TechMan: Gadgets you won't see in 2013

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Around the New Year, we in the mainstream media catch listmania. With 2012 Best of Anything lists and What's Ahead for 2013 in Any Field lists, we are often guilty of excess listing.

Being a contrarian, TechMan presents his Short List of Technology That You Won't See in 2013.

Flying cars

Attempts to create a "roadable aircraft" began almost as soon as cars became commonplace.

In 1926, Henry Ford displayed an experimental single-seat aeroplane that he called the "sky flivver." It was not really a flying car because it was not meant for driving on the road. Its development came to an end when a crash killed the pilot.

The first car to actually fly (on March 21, 1937) was built by Waldo Waterman and called the Arrowbile. On the ground and in the air it was powered by a Studebaker engine. It could fly at 112 mph and drive at 56 mph. (My grandfather owned a Studebaker and I am not sure it could do 56 on the road.)

In the post-war 1950s, fed by science fiction, work on a roadable aircraft heated up but none was a commercial success.

Fears that the air traffic control system could not handle the increased traffic, dealing with intoxicated pilots (it would be hard to set up a sobriety checkpoint in the air) and the possibilities that vehicles could crash into houses and kill civilians put an end to the dream of a flying car.

Today, Terrafugia, a company based in Massachusetts, says it's getting close to putting a flying car into production. But the Terrafugia Transition, which will cost $279,000, is really an airplane with folding wings that rolls, more than a car that flies.

Cure for baldness

One would think that our modern biotechnology could prevent a receding hairline. But don't look for a cure in 2013.

Still, according to a report on Independent.ie, Ireland's leading online news site, help may be ahead. George Cotsarelis, chief of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, announced he was in talks with pharmaceutical companies about making a drug to block an enzyme he believes causes baldness.

And in Japan, a hairless mouse was given a stem-cell treatment to transplant hair follicles on its head from a hairy mouse.

So although no cure for male pattern baldness is likely in 2013, you may see a few mice with bouffants.

Robot domestic help

Over the years, machines have been developed to do household chores, but all of them require some sort of human assistance. The dream has been some type of semi-sentient machine that could take care of daily tasks on its own.

The obvious answer was depicted in "The Jetsons" cartoon series in the form of a robot maid named Rosie.

Mahru-Z, a domestic robot developed by Korean scientists, cleans, dumps clothes in the washing machine and even heats food in the microwave. It can recognize objects and navigate by itself.

But it will take a long time before the robot can be mass produced for commercial use at a reasonable price, scientists say. And they've got to get a better name.

Reasonably priced wireless phone and Internet service with plans designed to benefit the consumer

In your dreams.

Of course there are numerous other tech products that won't show up in 2013 -- personal attack drones, a safe gun that can only be fired by its owner, low-fat snacks that taste good and an easy way to open plastic packaging.

But a brave new world is coming. It's just taking its good old time.

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Read TechMan's blog at post-gazette.com/techman. Watch or listen to TechTalk at multimedia.post-gazette.com.


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