Your Computers Will Have Computers

 

I’ve always been interested in technology.

One of my fondest childhood memories were the days when my dad would sit me down and teach me about Visual Basic.

Another was the day that my siblings and I saved up the $100 we needed to get a Nintendo (the original NES).

Honestly, since those early days tech has influenced my life to vast degrees, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m constantly speculating about where the field will go next.

Here are a few predictions.

Increased Online/Real Life Interactivity

I’ve been saying for years that the killer app of the so-called Web 3.0 movement will only be half-Semantic Web (which seems to be the aspect that everyone is focusing on). Though important, I think the real game-changer will be the widespread adoption of augmented reality and devices that will allow users to access it.

Augmented reality is essentially a second (or third, or millionth) layer of reality on top of real life. Right now you can download apps on your iPhone that allows you to hold up the camera of the phone to, say, a restaurant, and see more information about that restaurant (phone number, reviews, menu) right there next to the building itself (the tech works using GPS to figure out where you are and where you are looking).

Think of where this technology could go in the next ten years!

I can picture a society where people walk around with bluetooth headsets that also have a screen built-in that is a lens for one eye. This lens shows one or more overlay realities so that you can get additional information about your surroundings.

All of a sudden we wouldn’t be limited to the confines of physical reality in decorating our houses or stores. We wouldn’t have to use so many resources to construct a massive temple or rebrand a trendy club. The real life versions could be relatively spartan, while the online versions could be awash with surrealistic splendor.

And that’s just the beginning. Your device could be set to display information about yourself, so going around in public you could look at someone and immediately know that they like Radiohead and old vampire movies and hummus, too. Better friends them (by walking up and introducing yourself)! Can you say Facebook-killer?

Biotechnology

I intentionally used a broad term here because almost all aspects of the biotechnology industry are experiencing massive growth at the moment, and the resulting products are ridiculously cool.

The poster-child of this kind of tech is undoubtedly stem cells. After the whole Bush-debacle that almost completely hamstrung the US’s ability to compete scientifically for many years, we’ve finally managed to gain traction AND not scare the religious folk who had problems with the whole thing.

Already we’re growing all kinds of fun organs and tissues in test tubes, and I don’t think it will be much longer before we’re able to confidently grow back fingers, toes, arms, legs and any internal organ you might be missing.

We’re also able to print skin (no kidding, they actually use a skin printer to do this) to aid burn victims and anyone else who would otherwise have to have a skin graft performed to survive.

And can you say super-humans? There are dozens of interesting drugs being tested, from the so-called Barbie drug to a pill that will supposedly allow you to keep going without sleeping (safely) for weeks at a time. I can’t wait!

Computers

The computing industry has been shaken up by the introduction of netbooks and other cheap alternatives to a full-blown system, and that shakeup is going to continue, and not just in their own field. Books, movies, music and all other forms of media will continue to be reinvented based on the new technologies that are becoming available, including the advent of the ‘casual computing’ products (like the forthcoming iPad) that are not meant for serious work, but rather to tech-up your home.

I’m thinking that more and more computers are going to be less monolithically ‘computers’ and more ‘devices’ that are specialized for certain tasks. This will divide the field into the mobile class of devices (cell phones, tablets, etc) and the home/office genre, which will be more like workstations but will likely get more and more specialized (a computer that is just a giant, touch-sensitive screen in the shape of an architect’s table, for instance).

Mobile Devices

As our ability to cram high-technology into small packages is increasing, we’ll see more and more all-in-one devices, that will not only function as smart phones like we know today, but that will also replace everything in our wallets, our passports, our keys, and just about anything else that you might want to have with you at all times.

The shape that these things will take is up for debate, but there have been a whole lot of interesting mockups making their rounds on the net, and my money is on devices that will somehow be integrated into what you wear (like this device from Nokia). OLEDs (and OLED-replacement technologies) are getting cheaper and cheaper, and this will help make these devices very energy-efficient, sexy and relatively inexpensive.

What do you think? What technologies are you looking forward to? Where do you think the industries will go next?

14 comments

  1. I definitely agree with you on all of your thoughts above. One thing you might want to check out in terms of concept technology as this video by microsoft: http://www.istartedsomething.com/20090228/microsoft-office-labs-vision-2019-video/. I know, I know. I’m not a big fan of Microsoft computers – I’m an Ubuntu guy, too poor to be an Apple guy. However, this definitely shows what will be possible within the next decade (though I’m not too sure it will be that widespread).

    I think, in terms of technology, the next ‘big’ things we will see VERY soon will be the fall of cable and the rise of internet tv (ie google tv and others entering the market). Also, print media will quickly decline and will be replaced by digital media on hardware ala the ipad or the kindle.

    Talking about skin printers and being able to quickly create organs…remember that scene in The Fifth Element where they re-create Mila Jovovich’s body from one cell (yeah, not too realistic)…but it’s getting there. Fast.

  2. I definitely agree with you on all of your thoughts above. One thing you might want to check out in terms of concept technology as this video by microsoft: http://www.istartedsomething.com/20090228/microsoft-office-labs-vision-2019-video/. I know, I know. I’m not a big fan of Microsoft computers – I’m an Ubuntu guy, too poor to be an Apple guy. However, this definitely shows what will be possible within the next decade (though I’m not too sure it will be that widespread).

    I think, in terms of technology, the next ‘big’ things we will see VERY soon will be the fall of cable and the rise of internet tv (ie google tv and others entering the market). Also, print media will quickly decline and will be replaced by digital media on hardware ala the ipad or the kindle.

