There are a lot of emerging technologies that could have a huge impact on the way we work, play, and consume information. Some of the most promising technologies are still a long way away, but there are some important developments that could either go mainstream or at least get a lot closer to full realisation. While you may not see any immediate use for one or two of these technologies, you will still want to keep an eye on them so you’ll know where we’re heading.
Rapid prototyping using 3D printers has been around for a while. Large manufacturers would use these machines to create models of products or test new designs. This year, though, we’ve seen 3D printers that are designed for the consumer industry – something you could sit on your desk at home.
What does this mean to the average person? While we’re a long way from something that resembles the old Star Trek replicator, this has the potential to change the way we look at mass production. A company won’t need to spend huge amounts of money on a production run when they can just send a design to your computer and let you print the object on demand. Imagine it: physical equipment could become “open source.” At the moment, we’re mostly seeing them used by hobbyists to create simple or artistic items, but the potential here is really amazing.
Motion Control That Is Actually Useful
After the Nintendo Wii hit it big, developers immediately began looking for ways to copy their success. Unfortunately, this mostly led to a lot of motion control functionally being forced into otherwise completely serviceable games to no great benefit. Still, there was always a possibility here for something that made a little more sense.
New motion control devices, like the Leap Motion, are trying to create something that can play an integral part of normal computing. This may be especially important since the new Windows 8 operating system is so clearly focused on touch screen controls. Who wants to get greasy fingerprints all over your nice monitor? With this kind of device you’ll be able to interact with the computer with amazingly precise, latency-free motions (something the Kinect was never quite able to do). And besides, it’s kind of appealing to imagine yourself navigating through web pages and documents while leaning back and regally flicking your wrist.
Tablets have getting more like laptops and laptops more like tablets, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the two would merge eventually. That’s essentially what you get with a touchscreen ultrabook—all the functionality of a laptop (keyboard, advanced processor, etc.) packaged together with the convenience of a tablet (portability, touchscreen, etc.). With new software coming that caters specifically to these devices (Windows 8, anyone?) it’s easy to see how this technology is set to take off this New Year.
Google Glasses (Project Glass)
A lot of people are working on augmented reality head mounted displays, and even Google has gotten behind one project in particular. These glasses are still a long way from retail viability, but the prototypes are currently running on Android to pop up messages, documents, pictures, and more right in your field of vision (as if people weren’t enough of a danger on the road with a regular smartphone).
So far, these glasses will let you do everything your smartphone does, but with the added convenience of simply popping the information up in front of you. A user will be able to simply look at a product in the store and automatically see a wide range of extra information and make video calls without having to hold a camera up to her face.
Google Driverless Car
Ready to let the autopilot take over? Google has made their way into two products on this list, but for good reason. They have already tested their driverless car extensively on streets with normal levels of traffic. The car can sense and keep its distance from other vehicles while on the road and automatically follows the speed limit as listed on the map in its database. Google’s team has completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles (accident free) and three states in America have already passed laws making driverless vehicles legal. Still, we won’t see these at a car dealer for some time yet.
Cloud computing is one of those things that has been around long enough that most people have at least heard of it. As we go forward, though, it’s just going to keep becoming more relevant, especially with all these other technological developments. The major players in the computer and internet world (Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon) all offer a variety of cloud apps, and as devices like Google glasses become available this will likely become an intrinsic part of the hardware. It’s all about streamlining, and when you can do most of the heavy processing in the cloud, your device will be free to carry out its duties without having to pack around excessive amounts of electronics.
About the Author:
Chad Calimpong has been recognized locally and nationally for his photography and video documentaries. He enjoys cooking, baking, and has a passion for technology and computers. He currently resides in Austin, Texas with his wife and two cats. At the time, he is researching more about educational technology and would recommend visiting the Dell site here for more information.