This is the question that constantly irks technophiles. What is the next major technology going to be? Can we even conceive what it will be like? Or, is it so far out that no words in our dictionary can even describe what it will do? What will the implications be? How will we get to that point? And most importantly: How soon can I get one? The following is a “wish list” of upcoming technologies that I think we are actually on track to create in the next few decades. Despite the fact that I’d love to own a TARDIS, there are no interstellar time machines or similarly complex technologies here. These are only things that we really have the potential to develop. Truly Holographic Displays and Interactions Touchable Holography Holographic displays have been around for some time now, but they have yet to reach ubiquity. More importantly, complex 3D interactions with holographic displays (like in the movies) are still a way off. However, new research and consumer products like the Microsoft Kinect and Wiimotes are bringing us closer and closer to virtual 3D interactions. The key to making holographic interaction marketable will be to develop an intuitive user interface; this will require that tactile feedback is present and realistic. To date, I’ve only found one example of a tactile feedback hologram system: The “Touchable Holography” system uses ultra sound waves at their focal points to generate simulated contact forces from the image displayed in the hologram. Personal Fabrication Machines MakerBot Thing-O-Matic Again, I’m a bit biased in this field since I work in a 3D Printing Lab at my University, and I’m currently employed at Makerbot Industries. But would I be doing those things if I didn’t think personal-level manufacturing was going to be big!? For those who aren’t familiar with 3D printing, devices like the Makerbot Thing-O-Matic allow you to print almost anything you can imagine out of plastic by depositing layers one by one until an object is built up. Devices like this have major implications for the way we lead our lives – could there be a new DIY generation on the horizon? I hope so! Vacations to Space Virgin "SpaceShipTwo" Technically, you can book one of these right now. But, it’s probably safe to assume that you don’t have a spare $200,000 laying around to book a spot on Virgin Galactic’s maiden flight. But just think how quickly we’ve reached this point. It was less than a decade ago that civilian space flight even entered consideration, and now we’re already seeing successful test flights! It’s only a matter of time before price comes down, and you get the chance to try to spot your house from space. Computers and Machines that Understand Natural Language HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssey" Natural language processing is one of the holy grails of Artificial intelligence and will likely be impossible to accomplish with even complex algorithms. In order to make machines fully capable of understanding human language (any language), an extremely sophisticated artificial intelligence program will need to first be crafted – one that rivals the human brain. To my knowledge, nobody has a good estimate of when we will reach “technological singularity”, but an average estimate seems to be around the year 2040. Now we just need to make sure that robots don’t take over the world before they get the chance to listen to us . Programmable Matter + Self Reconfiguring and Aware Robots "Stochastic Modular Assembly" This is yet another topic where I do research, so it’s close to my heart, and goes hand in hand with personal manufacturing. The first time I heard about this was during a presentation from Intel about “Claytronics” - a collaborative technology being developed with Carnegie Mellon University. Programmable matter would permit for the instantaneous modeling and reconfiguration of 3D objects in the physical world – Think play-doh on steroids.

June 15, 2011

e14 Blog Post: What’s Next?

This latest element14 blog is basically me predicting the future. So, if you want something to tease me about in a few decades when none of these things have come to fruition, you should read this latest post. Here’s an … Continue reading

August 15, 2010

reacXion – Art Meets Technology

I’m no artist, but I do try really really hard to appreciate art, and I do enjoy a good museum visit. And, while I might suck a painting, sculpting, drawing, and singing, I’m pretty good at building stuff. My latest … Continue reading