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Posts tagged ‘future’

More connected but I still haven’t got my flying car

Well another year has passed and even though I am sure that the vision of the future included hover boards and flying cars, Santa isn’t bringing me any of these this year.

So what has changed in the last 12 months?

Often it hard to pick out those advances in technology that impact your day to day life because the don’t arrive with a big bang. The arrive bit by bit so that you think you have always done things in a certain way.

I mean 6 years ago, none of us were using Facebook or Twitter and now look.

But as I get to the end of 2012 I can’t help noticing that my life and my home is a lot more connected.

Take my living room as an example.

Suddenly that stack of AV kit in the corner of the room has an Ethernet switch connected to it. My Sky+ box has an internet connection, my Yamaha AV amplifier has an internet connection and of course there is an Apple TV in there which again is a connected device. We had none of these connections 12 months ago.

And of course all of that is controlled not by your common or garden remote control but by an app running on an iPad or an Android phone etc.

netv

But not only is everything connected to the web, but more importantly everything is connected to everything else plus because all of this is connected to the web, I can access a lot of things from outside of the home.

Want to set something to record on BBC1 tomorrow night but find yourself halfway around the world? Not a problem. A few clicks on your phone and the recording is scheduled.

And it’s not just in the home.

My car is a rolling WiFi hotspot. My phone can connect to it to access the internet. Plus the satnav has it’s own data connection which it uses to connect to Google Earth to they display that satellite imagery onto the screen on the dashboard

SONY DSC

Meanwhile my phone is talking to various back end servers and my PC on my desk and by iPad and loads of other things all at the same time.

I’m pretty sure that things were not this connected or as easy to get connected either this time 12 months ago. Add to that, a lot of things are going mobile.

You want to hope that the network carriers have got good plans in place to carry all this new mobile data.

Certainly we are moving towards a more connected world and a much more mobile world but so far, the world of the future still doesn’t have my flying car.

Virtual Tourism

It’s no secret that I love to travel. See new places, experience different cultures, try different food and so on. At the same time I have to balance this against the ever increasing cost of air travel, hotel costs, tourist taxes and what have you.

But at a conference in Frankfurt a couple of years ago, one of the keynote speakers was Dr Robert Ballard who is a oceanographer and devotes his life to exploring the depths of our oceans . His big claim to fame is that it was he who discovered the wreck of the Titanic.

He talked about how technology now enabled him to explore deeper and for longer than ever before. By using robots backed up with high speed data communications, instead of flying out to a ship somewhere in the Pacific Ocean and then spending 2 hours slowly descending in a submarine to spend just 2 hours exploring before spending 2 more hours trying to get back to the surface without getting the bends, he can now do his exploration from the comfort of a university campus on the mainland.

Not only is this safer, but it means where as before he was limited to just 2 hours per day of exploration, he can now spend days and weeks at the bottom of the sea bed discovering new life forms as he goes.

But he had taken this one stage further.

Not only did he have a control centre for the remote sub in his office, he had actually managed to roll out a number of these control centres to a number of other universities, colleges and schools. We were shown a video of a group of 10 year olds not only watching live images from the bottom of the Pacific but they were actually in control of the submarine. Controlling the sub in much the same way as a PlayStation they were able to tell it where to look and where to go.

Robert Ballard At TED

As you can imagine, the kids were hooked from that point on.

But the point made was that if you can virtually place a 10 year old at the bottom of the Pacific, then you could probably place them anywhere and thus the conversation around Virtual Tourism.

Scale this back a bit and whilst you have Dr Ballard exploring the depths, there are a number of commercial organisations who have been mapping and scanning the surface for a number of years. The most obvious example of this is Google with their StreetView project.

StreetView Image

There are now a number of free services that really do enable you to be virtually there. To walk around, change your point of view and explore the world.

Earlier in the year, Google launched their 3D Photo Tours for more than 15,000 landmarks which takes the existing StreetView imagery and adds photos submitted via Panoramio and Picasa Web users taking the detail and quality to a whole new level.

And they haven’t stopped there.

As well as their StreetView camera cars, Google have also mounted their cameras on the backs of bikes and been cycling around places that were previously inaccessible from Stonehenge to Disneyland

Likewise Microsoft have introduced a similar idea into Bing Maps where you are once again able to walk along a street.

Indeed on some of these services you are not only able to walk along a street but actually enter the stores and look around there as well.

