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Top 12 Stories of 2014 – Tech & Gear

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With an average of 20 or more stories on technology, gadgetry and gear per month, you can only imagine the difficulties our site has brought of sorting through them over the last few days. Even though a number of them have gained spots in the "Runner-Up" category, we decided on 12 slots for this particular segment. So, another two rounds of filtering later, we came to these.

1. Apple Watch - Announcement

Since we’re on the subject of this year’s top stories in technology and gear, let us first address on the 800-pound gorilla in the category - Apple Watch. Even though rival Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Gear smart watch a year ago and that Google’s Moto 360 got off to an impressive start, Apple Watch still dominated the consuming public’s consciousness because of several reasons. First, thanks to the numerous dial face and wrist band options, there an infinite amount of ways to customize your Apple Watch. Aside from its aesthetics, the watch is quite intuitive to operate thanks largely to Apple’s design DNA. Lastly, the most important factor of them all, it is a product by Apple.

2. Apple iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus Smartphone

With so many smartphones and phablets in the marketplace already, is the Apple iPhone 6 as well as its larger sibling, the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, even worth mentioning? The answer is yes. The reason being that both, in a sense, are products by Apple CEO Tim Cook and by the late Steve Jobs. Adamant from the start, Jobs insisted smartphones must be small enough to fit into pockets and that they can be operate with one hand. However, the market states otherwise. While it took sometime, Cook was able to deliver two products that address customers’ wishes yet still somehow reinforced Apple’s design ethos. So despite all of its technical breakthroughs, to us, it was the deft maneuvering in both design and marketing of the newest iPhone that proves why Apple is far ahead of the competitions.

3. Google NEXUS 6 Smartphone

Larger than the new Apple iPhone 6 Plus or the “original” phablet, Samsung Galaxy Note, the NEXUS 6 by Google claims the top spot with its full 6-inch Quad HD display. Yet, it is still quite nimble thanks to its Snapdragon 805 quad-core 2.7GHz processor by Qualcomm and Adreno 420 GPU. Coupled with a f2.0 lens, 13 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization and you have a recipe for the perfect phablet.

4. Bowers & Wilkins T7 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Staying true to its unique approach in the design of sound, the engineering team at Bowers & Wilkins tackled not just the components themselves on the new T7 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker, but the condition on which it operates. Hence, its unique design where a network of interlocking honeycomb cells help to dampen vibration. This helps to deliver a purer sound by minimize the effects of distortion.

5. Google Smart Contact Lens Project

It is worth noting that Google Glass finally became available to the general public this summer. But we’re more interested in a little known announcement made by Google early in the year, that it was exploring ways to create smart contact lens. Embedded with sensors, the lens will be able to monitor the wearer’s glucose levels through their tears and supply real-time data to diabetics. If proven, the application of such technology can be far-reaching. Imagine a miniaturized version of Google Glass with a constant stream of information for you access discreetly or like a pair of cybernetic eyes that allows you to see miles away. The possibilities are endless…

6. McIntosh MHP1000 Headphones & MHA100 Integrated Amplifier

Looks aren’t everything, especially when it comes to audio, a reason why nothing really stood out on the new McIntosh MHP1000 Headphones. But beyond its simplistic appearance, you will find a 40mm diameter 3-layer compound diaphragm with viscoelastic center layer, or in english, a miniature version of McIntosh’s famous speakers. Add the matching MHA100 Integrated Amplifier, one specifically made for headphones, and you have a fully immersive experience like you’re sitting at Seat 107 on Row J of Carnegie Hall.

7. LYTRO Illum Light Field Camera

With software now readily available to replicate its ingenious “living pictures” technique, Dr. Ren Ng and his team at LYTRO decided to reclaim the category they helped to invent with the new LYTRO Illum Light Field Camera. As the world’s first full-size light field camera, the Illum looks like any other DSLR camera out there. Comes with a f/2.0, 13 elements lens and a zoom range of 30 to 250 mm (or 8x optical zoom), its components are nearly identical to those on the traditional DSLR camera. There is one exception, however. Because light field photography operates differently, the image sensors are measured in megaray instead of megapixel, or in the case of Illum, 40-Megaray.

8. Hendo Hoverboards by Arx Pax

To prove that it wasn’t some elaborate hoax or April’s Fool prank, the creators of Hendo Hoverboards invited skateboard legend Tony Hawk to give their creation a try. And just like that, history was made. While it isn’t like the ones Marty McFly rode in Back to the Future 2 and only hovers just inches above ground, the creation of Hendo Hoverboards was a feat in itself. It isn’t all for fun either. Once the technology is proven, Arx Pax, the small technology firm that created Hendo Hoverboards, will look into other applications such as earthquake dampeners on buildings or shock absorbent for priceless objects.

9. Facebook Buys Oculus VR For $2 Billion

If by any chance you’re moving to Silicon Valley in the near future, one of the first things you have to do is to leave your conventional wisdom behind. Because you’ll find out soon enough that the so-called standard mode of operation does not apply, especially in the case of buyouts, mergers and acquisitions. One of the best example this year was Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR, the maker of Oculus Rift virtual reality head-mounted display. Little known outside the world of gaming except for its 2012 funding campaign on Kickstarter, Oculus VR and its subsequent merger with Facebook touched off a chain reaction. In a near instantaneous fashion, media outlets proclaim virtual reality to be the next Internet while competitors like Sony, Samsung, LG, Epson, and Google all unveiled virtual reality display of their way. So it begs the question, will this be the next big thing?

10. GoPro HERO4 Black & Silver Editions

Synonymous with the description “action cam”, GoPro introduced its fourth iteration, the HERO4, early this year. Available in two forms, the GoPro HERO4 Silver, with its LCD display, offers either 1080p60 and 720p120 video, or 12MP still images. And while it lacks a display, the HERO4 Black takes full advantage of Quad HD television with its 4K30, 2.7K50, or 1080p120 video recording abilities. Both comes with WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity plus a slew of accessories, including a “Blackout” housing for stealth recording.

11. Oscar Mayer “Wake Up & Smell The Bacon” iPhone Alarm Clock App

Thought to be another elaborate April’s Fool prank at first, the “Wake Up & Smell The Bacon” iPhone Alarm Clock App by Oscar Mayer turned out to be an actual product. As a attachment for Apple iPhone, the olfactory peripheral actually generates a puff of bacon extract at a pre-set time. And unlike the offensive scent such as Cheeteau by Chester the Cheetah, Oscar Mayer calibrated the amount so it won’t overwhelm the user or set off the smoke alarm.

12. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III Digital Camera

With the rapid advancement of camera unit on phones, do we still need a camera? The answer isn't a "Yes" or "No" but "Why Not?" While your phone can capture an instant moment, it just isn't ideal if you want a detailed image or something out of your creative expression. For those tasks, there are point-and-shoot cameras capable of DSLR functionality, such as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III Digital Camera. Quipped with a 20.1-Megapixel Exmor R image sensor and f.1.8 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, this third iteration of the popular RX100 series features other additions not found on the original model, like the built-in SVGA OLED viewfinder and WiFi connectivity via NFC. What remains the same is the ease to carry it and the ability to “pocket” camera on you.