Elon University recently unveiled a series of future scenarios they've compiled from asking industry leaders, analysts and activists a series of questions about major tech advances they expect by 2020. You can find good snippets from the report here at Pew Internet.
One thing the report goes over is the increasing use of mobile internet as the method of connecting to the World Wide Web. "The mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020." The go on to cite various examples such as the increasing computing power of mobile phones, how applications are increasingly easy to use and operate, and of course the cost of phones drop everyday (anyone heard the rumor that Wal-Mart would be selling the iPhone for $99?)
On one hand I feel bad for those '$100 Laptop' people who tried so hard to make a cheap laptop and have pretty much failed, but on the other hand we have amazing products that do even more for the same price, and they're small. While the idea of a third world student dutifully doing their homework on a cellphone may seem strange, by 2020 we'll be seeing developments of amazing heads-up displays as well as the nearly complete removal of the touchscreen as a device. Infrared beams can replace a touchscreen and rolllable OLED screens will allow for larger displays in much smaller gadgets.
A new Ceres report on company supply chain and operation efficiencies that support climate change strategies, has named IBM the #1 company for its internal practices and green innovation strategies. The RiskMetrics Group authored report analyzes climate change governance practices at 63 of the world's largest retail, pharmaceutical, technology, apparel and other consumer-facing companies.
Using a 100-point scale, the three highest scoring companies were IBM, UK-based grocery retailer Tesco and Dell, with 79, 78 and 77 points, respectively. More than half of the 63 companies scored under 50 points, with a median score of 38 points.
Beyond 'green' recognition, what does IBM see in a a Smart Planet? The big story is not the 'green' award recognition for IBM, Tesco and Dell - it's the brand association IBM is trying to build between its core practice as a hardware-software service provider and the transformation of global industries that deal with infrastructure and the transmission of information, goods, energy and water.
Consumers can change light builts, but companies like IBM and Johnson Controls can transform industry level supply chains, built environments, and national infrastructure systems. This is where we are likely to find the greatest ROI.
IBM (and others) sees an opportunity to improve industrial scale efficiencies in a near term future shaped by software, sensors and micro controllers. The vision? A Smart Planet.
For IBM the world is quickly becoming, instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. This is the driving force behind 'Big Blue' trying to enable a 'Big Green'world. Sensors and Software can lead to a greener world.
While solar power is often described as the world's great untapped clean source of energy, ocean power deserves as much attention. In fact, it deserves a lot of attention given the expectation that the world will double energy consumption in the decades ahead. And the reality that most of the world's population lives close to an ocean.
Futures oriented energy engineers dream of capturing the steady kinetic and thermal of energy. Unlike solar and wind, ocean energy provides near 24/7 potential utilization.
A Low Mainteance Linear Generator? Now a Swiss team from Upsalla University has developed and tested a novel system. For nearly three years, a wave power plant has stood on the bottom of the ocean a couple of kilometers off the west coast of Sweden, near Lysekil. Rafael Waters, from the Uppsala University Division of Electricity, designed and built the facility as part of his doctoral project.
The team's 'linear generator' generates electricity with the slow up and down movements of the waves. An ordinary generator transforms rotation energy to electricity, and it needs to turn at about 1500 rpm to be efficient. (Images)
“This means that a wave energy station with an ordinary generator needs energy transmission systems such as gearboxes or hydraulic systems and other complicated details that wear out and require much more maintenance than a linear generator,” says Rafael Waters. “Our generator has functioned without any trouble every time we started it up over the years, even though it has received no maintenance and has sometimes stood still for months.”
