Science & Technology

TechnoSpeak: The Future Now

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

The best part of technology is that there are always more advances on the horizon so there is always more to look forward to. There are trends that can be followed to help accurately predict what will come in the near future, but then there are always things that come by surprise. When making predictions, there is always the worry of missing something important and then of over-thinking it and making an incorrect forecast. We are all doomed to hindsight bias so if you are reading this from the future, note that we are not psychic. Here are our predictions of what you will see introduced (or see more frequently) in the near future.

Touch/Gesture Control

The majority of Smartphones are now utilizing touch-screens and the new Xbox Kinect uses in-air gesture control of Xbox360 menus (and playing games of course). A new trend seems to be developing. Physical buttons and mice will not die out but will become accompanied by gesture based controls. There will be a strong push from Microsoft with Windows 8 which has been revealed to have a separate interface just for touch screen navigation. The touch interface will be on all versions of Windows 8 which raises suspicion that laptops with touch screens will become the standard in the near future. Having the tablet market flourish shows consumer interest which the developers will strive to exploit. The Xbox Kinect windows SDK has been released meaning you’ll soon be capable of controlling your computer Minority Report style but better…no power gloves required.

Cloud Computing

As technology progressively gets better, people have started using multiple devices that previously would have been possible only on a computer. The advent of wireless internet through cellular networks and Wi-Fi has spawned countless mobile devices such as slate computers, media players, Smartphones, Netbooks, etc. As such technology proliferates, it becomes important for one to keep data synchronized between these devices. This is where cloud computing stands out. I use a Smartphone, a laptop, a desktop and multiple PCs in computer labs. Services such as Windows Live Mesh and Dropbox have allowed me to seamlessly sync my folders. Steam (a digital gaming network) stores my licenses for games I own so I can play on any computer with ease. Such technology is only going to get more prevalent. I would love to have my history synced on all of my browsers (any other “redditor” would agree strongly). Services like eyeOS provide a complete desktop computing experience within the browser.

Augmented Reality

It is as cool as it sounds; already introduced to Smartphones and having been available to aircraft pilots for years, augmented reality is real-time alteration made to reality through computer generated images and sounds. It can be as basic as adding a squares around other aircrafts to being as complex as creating an augmented pet. You may already have used it if you have ever used Wikitude, Playstation Eye, and the Nintendo 3DS. With current Smartphones, you have the ability to use the camera to acquire the live image that is modified on the screen by utilizing the GPS and the magnetometer (digital compass) to identify where the camera is pointed and figure out what additions to make. Currently you can find the locations of friends and find links to websites and information about locations. This is just the start though. The US Army is interested in implementing glasses that alter what you see directly rather than through a camera to help identify friendlies when in the battlefield. Imagine needing to go to the washroom and arrows suddenly appearing in the air for directions or having any website appear on any surface with movement tracking to develop and interactive surface anywhere.

Better use of the USB standard

With almost all my portable devices being charged through the USB interface, I can envision more power outlets with built-in adapters outputting 5 volts via the USB interface. Moreover, I can see more portable devices using the microUSB standard as the data transfer/charging interface. Presently, my media player, my cellphone, my video camera and external hard drive all use different interfaces to connect to my PC as well as charge. With more companies agreed through a Memorandum of Understanding to use similar interfaces, I hope to see microUSB being implemented uniformly across multiple devices thus reducing the complete array of various cables and assortments of chargers I presently own.


As Einstein claimed, nothing can travel faster than light. Hence, what better way to transmit information other than light? Photonics is that field of science where light interacts with electronics. Fiber optics has been used for a very long time by internet companies to enable higher bandwidth of data transmission. However, with the need for faster data transmission standards to keep up with the high density displays, huge memory storage devices, and so on, I can imagine a world in which fiber optics as used more widely. Furthermore, using principles of quantum cryptography, fiber optics can be used to make the most secure method of data transfer. There is several quantum information processing systems in which data thieving is almost impossible and immediately detectable. The possibilities with such secure connections are endless.

Power efficiency

The focus of present generation circuit designers is power efficiency. On average, a Pentium processor dissipates 10 times more heat per square centimeter than a hot plate. All the power hence dissipated as heat is a waste of energy and must be minimized. Further, with the quick transition from powerful desktop computers to portable computing, there is an increasing need for minimum power consumption in order to maximize battery life. This is further visible in displays. With the advent of low power display such as e-Ink and mirasol, a whole new generation of computers has been spawned in the form of e-readers. These e-readers can give up to months of battery life on a single charge. This is also evident in battery research and design to find the highest energy density system to store energy.

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