Leaked photos of the next generation Mac Mini suggest that Apple is committed to steadily shrinking components and appears to be on the road to something that may look a lot like this vision of the iPhone 2015 that we published last November:
Sometimes it’s hard for people to get an accurate sense of what the future holds for certain technologies. For instance, could the average person three years ago have imagined that something like the 3G iPhone could exist now?
It is for this reason I present this vision of the iPhone circa 2015.
Contact Lens Display
The most interesting feature of the iPhone 2015 is its first generation Contact Lens Display System. If there’s one thing that iPhone users believe themselves to be, and that Apple stresses all the time, it’s that people who use Apple products are independent and unique. It is for this reason that an eyeglass display was thrown out. No iPhone user would be caught dead wearing the same glasses as over ten million other iPhone users. The fact is, glasses are cumbersome. They gather dirt, get lost easily, and make sports rather difficult.
In 2007, development of a contact lens display system began at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.” In the time between now and 2015, the cost involved in the production of a contact lens display will likely reduce in price, meaning the loss of one won’t reduce you to tears in case of loss.
The problems associated with contact lenses (protein build-up, 8-hour wear limit, annoyance of constant inserting and removal) will be lessened with oxygen-permeable lenses. O2OPTIX, a company currently specializing in such breathable lenses, already sells a lens capable of week-long wear without removal. “O2OPTIX is made with a revolutionary silicone hydrogel technology allowing up to 5 times more oxygen through the lens than the leading traditional 2-week lens, to help protect from the signs and symptoms of corneal oxygen deficiency.” It only makes sense that seven years from now a lens will be developed which can last even longer making wearable contact lenses less of a pain.
Of course there always is the option of implanting the lens permanently into the eye, but who would ever go under invasive surgery for first generation technology?
To scale and dominate as quickly as Google has, a new company will need to generate serious end-user value, monetize effecively, and take a new web-based approach to human resources. One such structure might be an organization specializing in prosumer-based quantification (structured crowd-sourced info mining) that can expand and contract quickly by paying citizen quantifiers for quality content that they input (think adsense, but more structured and directed from the outset). I imagine that this sort of company could catalyze big, fast economic growth and play an important role in generating positive-sum network value as we move further into the acceleration era.
To get the discussion of such a possibility rolling here's a speculative timeline of such a company (2011-2015) that I've cleverly dubbed "Quantification Company":
2011 - Launch: A logical outgrowth of flash mobs, open mapping parties, and steadily rising prosumerism, the Quantification Company (QC) was created in 2011 with the mission of "organizing and accelerating the comprehensive quantification of Earth's most valued systems." The for-profit organization relied on a small core of programmers, salespeople and community managers to catalyze quantification cascades, better known as Data Swarms, for a large variety of clients, but mostly municipalities and large corporations. Early efforts were kept simple and focused mostly on the rapid and/or real-time HD video mapping of U.S. cities, national parks, and other under-quantified areas of interest. Traffic-based fees were paid out to citizen quantifiers who captured and uploaded the best geographic footage and/or commentary. Though they were slightly nervous at the ambition and direction of the QC, competitors like Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia were happy to see traffic and content flow through their systems.
I wouldn't have predicted ABC News going all bleak futurist, but they did. Earth 2100 is a massive online roleplaying game that starts out with global turmoil and devastation. And they're going prime time with it.
The project is pretty ambitious, but considering the recent popularity of games like Superstruct and Second Life, there should be no doubt that participation will be high. To participate you need to record a short fictional video depicting something in 2015, then, based on those submissions, the ABC News people will design a scenario for 2050, then 2070 and finally 2100.
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.
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.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to develop a plane capable of flight as well as submerging underwater. “The objectives issued by DARPA are for a vehicle that would have an airborne tactical radius of 1,000 nautical miles, a low-level flight radius of 100 nautical miles (which may leverage surface effects), and a submerged tactical radius of 12 nautical miles.” The hope is that it could carry up to eight people and a 2,000 pound payload (check out their full proposal here).
The problem with developing a submersible aircraft is that air flows around structures differently than water. Developing a body that is efficient through the air as well as water will be incredibly difficult. It may be so daunting that the cost of developing and building working prototypes would render it un-obtainable. The funny thing is, the Navy has wanted something like this for over 60 years. “The U.S. Navy had begun contemplating the merger of aviation and submarine technologies into a single vehicle as early as 1946.” Even the Russians tried to dabble in submersible airplanes (video after the jump).