It sounds like a prediction right out of “The Singularity Is Near,” but this one is from Antonio López Peláez, a professor of sociology at Spain’s National Distance Learning University, UNED, and co-author of the study on the future social impact of robots, jointly carried out with the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. International experts working on inventing and adapting cutting edge robots for practical use were interviewed during the study, in order to find out by when we will be regularly using the models they are currently designing. All agreed on 2020 as a technological inflection point, because by then robots “will be able to see, act, speak, manage natural language and have intelligence, and our relationship with them will have become more constant and commonplace”, said López Peláez. This will follow a revolution in robotics after which they will no longer be sophisticated machines, but tools to be used on a daily basis, helping us with a large number of work and social activities. He goes on to say even more significant will be the insertion of robots into our bodies, such as intelligent implants in the brain, which will improve our rational thought, and nanorobots to be released into the blood to clean our arteries. You can find the article here.
AI(Artificial Intelligence) and IE (Intelligence Enhancement) is all hype. Nonsense!
While I am still skeptical, I am inclined to agree based on developments of the past few years. More and more I am seeing major breakthroughs in computer science and we are reaching specific milestones that were correctly predicted to happen. The memristor,the missing fourth electronic circuit element, was created just this year by HP (Hewlett Packard). The circuit element had only been described in a series of mathematical equations written by Leon Chua, who in 1971 was an engineering student studying non-linear circuits. Chua knew the circuit element should exist -- he even accurately outlined its properties and how it would work.It has been theorized that it may lead to instant-on PCs as well as analog computers that process information the way the human brain does.
If there's one thing that could creep you out this morning, it's that cyborg creatures (bugs, rats, birds and sharks) already exist. Researchers have been working heavily into cyborg creatures in order to reduce the cost of developing miniature robots. "The motivation is simple: why labour for years to build robots that imitate the ways animals move when you can just plug into living creatures and hijack systems already optimised by millions of years of evolution?" DARPA has heavily funded research into this kind of field, possibly hoping for a bug which can buzz around a room, spying on inhabitants.
Cyborg creatures feature heavily in science fiction movies, and not just for spying. Often cyborgs are touted as superior to robotic creatures since they combine real intelligence with robotic structure. It's weird to think of, but we may well be seeing rat-brain powered personal robots before robotic intelligence gets good enough to take over. Your dog can be taught to fetch the paper and all other sorts of tricks, why not more complicated tasks if given a better body? Fido, go do the laundry!
Check out the full article regarding cyborg developments at the NewScientist.
What if you could charge your portable device simply by having it move around in your pocket while you walk?
Texas A&M Professor Tahir Cagin believes that piezeoelectric materials, that convert motion into electric currents could be closer to applied applications thanks to their recent design breakthrough. (Not Image shown)
Professor Cagin and partners from the University of Houston are using piezoelectric material that can covert energy at a 100 percent increase when manufactured at a very small size – in this case, around 21 nanometers in thickness.
"When materials are brought down to the nanoscale dimension, their properties for some performance characteristics dramatically change," said Cagin who is a past recipient of the prestigious Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology. "One such example is with piezoelectric materials. We have demonstrated that when you go to a particular length scale – between 20 and 23 nanometers – you actually improve the energy-harvesting capacity by 100 percent.
"We're studying basic laws of nature such as physics and we're trying to apply that in terms of developing better engineering materials, better performing engineering materials. We're looking at chemical constitutions and physical compositions. And then we're looking at how to manipulate these structures so that we can improve the performance of these materials."
"Even the disturbances in the form of sound waves such as pressure waves in gases, liquids and solids may be harvested for powering nano- and micro devices of the future if these materials are processed and manufactured appropriately for this purpose," Cagin said.
Why is this important to the future? Micro power systems are in high demand for portable gadgets and sensors like RFID tags used on products in 'smart supply chain' logistics. While batteries and micro fuel cells might be required for higher demand applications, piezeoelectric systems could find a role in the world of micro-power.
"You can have children reading about Alice in Wonderland ... and Alice can pop out of the page, and have a tea party on the page."
Every amazing new technology needs to be wrapped in an equally elegant high-demand application if it is to diffuse past just the military on through the human masses. Often the first killer app is targeted at youth (ie, Facebook, Club Penguin, MMORPGs), then gradually spreads upward to older generations that require more convincing and immediately useful applications.
