8 Technologies that will Shape our future
Smartphones, like today’s iPhone, are as much a computer as they are a communication device. Besides having a great multi-touch interface and fast CPU, they contain sensors like cameras, gyros, accelerometers, GPS and compasses. They allow us to calculate and communicate anytime, anywhere.
In the future, they’ll evolve into personal mobile computers (PMC). Assuming that Moore’s law holds true, mobile CPUs with near super-computing speeds will be entirely possible. The number, accuracy and performance of sensors will grow, the combination of which will give the user a very powerful sense of her surroundings.
2. 3G and 4G Wireless Broadband
“How many bars do I have?” We’re frequently checking smartphone signal strength when wirelessly browsing the Internet and retrieving our email. Today’s 3G and 4G networks provide acceptable but intermittent connections and okay speed. This must change.
The deployment of today’s cell towers is a slow, deliberate and costly affair. In the future, deployment will be faster and more organic. Wireless providers will likely credit homeowners’ monthly bills for having devices like AT&T’s 3G MicroCell at home. With enough of these devices in place, even remote neighborhoods and towns will enjoy solid wireless access to the cloud.
3. Cloud Computing
There is certainly a lot of hype around cloud computing, but few technology providers have done a good job explaining or providing services that are relevant to the average person.
The two most notable exceptions are Google and Apple. Google Docs is arguably the first cloud-based app that gained mainstream traction. Apple’s iCloud looks like it has the potential to cross the chasm and move the early majority into the cloud.
With tomorrow’s cloud computing, all of our personal information and the applications will be available to us at any time. Whether you’re editing a text document while riding a train, or adjusting a sales proposal at a client’s office, you’ll never be without the information needed to complete a task.
4. Eye-Tracking / Voice Commands
In the future, this technology will be combined with augmented reality (AR) to create a near-invisible and natural user interface for your PMC. We’ll call these information glasses. The object you’re viewing and the words you speak will be transmitted to your PMC, which will interpret your intent, find and compute and then transmit the results back to you visually and/or verbally. Look at a restaurant and say, “Do they have good salads there?” A moment later, you will hear the highest-rated salads, communicated via your information glasses either by visual display or audible voice, depending on what you are doing at that moment, like driving.
5. Augmented Reality
In the future, AR glasses will project images onto the lenses using components that are barely noticeable. Your PMC will display information on your glasses much like a heads-up display (HUD), for instance, with symbols projected along the periphery. Look at a symbol and say something, and your PMC will act on the broadcasted message. Your PMC will also do a great job of minimizing the information displayed, limiting it to just what you need to know now.
6. Social Networking
Social networking as it exists today on Facebook and Twitter requires users to do extra work to extract value. We must diligently manage our community of friends and followers, and weed through all the tweets and posts for those that pique our interest. In the future, the management of our network will be dynamic and automated; the system will make and break connections to ensure maximum value. As updates are posted, for example, only those relevant to you at the present moment will make it through the filter to your PMC.
Social networking may also become more integrated with other components of our digital lives, like our calendars, address books and GPS. When going to a scheduled meeting with someone, you may be presented with recent and relevant posts that person made on Facebook to help prepare for small talk.
7. CAD, 3D Printing & Custom Products
Computer-aided design (CAD) products are popular among engineers, designers and students for creating 3D product designs. But the software is often too advanced for the average consumer to design his or her own products.
3D Printing (3DP), like that from Dimension, is another amazing technology that will take a 3D CAD model and “print” layers of material, one on top of the previous, to produce a real physical model. It can create almost any shape, even those that can’t be made by traditional manufacturing. The downside today is that the process is slow, costly, and often doesn’t produce parts strong enough for real world use. The technology in this industry is always advancing, and in the future, it will be able to produce robust parts quickly and cheaply.
8. Autonomous Cars
In the future, we will have autonomous cars, where driver control will be optional. Even though the thought might seem scary, the cars will be safer than any car you’d pilot yourself. They will constantly evaluate their current environment with multiple sensors — and they’ll never get distracted by text messages.