postheadericon ECS: Futurama, A Trip into the Future of Tech

On the eve of 2011, a look into the future of tech seems appropriate and wise, wouldn’t you say? After all, no one wants to be left in the dust and accused of being a neub these days, whether tasked with installing a new phone app, or figuring out the remote controller that came boxed with a new set of wireless speakers. So find below a brief ride along what’s coming down the pike, or to update that clichĂ©, what’s rising on the light peak...

Light Peak is new tech that you will see hit the streets later this year, coming from a joint collaboration between two giants: Apple and Intel. Light Peak will attempt to quell one of the most-often raised complaints from consumers: too many plugs and cables!

Have you ever found yourself dumbfounded, holding two ends of a wire while trying to connect two high-tech computing devices? Of course, we all have. In most cases, it’s not because we are stupid, but the reason for our confusion is that we are often trying to put a square plug into a round hole. Light Peak claims it will fix our funk with computer connections by consolidating all connectors into one. One type of plug for your monitor, keyboard, hard drives, etc. and only one type of cable is what Light Peak claims to be about. And on top of that, all connections will be at optical speeds: about 10-20x faster then anything we have plugged into our home or office today.

But other technology titans are coming up with another related idea to free us from cables, and that would be the rollout of wireless... everything! From flat screen monitors, to speakers, to media streaming servers, the “way of the wire” is about to die all together. We are already familiar with wireless mice and keyboards, and perhaps some of us are early adopters of wireless speaker systems – great for getting Jai Ho blasting into every room of the house – but get ready for nifty consumables like universal wireless charging pads for all of our daily dead battery items, such as our phone, camera, Bluetooth headphones, tablet, laptop, etc. etc.

But while the above technologies make digital living easier to set up and plug in, it’s not as exciting as some other things you can expect to see in 2011 and beyond. Expect better-looking and better-integrated tech appliances as well...

When Shubu Thapa (Nepali pop star) was asked what she would like to see happen in the futurama, she put it bluntly, “Make it better looking – to me, it all looks like toys for boys”.

And unfortunately for the fashion conscious, tech gadgets today are awfully ugly to wear, for example, take those silly looking 3-D glasses they give you in the theatre. Expect that all to change with the advent of high-tech fashion accessories such as designer sunglasses with built in wireless music and video, as well as GPS directional displays so you won’t get lost while walking to the movie hall. And as far as watching 3D in 2011, scrap the glasses – you won’t need them.

But the real change in next year’s tech is not just about digital fashion accessories, but also about a fundamental change in the very fabric of technology. Take for example these recent advances in the weaving of nano and biotechnologies...

We are about to move from silicon-based products to ones made from graphene. Graphene is basically pencil lead, but just 1 atom thick, and in 2010 physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won a Noble Peace Prize for showing how this material can be used to make microchips thousands of times smaller than those manufactured today. That means that you will soon be able to wear the equivalent of your laptop on your lapel, or if you are building devices, you can fit about 20,000 of them on a wafer just a few inches in diameter.

We are also about to start using life itself as a device. Doctor Yen-Hsun Su of Academia Sinica (Taiwan) is pioneering ways to fuse nano-sized particles of metal and other materials into living organisms, so expect to see a new crop of bio devices, like sidewalk trees that glow and act as lampposts to light the way. And the recent project iGem, put together by students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, successfully stores about 90 gigabytes of encrypted data into a single cell of common bacteria.

All of which is leading technologists to view that old fashioned 1950’s vision of human-looking metallic robots in a much different way. The robot we never actually saw materialize - is already fast becoming obsolete - as nanos and bios become built into many types of living organisms, including ourselves!

And if we get sick from embedded data bugs, or take a wrong turn with our GPS Gucchi sunglasses and break a leg, the healthcare industry is forging ahead with innovations of their own that will help save us. Hospital biobeds are being designed that will monitor our vitals and administer medicine automatically, without the need for human intervention; and with products like the NASA designed AlterG Anti-gravity treadmill, our hip replacements will become much less painful and quicker to heal.

All in all, the remainder of this decade promises to unfold into a terrific futuramic mix of miniaturized wireless bionic devices, some that we wear, and some that we can grow in the garden. However, some caution is advised before investing in the next best thing...

Take for example last decade’s tech that was set to revolutionize the way we travel short distances: the Segway two-wheeler. That personal upright and electric scooter was looking good, up until the point when Segway CEO Jimi Heselden drove his right off a cliff. What a trip!

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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