When it comes to augmented reality, it's possible that a company called Mixed Reality Lab (MXR), a spin-off owned by the National University of Singapore, is on the verge of creating such a cross-over app: Virtual 3D Pop-ups for Children's Books.
Coming on the heels of MXR's real-time augmented battlefield displays, the new Magic Books product aims to generate revenue from mommies and daddies who feeled compelled to get their kids interfacing with the most advanced new media.
In the past, the mere mention of an idea system or establishment in this blog has lead to a barrage of complaints and corrections from advocates and opposition alike. So, it is with much apprehension that I attempt to discuss technocracy.
A technocratic society has the goal of: Producing optimum quality goods and services at the lowest possible energy cost, and distributing the maximum amount of goods and services to everyone.
Our broken economy has so far prevented this from being possible. The constant need for money has forced producers to continually produce poor quality goods, essentially, in order to keep the consumer buying. If you have to keep buying, you have to keep working. In today’s developed world, we have far more than our parents did, yet we still continue to slave away, even massively increasing our debts to own more and more.
Essentially, all we really need is:
- Clean Water - Food - Shelter - Basic Clothing
Secondary needs are:
- Consumables - Electricity - Comm infrastructure - Transportation
As sensors and computers continue to spread throughout the world they quantify our environment and offer the opportunity of real-time feedback. Case in point is Honda's new "Ecological Drive Assist System for Enhanced Real World Fuel Economy", a sensor/display system that learns your driving style and conditions you to become a more ecologically conscious driver.
Here's what the interface will look like:
And here's Honda's description of the new system:
TOKYO, Japan, November 20, 2008– Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced the development of the Ecological Drive Assist System, which combines three functions to enhance fuel economy: the ECON Mode utilizes harmonized control of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and engine to support more fuel-efficient driving; the guidance function uses speedometer color to provide real-time guidance on fuel-efficient driving; and thescoring function provides feedback about current driving practices, as well as feedback on cumulative, long-term fuel-efficient driving.
I wrote a few days ago about GE Labs creating a surface so hydrophobic that water could literally bounce off it, but Swiss researchers at the University of Zurich have gone ahead and done it with polyester fabric. By coating polyester fibers with millions of tiny silicone filaments, the fabric is made so hydrophobic that you could literally put your jacket into a bucket of water, let it sit for two weeks, pull it out and it would be dry as a bone.
How did they accomplish this?
Researchers managed to create this amazing fabric through the use of silicone nanofilaments which are very highly chemically hydrophobic. “The spiky structure of the 40-nanometre- wide filaments strengthens that effect, to create a coating that prevents water droplets from soaking through the coating to the polyester fibres underneath.” Lead researcher Stefan Seeger went on to explain it was like a “like a fakir sitting on a bed of nails.” Took me a second to figure out exactly he meant by that but luckily I read a lot of Tintin when I was a kid and it finally paid off. Applying the coating is easy — a silicone gas is released which condenses onto the fibers of the fabric.
You’ve heard about electronics that can bend and even stretch, but a team at Northwestern University has managed to make electronics that can withstand any configuration, including twisting.
This breakthrough could help in developing gadgets that are located on the human body which is itself highly flexible (except mine). “This emerging technology promises new flexible sensors, transmitters, new photovoltaic and microfluidic devices, and other applications for medical and athletic use.” Flexible electronics have the potential to change how we view visits to the doctors office, how we talk on the phone, even interacting with people.
Imagine being able to wrap an X-Ray machine around your leg at the emergency room to see exactly what the break looks like and where it’s located. Or having a 40-inch screen folded into the size of a pack of cigarettes. Why not incorporate your music into your winter beanie? The possibilities are already amazing and we haven’t even scratched the surface.
We are now in the transition from the Information Age to the Shift Age. In recent columns I have positioned the recent financial melt down and global economic collapse as the beginning of a painful transitional restructuring between ages. Just as the 1970s with all its stagflation and unprecedented turmoil was the transitional period between the Industrial Age and the Information Age, so is this time a transitional period between the Information Age and the Shift Age.