can be fun, but also flat. The Magic Leap goggles, however, put digital objects right in front of your eyes. The headset uses a projection tech called light-field to shine light—in the form of cheerful knights, clumsy dinosaurs, what-have-you—onto transparent glass displays. Cameras and infrared sensors on the front of the wearable capture your surroundings, so digital sprites can interact with IRL objects. There, now you can watch a virtual penguin walk off your coffee table and faceplant on the floor, you sick weirdo.
QTM052 mmWave antenna module by Qualcomm
We’ll be well into the 2020s before 5G networks replace current 4G smartphone towers, but the hardware that will sling data signals up to 50 percent faster is already falling into place. Qualcomm’s mmWave antenna module may be what grabs those zippy downloads on your future smartphone. Manufacturers could cram phones with up to four of the chips—each smaller than a dime—creating redundant connectivity to combat one of 5G’s inherent challenges: Physical objects easily block the signals.
Gorilla Glass 6 by Corning
As wireless charging becomes standard on smartphones, glass backs are staging a comeback—and doubling your odds of dreaded spiderweb cracks from a downed phone. A slab of Gorilla Glass 6 can survive an average of 15 drops on a hard surface from 3.3 feet, twice the durability of its predecessor. The chemistry secret is a bath of molten salts, which replaces smaller sodium ions in the glass with larger potassium ions. Because the fatter potassium ions take up more space, they create compressive stress on the glass surface, making it harder to damage.
See the entire list: The 100 greatest innovations of 2018
Clear ID by Synaptics
Phone bezels—those black borders encircling the display—are dying off. The loss leaves no room on the device’s face for a fingerprint reader, unless it lives inside the screen itself. The optical sensor on the Synaptics Clear ID scanner, which debuted overseas on the Vivo X21 this past fall, resides below a handset’s OLED screen. Sitting beneath coated glass makes the sensor better able to handle conditions that tend to befuddle biometrics, such as wet or dirty fingers. Scanning is also swift: It takes just 7 milliseconds, compared to the more than 100 milliseconds facial readers need.