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Google, Groupon and 3D glasses: technology in 2010

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And just in time for the holiday giving season, Amazon patented a system that allows people to identify bad gift givers and return their gifts before they are even sent.

I don't know about you, but I find that last item a bit depressing. But you can always take your mind off it by playing a game. Three big developments in the video game world in 2010: the rise of CityVille, FarmVille and other social games on Facebook, the growing popularity of games for the iPhone, iPad and other mobile devices (Angry Birds, anyone?), and the introduction of Microsoft's Kinect. Taken together, these developments may signal a shift towards more inclusive games and help the game industry get out of its narrow adolescent male hardcore gamer focus.

Speaking of focus, 2010 was the year 3D made a comeback, thanks to James Cameron's blockbuster movie, Avatar. Cameron made 3D respectable again, and other Hollywood directors quickly followed suit with 3D features of their own. By the end of the year, 3D had moved to the small screen as well, with Fujitsu releasing a 3D camcorder and LG and others selling 3D high definition television sets.

There was even speculation that 3D would go mobile. That hasn't happened yet, but  certainly mobile phones continued to get "smarter". 2010 saw the release of several new smart phones, including Google's Nexus One (which Google said was a "superphone", not a smart phone), Apple's iPhone 4 and, towards the end of the year, a number of phones that use Microsoft's new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7. Almost lost in the hype was Canada's own Research in Motion, which was surpassed by Apple as the world's fourth-largest mobile phone company in 2010. However, RIM is hoping to revitalize itself with several new smartphones and a tablet computer next year.

Meanwhile, landline phones continued their slow decline thanks to Skype and other Voice Over Internet Protocol applications, such as Google Voice (which is available in a hobbled form in Canada — you can call out, but others can't call in.

Skype and Google Voice are just two more reasons for us to stay glued to our computers, so it should be no surprise that Canadians spend more time online than any other nation, spending an average of 2500 hours (42 hours, almost two days) online each month.

But all that time online isn't necessarily good for us, according to writer Nicholas Carr, who argues, in The Shallows that the Internet is changing how we think, and not in a good way: “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

If the Internet is making us stupid, why not turn off the computer and snuggle up in front of a cozy fire as you welcome in 2011? And if you don't have a fireplace, there's always the Shaw Cable virtual fire. And if you don't subscribe to Shaw, well, as Apple says, there's an app for that. The FirePlace app for your iPhone or iPad costs only 99 cents.

Happy New Year, everybody. See you in 2011.

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