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Blog > Predicting the future is hard, part 3

>> Predicting the future is hard, part 3

Sun, Mar 8th 3:11pm 2009: Tech Toys

From: Jonathan Oxer <>
To: [Internal IVT staff mailing list]
Subject: RE: [IVT-Staff] Microsoft vision of future technology
Date: Fri, 06 Mar 2009 10:49:09 +1100

On Fri, 2009-03-06 at 09:52 +1100, Luke Sparke wrote:
> Hang on, 2019? When you look at that date, it looks like some way off,
> everyone in reflective silver suits and driving flying cars future date,

Flying cars are a crock, at least until there's some way to lift them that doesn't involve propulsion by physical action-reaction. A 1T flying car needs 10,000N of force to hover which means massive backwash or serious burns and damaged hearing for anyone nearby. It's a pipe-dream.

> Are you saying that it's conservative to
> expect foldable electronic newspapers,

Yes. E-paper technology is practical and has been proven in small-scale real world trials to work well. Right now costs are high but like all technology it will hit a point where the price reaches a sweet spot and suddenly it will be everywhere. It's already been used commercially in advertising posters, and for schoolbooks in the Netherlands since January 2007.

Motorola used the same underlying technology in the display of their F3 phone released in Nov 2006 because it was super-cheap. The F3 is a phone designed to be very durable and cheap, to be sold into 2nd and 3rd world countries. Very thin phone (no glass), long battery life, and viewable in full sunlight.

Remember the airline ticket in the movie that showed dynamically updating information, and the credit card that did the same? Already done by SiPix Imaging using this technology:

> electronic coffee mugs etc in 10 years?

Yes. That's easy. We already have things like umbrellas that connect to an online weather service and provide visual display of predictions.

On the other hand, I don't see a coffee mug as a very practical general purpose display surface! "Hang on, I'll check my email on my mug - oops, I forgot it was full".

The point is that considering these sorts of developments is *thinking* the right way: it's exploring the possibilities of what can happen when everyday objects around us contain computing power, sensors, displays, and connectivity.

> (It also seems the people in 2019 will be
> complete morons, requiring arrows pointing them in the direction to go.

I see that as really useful. Having been through places like Changi and LAX, which is so big it has its own postcode, yes, I'd love to have a personal head-up navigation system for just walking around.

> I
> don't know what happens if they're in a real airport, with you know, other
> people, and you can't see the floor for all the other pairs of shoes. Maybe
> the guy in front of you will have a multi-touch hoodie, with an update on
> the back that says "follow me").

Old technology: head-mounted displays. Big, bulky, ugly, proven, reliable.
Current technology: projection glasses. Look like more normal glasses but overlay computer imagery onto what you look at. Once these get to the point of looking just like normal glasses it will be socially acceptable to use them.
Future technology: contact lenses. Stick em in your eyes and nobody will even know you're wearing them, but your world will be augmented with additional information. Will they be on the consumer market within 10 years? I don't know, probably not.

> When it comes to predictions of the future, they're usually way off. That's
> because it's hard to predict what hasn't yet been thought of. Instead
> people just take what we have now and think of how far it can be taken.
> Predictions of the future from 10 years ago completely missed social
> networking.

True, predicting the future is hard, but it's still fun to try!

> And finally, does anyone actually want computers to work that way? Looked
> like a lot of effort to me, having to reach up to the screen and move stuff
> around all the time. In fact, in a reality, what purpose would it even
> serve? The only reason I would ever need to move anything on the screen
> would be to scroll, and reaching up to the screen to do that, rather than
> just spinning the wheel on my mouse, would be prohibitively annoying.

Yes, interfaces that require large physical movements aren't very practical.

A lot of "inventing" though is really just about trying things and getting unexpected consequences. The interesting thing is not specific technologies, it's the unexpected things people use those technologies for. Some things work as intended, some sound good in theory or when portrayed in a movie but aren't practical, and some things end up as something completely different but still cool.

> So, I say not a snowflakes chance we'll see that in 2019, and would be
> willing to place a wager as Jeff did with Andrew regarding "All software
> being online" - the deadline for which has now past.

Let's make it specific! What exactly has to come to pass (or not) by 2019 to decide the wager, who arbitrates, and what stakes shall we set?

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