    Talking about skin printers and being able to quickly create organs…remember that scene in The Fifth Element where they re-create Mila Jovovich’s body from one cell (yeah, not too realistic)…but it’s getting there. Fast.

  3. I think there will be Tablet PC/Cell phone combos. Observe Apple’s iPad – it’s pretty much a giant-sized iPhone. I’m thinking as tablet PC’s get more onboard memory (or expandable memory like SD cards grow in size), they’ll come close to replacing traditional computers. If we can have some sort of gap bridged between the two devices, I think that manufacturer will have something serious to gain. As it stands, the only thing the iPad does better than the iPhone is be an e-reader – but it could never fully replace the iPhone’s functionality as a phone.

    Print media is going to collapse as will cable TV, to be replaced by totally digital information (Individual channels will be bought from now on, and we’ll have web streaming from something like boxee).

  4. I think there will be Tablet PC/Cell phone combos. Observe Apple’s iPad – it’s pretty much a giant-sized iPhone. I’m thinking as tablet PC’s get more onboard memory (or expandable memory like SD cards grow in size), they’ll come close to replacing traditional computers. If we can have some sort of gap bridged between the two devices, I think that manufacturer will have something serious to gain. As it stands, the only thing the iPad does better than the iPhone is be an e-reader – but it could never fully replace the iPhone’s functionality as a phone.

    Print media is going to collapse as will cable TV, to be replaced by totally digital information (Individual channels will be bought from now on, and we’ll have web streaming from something like boxee).

  5. I think computers will start getting exciting when it becomes possible for the average Joe to design and prototype hardware at a reasonable price (this is not too far away!) This will revolutionize the hardware industry, much like blogging affected giant media corporations and open-source software affected giant software companies. This was, of course, all for the better.

  6. I think computers will start getting exciting when it becomes possible for the average Joe to design and prototype hardware at a reasonable price (this is not too far away!) This will revolutionize the hardware industry, much like blogging affected giant media corporations and open-source software affected giant software companies. This was, of course, all for the better.

  7. @Richard: The way I figure, anything we can imagine will be possible, it’s just a matter of how we get there. Can’t wait to see how it happens, though, and maybe play a part in the transformation!

    @Brett: I wholeheartedly agree! Good predictions.

    @TJ: SO right. I’ve seen a few 3D printers/prototypers recently. Amazing to think of what will happen when people can build physical projects the way they currently build websites and apps.

    @melanotan: Nice! I read the one in Wired, hadn’t seen the one at FitnessRX, though. Thanks for the links!

  8. @Richard: The way I figure, anything we can imagine will be possible, it’s just a matter of how we get there. Can’t wait to see how it happens, though, and maybe play a part in the transformation!

    @Brett: I wholeheartedly agree! Good predictions.

    @TJ: SO right. I’ve seen a few 3D printers/prototypers recently. Amazing to think of what will happen when people can build physical projects the way they currently build websites and apps.

    @melanotan: Nice! I read the one in Wired, hadn’t seen the one at FitnessRX, though. Thanks for the links!

  9. You should definitely read Freedom by Daniel Suarez.

    It’s a techno-triller, I am not done reading it but so far I find it fascinating. I thought of Freedom as soon as I read your comments on Increased Online/Real Life Interactivity.

    In few words, it’s about a social network, the Darknet, which resolves around a bigger entity: the Daemon. Darknet users have specific callings (reporter, programmer, etc.) and wear HUD glasses that give them access to D-Space. And that’s where it gets interesting.

    Through the Daemon, Darknet users have access to pretty much every digital information. By adding/substracting layers of D-Space, they can acquire information about everyone and everything.

    Otherwise, you may also want to check out SixthSense, a cool device created by Pranav Mistry. It really takes the interaction between the physical and digital worlds to a new level:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/pranav_mistry_the_thrilling_potential_of_sixthsense_technology.html

  10. You should definitely read Freedom by Daniel Suarez.

    It’s a techno-triller, I am not done reading it but so far I find it fascinating. I thought of Freedom as soon as I read your comments on Increased Online/Real Life Interactivity.

    In few words, it’s about a social network, the Darknet, which resolves around a bigger entity: the Daemon. Darknet users have specific callings (reporter, programmer, etc.) and wear HUD glasses that give them access to D-Space. And that’s where it gets interesting.

    Through the Daemon, Darknet users have access to pretty much every digital information. By adding/substracting layers of D-Space, they can acquire information about everyone and everything.

    Otherwise, you may also want to check out SixthSense, a cool device created by Pranav Mistry. It really takes the interaction between the physical and digital worlds to a new level:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/pranav_mistry_the_thrilling_potential_of_sixthsense_technology.html

  11. Hey Colin,

    I have been lurking around on this site for a while now, this post finally convinced me to write something.

    It’s great that you picked this topic, sometimes I would really like to close my eyes and forward some 20 or 100 years just to see what technology is like then.

    You might not have heard of it, but your visions remind me of a pen&paper role-playing game called Shadowrun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun).

    If you are into dystopian cyberpunk novels, this book might be worth checking out as well: “Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson. I loved it.

    In general I just think that we are all in for an amazing experience.

    Greetings from China,

    Roelof

  12. Hey Colin,

    I have been lurking around on this site for a while now, this post finally convinced me to write something.

    It’s great that you picked this topic, sometimes I would really like to close my eyes and forward some 20 or 100 years just to see what technology is like then.

    You might not have heard of it, but your visions remind me of a pen&paper role-playing game called Shadowrun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun).

    If you are into dystopian cyberpunk novels, this book might be worth checking out as well: “Snow Crash” by Neil Stephenson. I loved it.

    In general I just think that we are all in for an amazing experience.

    Greetings from China,

    Roelof

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