While we may not find evidence of extrasolar intelligence, there is plenty of terrestrial things to keep in eye on. But then again, you never know.
The below items are not numbered, as I did not want to emphasize any single item more than the others. They are all important and their advancements WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING!
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke
Advancements in Technology
Sure, we’ve seen single touch monitors in the 90’s and at store checkout counters, and the iPhone revolutionize the smartphone industry. Also, Windows 7 has Multi-Touch support built in; you just need a touch enabled device to use it. But I don’t think we’ve really seen much yet. Touch screens will keep gaining adoption, especially multi-touch, and will eventually be a standard feature on all computers (desktops, laptops, mobile, etc.) We will also see devices that accept touch input from multiple users simultaneously,making computers no longer cater to only a single user at a time.
This is technology that has been part of Windows since the release of Windows Vista in 2006, and other software predates that by at least a decade. This is something that will continue to improve over the coming years, and will likely be combined with more artificial intelligence to vastly improve the accuracy.
Facial Recognition and You Computer Seeing the World Around It
At the end of 2010 the Microsoft Kinect was released as an add-on to the XBOX 360. The Kinect offers facial recognition and full interaction with games and the XBOX 360 without the need for a controller, keyboard or some other input device. I think the Kinect is really only the tip of the iceberg in relation to this. Also, the Kinect is more advanced than the webcam integrated inside most laptops these days, but software could be written for those to implement some of the features.
Geo Location and GPS
Geographic data has been used in software applications for years. I remember using MapQuest.com in the 90’s. Now we have Bing Maps, Google Map, OpenStreetMap and others that allow this technology to more easily be integrated into applications like never before. Also it’s getting cheaper and cheaper to build GPS devices right into just about all mobile devices. Just look at what is being done with Foursquare and other services that let you show off where you’ve been.
Holograms, Transparent Displays and 3D
Display screens keep getting larger and thinner. There has been talk about both holograms and flexible screens over the years. We are likely to see screens that can be sewn into clothing or folded like a newspaper. Also, while holograms like in Star Wars may be a bit out yet, we will likely see advancements in 3D displays that will not require any special glasses by the viewer. With transparent displays you could layer images in a similar fashion to how the real world is layered as you look out across a field.
Sure, there are applications for mobile devices that let you hold the device up and it overlays geographic information over the video captured by the web cam. But using more compact technology and transparent displays, we will likely see glasses you can wear that will augment everything you see.
Again this item is dependent on others in this list, but the possibilities are amazing. Just think, you could look out the window of your home and it could automatically overlay weather information on what you’re looking at. You could look at a product at the store and it could overlay product reviews and alternate retailer prices over your view. The product could be recognized by using artificial intelligence to process visual pattern recognition, or even by the fact that you just glanced at the product with the UPC (bar code) in view of the glasses.
I don’t think (as some have predicted) that we will reach equivalent artificial intelligence to the human brain anytime soon, although, I could be wrong. Artificial Intelligence will continue to be improved. It will also be integrated in specific contextual scenarios more, instead of trying to make an artificial person right away. We’ll see it integrated further in various pattern recognition scenarios that will allow us to not only be able to use computers like we’ve seen in movies like Star Trek, but also in new ways that will revolutionize the world around us.
This is probably the biggest improvement area, but it’s still completely dependent on the others listed. Just think about a billboard changing the advertisement shown based on who is standing in front of it. It could also take a composite of the interests of all the people it recognizes in front of it and target an advertisement that the majority of those people might respond to.
Reading Brain Waves
Being able to control your computer, wheel chair or other items with your mind would be such a tremendous accessibility improvement to anyone with a disability (from carpel tunnel to paralysis) that it’s inventor will likely win a Nobel Prize.
There is already the Emotiv device that lets you interact with your computer using your mind. Emotive can probably be used for other stuff too; just imagine the possibilities.
Internet and Connectivity
More people are connecting to the internet for the first time everyday, and it’s becoming increasingly easier to access wirelessly and at high speeds. Just as Email, HTML, Ajax, Blogging, Wikis, Twitter, BitTorrent and Facebook have already changed the way we use the Internet; future advancements will continue to change it in ways we’ve never event imagined only a short time ago.
Integration of the Above
All the above items will continue to be integrated over the next few years. We will see advancements that were beyond comprehension back when the coolest futuristic stuff we talk about were Dick Tracy’s watch and the Bat Mobile. Some of the advancements to come are truly amazing and will almost seem magical.
“I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the TCP and DNS ideas and – ta da! – the World Wide Web.” – Time Berners-Lee
“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.” – Arthur C. Clarke
Most of the future talk in the new year seems to be related to what company will go public this year, mostly Facebook, and what new web company is hot. All these companies wouldn’t be here without the hardware and infrastructure advancements that made them possible.