But what really caught my attention today was the launch of Googles World Wonders Project where they have collected a number of historical sites together for you to explore and discover all from the comfort of your arm chair.

image

So for my son Sam who is 9 years old, virtual tourism is here. Before we went to Budapest in the Spring I found him exploring the city using StreetView. He doesn’t have to wait for us to jump on a plane to discover what a new place looks like. He can do that today.

But it’s not the same is it?

These are still static images. You don’t get a feel for the place, the sounds, the smells the people. Sure I can visit a beach on StreetView but I can’t feel the sun on my face or hear the waves crashing on the sand.

But for a 9 year old, he is still able to experience and discover places I could only dream about when I was that age or had to read about in a book.

But there is something new on the horizon.

Project Glass. Again from Google.

These are a pair of glasses that recognise where you are and allow you to overlay computer generated information on the world in front of you

But remember that this is Google. And whilst a lot of what we see about Google is the content they give us, most of their business is built on the information they gather from us.

Here we suddenly have the concept of a roaming camera walking the streets and feeding data back to them. Suddenly StreetView can actually get right into your living room or kitchen and that whole virtual model they have of the world gets even more detailed. I am not sure however I would like to have my bedroom featured on the Internet.

But all of this technology allows you to roam around a virtual world that happened at some point in the past.

Thinking back to Robert Ballard, what he was doing was in real time. Using robots.

This technology is often referred to as TelePresence and there are a number of variations on this.

I have already mentioned how we can transport a 10 year old to the bottom of the Pacific but there are more down to earth applications.

Anybots is a company that can sell you a virtual you. A robot that roams around your workplace whilst you sit in your home office. It allows you to virtually walk around your workplace and actually see in real time what is going on. It has a screen on it so people can see you as well so in theory, you could virtually walk up to somebodies desk and have a face to face conversation with them

Anybot

Applying this to tourism, maybe I could rent one of these online and then use it to explore a city from the comfort of my armchair. This way I could see the location in real time and see moving images and hear the sounds. You could even interact with the locals as they could see and hear you as well.

If however you think tourists on Segways are bad enough, wait until you see a herd of these coming down the pavement towards you when you are out buying a newspaper on a Sunday morning.

And then there are the Google self driving cars (yes really)

google-driverless-car

We now have a car that can drive itself on public roads so perhaps we could be all virtual tourists inside that car and go on a virtual road trip?

Personally I don’t see how this differs much from a coach tour where you pass through town after town and can only stare out of the windows as the real world passes you by. Maybe I could use it to transport my Anybot to the beach?

But the important point here is that all this technology exists right now. This is not science fiction. It is also not virtual reality where you have computer simulations of the real world.

This is reality it’s just that you are looking into it remotely.

So with the cost of travel rising and time becoming a precious commodity, is virtual tourism the answer?

I would like to say no but really can see where the technology plays it’s part.

For Sam who is learning about Egypt for a school project, what better way to learn that to spend a few hours walking around Cairo and the Pyramids?

And for those for who travel is just a dream due to age, ability or just a fear of flying it gives them a taste and gets them closer than they have ever been able to get before.

And of course as the political map constantly changes, there are countries today I would not travel to that only a couple of years ago were considered prime holiday destinations. For now this is the only way I can get to experience them.

So I think virtual tourism is real and to some people is the only option but until the technology allows me to see, hear, smell, touch and interact, my preference will still be to travel and actually be there.

What if the future goes wrong? [Reblog]

A rather funny view into the future none of us want to live in.

Enjoy

In the future, our lives will be greatly enhanced by the ever-faster networks. Ultra-smart computers, sophisticated robotics and unlimited capacity communications will make every aspect of our everyday lives pleasant. Machines will do all the work while we enjoy the results on a beach. We will be always in touch, always in control. But sometimes, technology has a habit of turning out different than planned. Let’s remember that the telephone was o … Read More

via Your guide to the future

Another Microsoft Future Gazing Video

There would appear to be a lot of these out there right now

This time with an Office slant to it

Microsoft “Future of productivity”

A Microsoft Vision Of The Future

Still on a future gazing theme, this is a video produced by the Microsoft Office Labs team laying out their vision of what the not so distant future may look like.

The good news is that these guys also think that you will be able to chat with your granny from your kitchen worktop so perhaps we are all heading to a common future after all.

 

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