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8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future

8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future
September 18, 2011 by Rick Chin 77

Rick Chin is the director of product innovation at SolidWorks, where he develops new products and researches how technology will make us smarter, simplify daily tasks and seamlessly fit into our everyday lives. In 20 years our technology will reach a level of personalization that will enhance every moment of our lives. We’ll be more physically comfortable with the furniture we sit on and the products we hold; only the most relevant and personalized information from friends and family will reach us; and our movement in the digital world will be near telepathic. I foresee several of today’s technologies as relevant to this particular vision of the future. They will evolve to not only be more powerful, but also more integrated with one other.

1. Smartphones
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. Your PMC will move to your wrist and take the place of your watch. (Microsoft had this vision with SPOT, but the technology came too early and was too limited.) The device’s display will not need to be your primary user interface (UI), so the PMC can be a small, diverse fashion statement like today’s watches. The primary UI will become personal peripherals, like information glasses and headsets. You’ll be able to interact naturally in a visual and audible way. Your PMC and personal peripherals will become your interface to every other computer, device and machine you interact with. The only UI you will ever need to know is that of your PMC. Not only will your personal peripherals allow you to explicitly interact with the digital (and physical) worlds, but they’ll also provide subtle cues to your subconscious. While looking through your information glasses, a restaurant might emit a subtle, warm blue tint because it was reviewed positively by patrons. It will feel like a good place to eat. Are your spidey senses tingling?

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So in the future. Wireless providers will likely credit homeowners’ monthly bills for having devices like AT&T’s 3G MicroCell at home. wireless access to the cloud will be pervasive and ultra-fast at all times. Today’s 3G and 4G networks provide acceptable but intermittent connections and okay speed. personal mobile computers (PMCs) won’t even have signal strength indicators. This must 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. even remote neighborhoods and towns will enjoy solid wireless access to the cloud. In the future. deployment will be faster and more organic. 2 of 9 7/9/2012 9:41 AM .8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future http://mashable. With enough of these devices in place. The deployment of today’s cell towers is a slow. deliberate and costly affair.

Apple’s iCloud looks like it has the potential to cross the chasm and move the early majority into the 3. all of our personal information and the applications will be available to us at any time. Cloud Computing There is certainly a lot of hype around cloud computing. With tomorrow’s cloud computing. but few technology providers have done a good job explaining or providing services that are relevant to the average person. you’ll never be without the information needed to complete a task. Whether you’re editing a text document while riding a train. The two most notable exceptions are Google and Apple. 3 of 9 7/9/2012 9:41 AM .8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future http://mashable. Google Docs is arguably the first cloud-based app that gained mainstream traction. or adjusting a sales proposal at a client’s office.

and how do their eyes move around it? Voice recognition products like Dragon from Nuance are used extensively when transcribing voice to text. Look at a restaurant and say. communicated via your information glasses either by visual display or audible voice. like driving. find and compute and then transmit the results back to you visually and/or verbally. Where are people looking on a webpage. you will hear the highest-rated 4. 4 of 9 7/9/2012 9:41 AM . In the future. We’ll call these information glasses. depending on what you are doing at that moment. which will interpret your intent.8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future http://mashable. The object you’re viewing and the words you speak will be transmitted to your PMC. “Do they have good salads there?” A moment later. Eye-Tracking / Voice Commands Today’s eye-tracking technology from companies like Tobii is used heavily in usability research. this technology will be combined with augmented reality (AR) to create a near-invisible and natural user interface for your PMC.

