How much change is likely to happen in five years, in ten years? This is one of my favorite topics – the acceleration of technology. Many day-to-day things we take for granted today were miracles ten years ago, and the same will be the case ten years hence. Here are some miracles today that we will likely have in five to ten years:
- A babelfish – a universal real-time translator, as described in the masterpiece The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- Full time no-glasses 3d on TV (almost here, really)
- Full time heads up display and associated apps and capabilities – cameras, etc. – Google Glass is just the beginning!
- Self-driving cars. No crashes. Much more filled roadways.
- Immersive work from home – telecommuting is just like being in the office (if you want)
- Real cybernetics – an artificial limb that has a sense of touch, for example. Or an artificial eye implant that restores decent sight to a blind person. With a camera built in, so that the blind person is the first person to have a bionic eye. Or with interchangeable sensors so the formerly blind person can see a wider range of information than we normals can.
- Vat-grown organ replacements – nearly here now, as discussed in this TED Talk on growing organs
- Human performance enhancements – pharmaceutical, prosthetic, neurological – that enable use to perform physically and mentally two to ten times faster and stronger.
Yesterday I read about a new research project and demonstration at MIT of the T(ether), a device/system that enables capture and replay of 3-D gestures and actions, using an iPad and some additional sensors that capture where the iPad is in 3d space. Earlier this week I saw a video demonstration of the new Leap Motion device providing high-resolution Kinect-like 3d motion capture functionality for a laptop, enabling at least one half of the then miraculous interactions that were created using special effects in the movies Minority Report and The Avenger’s. These two devices are not the final story in how people will interact with a virtual world in real-world 3d, but they do illustrate just how amazing our technology has become in the last few years. And the Leap device is shipping now to early adopters and developers!
When the Xbox and its cousins were originally released, the idea of using your body as a controller seemed ridiculously far-fetched, if anyone was even thinking about it at all outside the game labs and the special effects departments of movie studios. But then gradually these capabilities started to be released from the woodwork, and soon they were available on all the consoles. They were enabled by the creation of new sensors and massive processing power. Ten years ago they were unimaginable except in science fiction stories – today they are in nearly every teenager’s bedroom.
Tomorrow I’ll continue this series about technological acceleration, look at a whole lot of innovations we’ve experienced over the past ten years, and see if we can come up with some predictions for the next ten years.