Sunday, September 4, 2011

Devices of the Future

I don’t know about you but I’m finding the pace of change, driven and accelerated by technology, to be a little overwhelming at times.  imageWhen I was a kid, talking to someone on a phone meant picking up the handset of the only phone in the house, hoping the party line wasn’t on, and using my finger to dial (turn a dial) number by number.  Now we carry our phones (which is a limiting description) around with us in our pockets.  We call from our cars, anywhere in any building, from the grocery store, or the top of a mountain.  Call is maybe too narrow a descriptor – we can text, instant message, Facebook, tweet, BBM, or e-mail.  Our phones, let’s call them devices, know who’s contacting us, know where we are on a map, take pictures and videos and let us post them for the world to see, and connect us to each other in live video calls.  Instead of dialing we say “call Home” or “call John at work” or do any of the other contact actions using people’s names stored in an address book.

Our devices do so many other things in addition to helping us imagecommunicate.  We can take and share notes (Evernote, imageOnenote), play games (Angry Birds anyone?), browse the web, look up places on maps, find restaurants / coffee shops nearby, find a movie theatre nearby and buy tickets, check the level on a surface, measure seismic activity, convert any unit to any other unit including current currency rates, watch videos, listen to music, check the weather, see what’s on TV, look up words in a dictionary, purchase, check on a flight or ferry schedule, read e-books while imageimagehighlighting, note-taking, and sharing, look up and comment on recipes, use a scientific calculator, check-in at a Starbucks and become the mayor, purchase a coupon (Groupon) and show it digitally at the venue, hunt for a house, translate spoken languages (crudely), and the list goes on.

Did any of us image these possibilities 30 years ago, 20 years, or imageimageeven 10 years?  Okay, 10 years ago we were seeing signs with Palm devices.  But, devices were separate so you might have carried a cell phone, a Palm, and a Walkman / Discman player.  I remember pondering the day when devices would start to merge.  I had no idea how this would explode as it has in the past few years.  It really is unbelievable when you take a minute to reflect on it.

So, what might devices of the future look like and do that is so different from today?  We had some friends over last night and we were talking about languages and how difficult it can be to communicate when two people don’t speak a common language.  Our mobile devices will solve this problem one day with real time translation of any language to any language.  I speak one language, English but with my future device it won’t matter – my device will detect in real time a person’s language and automatically translate what I say into their language and vice versa.  We will hear each other in our own language but also in the our own voices!  Our devices will project 3D holographic images of people we are

Is it real?
communicating remotely with.  Rather than a 2D video image like with Face Time, the image will project in front of you while you converse as if the person was right there with you.  Our devices will be medial assistants.  They will monitor our vitals, remind us to take our medications, nudge us to take vitamins, warn us about our eating habits, and interact with our doctors (remotely) to provide diagnoses.  When we want to find certain information or the best price on some product, we will instruct our devices to go online to do so and to report back when they’ve exhausted the search.  Our devices will learn our preferences and personality over time and adapt to best anticipate and meet our needs.  For learning, they will have access to what we’ve read, what we’ve been tested on, what we’ve learned, what we know, and will be able to increasingly personalize our learning, recommend resources and experiences, and provide us real time feedback.  To interface with the device we will be able to speak naturally and it will speak naturally with us.  Perhaps it will read our thoughts (not liking that idea…).  Additionally, 3D virtual interfaces will be projected for drawing, typing (where that may make sense), to interact with larger surfaces for example to manipulate a map, pictures, videos, to immerse oneself virtually (think holodeck like) in a book, or to quickly navigate and synthesize graphs and data.

What do you think the possibilities for devices could be in 2016, 2020, and 2030?  Let your imagination run wild, speculate without reserve, what might you come up with for Devices of the Future?