Arthur C. Clarke once said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
It really is. In its early transformations, it is mystical, entertaining, enriching, and always worth the price. We scratch our heads and wonder how they did it. Ah, the puzzle!! But the best part is that new technologies are not an illusion. And in the decade ahead we are about to see our old way of life vanish into thin air!
Consider the following (non) magic tricks:
A holographic smartphone uses a camera to track your eye’s position and movement, and then uses that data to create a three-dimensional display. Add a plug-in that tracks your finger movement, and you can even interact with the image. Holographic displays have great potential for classrooms and professional purposes, where they are revolutionizing how we present information.
Several groups of scientists are working to construct a thin, lightweight fabric that manipulates light to make the object it covers blend in with its surroundings. It’s no wonder so many researchers are striving toward this goal; a credible invisibility cloak would be invaluable in both war and espionage. And think how you could use it in your personal life and at work.
Now you see it, now you don’t
Laser keyboard technology projects a standard keyboard onto a surface and then uses a sensor to detect when your fingers strike a “key.” It’s already on the market and is slowly gaining market share. In time, we may see variations on this technology; there’s no reason you can’t play a laser piano, for instance. Gave this as a gift. They are cool now, and so am I.
Several companies, including Apple, are working to put computers into pens. By incorporating technology that detects the pen’s track, tilt, and acceleration, these companies could create pens that perform many of the same functions as a computer or smartphone at a fraction of the size and weight. Soon, I hope.
Build it at home
3-D printing has recently hit the market in a big way, and we’re seeing only a fraction of what it can do. Most 3-D printers for consumers are extremely expensive. Many only print plastic, and most are limited to small objects or parts. But as this technology develops, we can expect to see consumer 3-D printers producing larger objects in a wider variety of media. This may revolutionize manufacturing. After all, why would you need to go to a store when you can make an object at home?
Not just your average Siri
Researchers are getting better at developing software programs that recognize, process, and synthesize human language and speech. You probably carry one of these programs in your pocket right now; most smartphones use speech recognition and synthesis programs such as Siri to streamline usage. Some researchers are dreaming up even more exciting applications, such Viv and Alexa.
Floating above ground
So-called hoverboards on the market right now are mostly trendy scooter toys. But a company called Arca has released tantalizing footage of what appears to be a hoverboard that really hovers. Arca’s technology uses powerful fans, and several other competitors’ technologies generate magnetic fields, to raise the hoverboard and its human cargo off the ground. How soon will we be flying through the air?
Japanese scientists have created a machine that can record dreams and play them back for study participants. The same technology doesn’t necessarily work only for dreams; there’s been speculation that it could be used to help witnesses remember faces of criminals.
Ditch the driver’s license
We’re getting closer to a future where all cars are self-driving. Companies such as Google and Tesla are already testing cars with self-driving software. Tests so far have been remarkably promising, to the point where many researchers speculate that self-driving cars are safer than human-driven ones. We may see a future where all cars are self-driving for safety’s sake, and at that point, why own a car at all? We could see fleets of self-driving cars traveling around the country. Just call one up like you’d order an Uber, and you’re good to go.
So it is not magic at all, and frankly, magicians may soon be obsolete. Floating above ground will soon be a reality, and disappearing tricks will be passe. And so will you, if technology makes you cringe—plus, you’ll miss out on all the fun!
For more on future tech, see What Is A Wired Bike?