Improving the delivery of healthcare is arguably the greatest challenge facing the United States and the global community particularly with regards to aging populations. Next generation healthcare services also represent one of the largest growth sectors for applied information and communication technologies that improve access and quality while reducing costs for patients and healthcare institution.
Is Healthcare 2.0 preparing for prime time?
This notion of applying advanced technology systems is not new, but widespread applications might be much closer to mainstream adoption than is currently reported.
This notion of next generation healthcare services has been explored by a number of forward looking physicians such as Dr. S. Vincent Grasso who organized a recent symposium at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey titled: ‘Enhancing the Delivery of Healthcare Services to an Aging U.S. Population.
Among the many topics explored by experts were: forecasts of diseases common to aging populations, and solution platforms based on low cost video conferencing to connect Doctors, patients and families, commercialization of easy to use imaging and sensing systems for remotely based diagnosis equipment, standards for patient records, and healthcare facilities management.
The latest in the foresighted line-up of Singularity Summit speakers, Justin Rattner, VP and CTO of Intel, just spoke about achieving programmable matter. The possibility is there, especially when you consider where he sees the processor in the next decade.
“We think several terrabytes/second per chip is well within our possibility within 4-5 years,” said Rattner. The example he cited was in the vehicle design field. Model cars, real physical ones, could be interactive as well as modified.
One of the biggest and most exciting trends in technology is that of “convergence” – or how different technologies will combined with one another to create entirely new devices. These devices, in turn, will go on to change human behavior in unique and unexpected ways.
Convergence, as a trend, is nothing new. The printing press did not materialize out of thin air. First, paper, and then ink, and ultimately moveable type had to be created before Gutenberg could create his historic device. The radio, television, computer and Internet are also the result of a convergence of various technologies.
To this end, I recently came across three articles on three different technologies which, when they converge, could change everything from how we educate and entertain ourselves to how key aspects of our economy operate.
The first is virtual reality technology. This insightful article from TechCrunch discusses the new “RealityV experience” developed by Intelligence Gaming. It is part virtual reality and part video and it is now being used by the Army to help soldiers train for real-world situations – such as dealing with a hostile crowd in a foreign country.
The video below provides an excellent overview of the technology:
“Our lights may be on, but systemically, the risks associated with relying on an often overtaxed grid grow in size, scale and complexity every day.”
What if our greatest energy dependency challenge was not related to the global flow of oil, but the one way flow of electricity coming from distant power plants to our wall sockets?
The world runs on electricity. Demand for electron power in emerging economies is often 3-4 times greater than demand for oil. Because the old model of the electricity grid does not seem adequate in meeting the new demands of the 21st century, many energy pundits argue that access to electricity is the world’s biggest strategic energy issue.
Realizing the ‘Smart Grid’ Vision
The conversation about electricity infrastructure is likely to change very soon as governments and the private sector build out the vision of a smarter, electricity web that is infinitely more reliable, robust and profitable.
‘The electric industry is poised to make the transformation from a centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is less centralized and more consumer-interactive. The move to a smarter grid promises to change the industry’s entire business model and its relationship with all stakeholders, involving and affecting utilities, regulators, energy service providers, technology and automation vendors and all consumers of electric power.‘
A Smart Grid means many things. At The Energy Roadmap.com we believe that the most disruptive elements are software,sensors & storage. The good news is that these three systems might finally be reaching a tipping point in cost and performance that allows us to turn the ‘smart grid’ vision into a reality. While this US DOE Guide might not be the definitive guide to the future of smart grid systems, it is certainly a step forward in helping to spread the meme and outline the fundamentals!
Director Henry Markram of the IBM-Swiss Blue Brain project believes that his team
of up to 125 researchers is on target to create the world’s first
artificial brain by as early as 2015.
In June 2005, IBM and the Swiss Brain
Mind Institute announced a plan to create a digital 3D replica of
the human brain. Named after the IBM Blue Gene
supercomputer, the Blue Brain Project has started modeling, in
precise detail, the cellular infrastructure of the cerebral
Although Markram expects his creation may eventually learn to
speak, he is not holding his breath waiting for consciousness to
rise from its brain. What he is after is something far more useful
than a talking machine. By creating a better understanding of how
human brains perform, doctors will learn more about why our brains
Disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and dementia are
the price we pay for having complicated brains. “We don’t
understand what goes wrong inside those circuits,” says Markram.
“We’re still in empirical medicine. If a drug works; great. If not,
we try another one.”
Blue Brain will accelerate today’s slow drug approval system of
animal testing and human clinical trials by providing scientists
with an immediate and accurate brain response to new drugs.