It’s safe to say we live in the age of the smartphone. The miniaturized and mobile computers we carry around in our pockets are indisputably the signature high tech item of the last ten years and seem on track to hold that spot for another decade. However, inevitably, smartphones, as we know them today, will become outdated and otherwise old news. How we think of the Walkman today, the people of a few generations from now will look upon the iPhone.
This has been the situation for technology for thousands of years. Yet, as both the similarities and differences between a Walkman and an iPhone demonstrate, the progression is a slow evolution which builds upon the past rather than launching from someplace new every generation. Though smartphones and other consumer-grade high techs of today are destined to become museum pieces, they represent the current horizons of possibility, no doubt serving as a predecessor to something even more amazing in the years to come.
Here are some examples of how the best gadgets, software, and other consumers high technology of today are paving the way for the tech revolutions of the next 25 years and beyond:
The incredible drones available to consumers today are the next stage of evolution of the RC helicopters sold in toy stores and hobby shops for decades. This progression of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology is currently at the stage where a high-end model, such as a Protocol drone, is able to hover and even land itself successfully while live streaming video to the operator.
It’s safe to say ten years from now, the UAV technology available will be even more sophisticated in terms of autonomy and capability. For instance, a drone with dexterity capable of performing repairs on a massive radio mast that would otherwise require people to climb and risk their lives. Or what about a drone able to monitor crowds with advanced video inputs, scanning for patterns indicative of public safety risks?
Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality
The concept of virtual reality (VR) has been around for decades, but early years were fraught with missteps and setbacks. Mainly, marketing for these early renditions of VR overhyped the products; meanwhile, nausea experienced by most individuals experiencing virtual reality remained a problem in need of a solution. In recent years, a successful balance seems to have been struck by way of augmented reality, while at the same time improvements to image quality and increased motion sensitivity have helped to bring VR closer to living up to the hype.
These days, augmented and virtual reality is used for little more than catching Pokemon on our block and visiting the summit of Kilimanjaro from our living room. However, these novelties are laying the groundwork for revolutionary opportunities ahead. In the years to come, virtual reality will likely provide an environment for safe training involving dangerous activities, such as law enforcement and emergency response. Augmented reality may enable folks to one day use older buildings still upright as anchors for an overlay of how a city looked 100s of years ago; imagine standing in front of the Roman Pantheon and being able to swipe and see how that same perspective appeared to folks 2000 years in the past?
Even as recent as ten years ago, the idea of being able to print a solid object at home like one prints a paper document was considered far-fetched. Yet lo and behold, 3D printers have been on the market for awhile now and become ever more affordable with every passing year. It could be a figurine of a superhero, a scale model of architectural plans, or simply a coffee mug; if it can be rendered three dimensionally in software and lacks moving parts, it can probably be printed (for objects with moving parts, the parts are printed individually.)
Many scientists, industrialists, and hobbyists hope to see 3D printing become ever more advanced in the years ahead. Though undoubtedly more complex than using plastic to assemble a toy, the ability to build a new heart or lungs for someone will, when the day comes, be essentially 3D printing in a biological setting. Furthermore, when coupled with advanced machinery, it’s not inconceivable to consider a point in the not too distant future where 3D printing of complex devices and products will be feasible at home.
The incredible technology of today is more than enough to impress. However, these breakthroughs are themselves but individual links in a long chain of technological progress. Name your piece of modern high tech – the smartphone, a drone, VR, or 3D printing – and rest assured an even more amazing incarnation will be on sale in the years ahead.