And Lego has a great point of sale display that lets kids virtually play with the toy inside the box they’re holding. You can even use AR glasses to experience this technology in a slightly more immersive. first-person point of view. Your PMC will display information on your glasses much like a heads-up display (HUD). Your PMC will also do a great job of minimizing the information displayed. Augmented Reality Today’s augmented reality (AR) will add floating text. Look at a symbol and say something. 5 of 9 7/9/2012 9:41 AM . limiting it to just what you need to know 5. Tissot watches and Olympus cameras have webpages that let you experience virtual products. for instance. symbols and 3D virtual images to a camera’s video feed to make it more informative or entertaining.8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future http://mashable. and your PMC will act on the broadcasted message. In the future. Numerous iPhone apps like Layar provide local information. with symbols projected along the periphery. AR glasses will project images onto the lenses using components that are barely noticeable.

and weed through all the tweets and posts for those that pique our interest. like our calendars. the system will make and break connections to ensure maximum value. Image courtesy of Flickr. We must diligently manage our community of friends and followers. Social Networking Social networking as it exists today on Facebook and Twitter requires users to do extra work to extract value. the management of our network will be dynamic and automated. 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. escapedtowisconsin 6 of 9 7/9/2012 9:41 AM . address books and GPS. As updates are posted. Social networking may also become more integrated with other components of our digital 6. only those relevant to you at the present moment will make it through the filter to your PMC. for example.8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future http://mashable. In the future.

But the software is often too advanced for the average consumer to design his or her own products. costly. pictures. is another amazing technology that will take a 3D CAD model and “print” layers of material. designers and students for creating 3D product designs. It can create almost any shape. it will be able to produce robust parts quickly and cheaply. one on top of the previous. The technology in this industry is always advancing. 3D Printing in an industrial setting is often referred to as “additive manufacturing. The robots will be controlled by process software that will be integrated with future CAD. configured product features. CAD will allow the average consumer to design his own custom products that are both manufacturable and affordable. however. Consumers will be able to use simple software to combine predefined. to produce a real physical model. 3D Printing & Custom Products Computer-aided design (CAD) products are popular among 7. even those that can’t be made by traditional manufacturing. CAD. In the future.” As products are ordered online. Online custom products are slowly gaining popularity. versatile manufacturing stations controlled by robots will quickly and affordably crank out custom-manufactured products. shapes and even personalized sizing. and in the future. and often doesn’t produce parts strong enough for real world use. You can go to NIKEiD and design your own 7 of 9 7/9/2012 9:41 AM . 3D Printing (3DP).8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future http://mashable. They’ll be able to personalize further by adding their own color palate. The downside today is that the process is slow. like that from Dimension.

Will they be complex to operate? Not at all. 8. You can get most any car today with GPS. traffic info and blind spot warning. The downside is that they are pricey and will take several weeks to get to customized Nike shoes. the cars will be safer than any car you’d pilot yourself. BMW. Some of these competitors later went to work for Google’s autonomous vehicle efforts. lane departure warning/intervention. we will have autonomous cars.and they’ll never get distracted by text messages. flexible and inexpensive manufacturing. including your autonomous car. Your PMC will act as a user interface to any device. Options now include active cruise control. These cars can even brake on their own to avoid hitting an obstacle or pedestrian in front of the vehicle. Even though the thought might seem scary.8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future http://mashable. It will know your schedule and address book. so when you get into your 8 of 9 7/9/2012 9:41 AM . but luxury car makers such as Audi. Mercedes and Volvo provide a whole lot more. In the future. A few years ago. Other websites such as ShapeWays and Ponoko are useful for many DIYers. They will constantly evaluate their current environment with multiple sensors -. in which teams competed to race fully autonomous cars that drove themselves. highway and urban settings. where driver control will be optional. They were tested in off-road. The mass market appeal of sites like these will grow in the future (when combined with the simpler CAD described above) with fast. Autonomous Cars Today’s cars are packed with a variety of driver assistance aids. DARPA ran its Grand Challenge.

tlnors 9 of 9 7/9/2012 9:41 AM . “Let’s go!” Image courtesy of iStockphoto.8 Current Technologies That Will Shape Our Future car one hour before an appointment. All you have to do is say. the car’s GPS will instantly display the destination address and arrival time.