Imagine this for a second. The year is 2020 and you walk into an office, similar yet different to the one you may be in right now. Structurally, the features are similar to your 2009 office, there’s a desk, a chair and a window with a view. Yet, there are noticeable differences. Gone is your clunky PC. The telephone is also nowhere to be seen. Books? Nope. Newspapers? Magazines? Nope. Nope. Instead, using a wearable device on your finger, you conjure up a hologram of a blank screen above your desk.
“Computer on,” you state. Appearing before you is a virtual computer. You use voice demand technology to bring up documents, email your friends, write reports and check stocks on the internet. Then you decide to read a copy of the January 2020 issue of Exec Digital and relax. Welcome to the not so distant future.
The above scenario is an idealistic view of the future created from the mind of a 23-year old science-fiction fan (yours truly). While predicting future technology is never an exact science, I went to the minds of people who might have an idea of what technology might look like in 10 years.
While my potential technology may be a bit idyllic, it is not far off from MIT’s Wear Ur World. The WUW is a perfect example of potential future technology, very much inspiring my own tale. Developed by the MIT Media Lab and simply known as ‘Sixth Sense’, the wearer uses a small projector, a webcam and a mobile phone, ultimately allowing you to turn any flat surface into a computer.
Using hand gestures, it can do anything from tell the time to make a phone call. (For example, drawing a circle will prompt the WUW to show a clock). To get an idea of WUW, just imagine Tom Cruise using the Standard User Interface in Minority Report. Of course, WUW is a bit more high-tech than Cruise’s SUI.
Smaller, faster and much more efficient is very much the ideal of tomorrow’s computers, as is mobility. A number of industry experts say the idea of increased mobility technology is nearly certain in 10 years. A report from Pew Internet Research polling 1,000 technology execs indicates by the year 2020, mobile technology will be our main access for the internet. Furthermore, the same experts say most communications appliances will come with voice-demand technology.
Smaller and faster machines with increased mobility and efficiency aren’t just the themes for future computers. Those qualities represent the cars of 2020 as well. Mitchell Joachim, co-founder and partner of Terreform 1, the New York based ecological non-profit design collaborative, designed a car for urban societies conceptualising this very thought. Joachim designed the City Car and Stackable Car as transports strictly for the city.
“One concept of the car was soft body, where it could adhere to gentle congestion. You wouldn’t move in a shiny, precious metal box. It’d be more human like, you’d move in flocks or herds where it’s okay to scuff against neighbour. We also thought of stackable cars that stand up and interlock in oddly directional ways. There’s also a Hondagreat social aspect to the City Car. It doesn’t tell you things like miles per hour. You don’t need to know that in the city,” says Joachim.
Designer Stefan Mathys led a team of visionaries to design a similar type car. The City Transport Cell, is a battery driven, zero emission car, which can easily navigate an urban society. It was built specifically for the year 2020 and comes with removable parts. It should be noted, most of these cars are the size of go carts.
In every futuristic vision, there are always robots present. From the Jetsons to Terminator, robots have always been a part of our foreseen future. Therefore, no technology in 2020 article would be complete without a mention of robotics. A few years back, the Japanese Ministry of Trade and Industry (METI) set out a plan to introduce intelligent robots by the year 2015.
The Japanese Robot Association came out with a report indicating robots of all kinds would be present in the home and office by the year 2020. The Japanese, the leader in robotic technology, have predicted robots will be used to assist humans with everyday tasks and keep them company. They’ll also be used for labor purposes. By 2020, robots may even be set into outer space to explore the moon and beyond. The Japanese government has developed a programme to achieve this very goal.
Whether its robotics, cars or toys, there truly is no telling where technology will land in 10 years. Think back to the turn of the millennium. Flat panel displays, iPods, DVR technology and commercialised GPS were still mostly visions not yet conceptualised. Mass-market commercial hybrids were still in their infancy and digital technology was unbeknownst to most people. There’s no telling where we’re going.