Welcome to the latest instalment of Vancity Futures, a monthly column that focuses on the technological changes in the world, what they mean for all of us here in Vancouver, and the wider implications in the world.
My name is Nikolas Badminton and I’m a Futurist and speaker. I have been working in the software, R&D, management consultancy, and advertising worlds for over 18 years. I write and speak about how the world will change in the next five, 10, and 25-plus years. This column will provide new insights to the ever changing world for you.
Just before the end of each year I look to the developments of the past two or three years, the biggest news stories, and the radical new thinkers to gain a perspective of what we can expect to happen with technology for the following year.
In Vancity Futures: 2016 Technology Predictions, I present what I think will gain momentum in the upcoming year.
1. Augmented and Virtual Reality hits the mainstream
The tech world has been buzzing about Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) for some years now, and now we are on the cusp of it hitting the mainstream. This past year we’ve seen Oculus, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard, Rove, and all manner of platforms being established.
But, in 2016, I think it will be Magic Leap that will change everything. Last year, Google had demo’d it, and then gave them over $540 million to take it to the next level. But, why all the fuss? Cinematic Reality (CR). The idea that you can build cinematic quality images in the eye, not on a screen, is not only an incredible innovation, it’s a revolution!
In the future, this is what we will call entertainment:
I also wrote an article earlier this year called From Rectangles to Reality: A Primer on Virtual Reality that speculates that the screens we use – PC, laptop, Smartphone – will disappear with the advent of wide adoption of VR and AR and interfaces that exist in front of our eyes (no, not Google Glass). A Vancouver tech company, HUMAN, is working towards that goal using VR, AR, and wearable technologies. An exciting time, Ryan Betts, one of the founders of HUMAN, outlines the step change in how we need to see digital experience going forward:
- “Above the Fold” is now “Before the Horizon”
- “Scrolling” is now “Strolling”
- “Resolution” is now “Rate”
- “Styrofoam” is now “Cloud computing”
2. Gene editing will change medicine forever
What if we could alter our genetic makeup to help eradicate congenital conditions?
There have been huge developments in this field, and CRISPR-Cas9 is at the forefront of revolutionizing medicine. CRISPR is an RNA-guided gene-editing platform that makes use of Cas9, a bacterially derived protein, and a synthetic guide RNA to introduce a double strand break at a specific location within the genome. Hold on, I need help explaining this:
CRISPR allows scientists to edit genomes with unprecedented precision, efficiency, and flexibility and we have seen many developments with CRISPR, including creating monkeys with targeted mutations to preventing HIV infection in human cells. Earlier this month, Chinese scientists announced they applied the technique to nonviable human embryos, hinting at CRISPR’s potential to cure any genetic disease. And yes, it might even lead to designer babies.
What’s amazing about this technology is that CRISPR is actually a naturally-occurring, ancient defence mechanism found in a wide range of bacteria and experiments have been happening since the 1980s.
3. Power to the cyborgs
A ‘cyborg’ is someone that is a person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body. I am one (well, I do have a chip implanted in my hand), and you are one. In fact, almost everyone in the world is one these days as we all carry smartphones that provide us with extended abilities to remember, capture, and share.
However, some people need technology more than others, and 2016 will be the year when the word disability disappears and is replaced with ‘enhanced ability.’ On October 8, 2016 the Championship for Robot-Assisted athletes – The Cybathlon – happens in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Cybathlon is a championship for pilots with disabilities who are using advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies.
The competitions are comprised of different disciplines that will test the ability of pilots to navigate a series of everyday tasks while using a powered knee prosthesis, wearable arm prosthesis, powered exoskeleton, powered wheelchair, electrically stimulated muscles, and novel brain-computer interfaces.
I see a world where there are no longer wheelchairs and disabled access is no longer required in the same way it is today. I also think that able bodied people will be taking advantage as well. Now, where did I leave my exoskeleton?
4. Artificial Intelligence and advanced machine learning
The robots are coming! Well, robot brains are already here.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the assumed ‘intelligence’ exhibited by machines or software in the tasks and interactions. Dr Sanjay Modgil from King’s College in London, U.K. helps us understand what AI is:
Research and adoption into commercial applications is gaining pace. But why do we need it?
Well, each day we create more than 2.5 quintillion, that’s 10 to the power of 18, bytes of data. That’s so much data that 90% of the world’s data today has been created in the last two years alone. Inside of that data is opportunity to take humanity to the next level and AI will help unlock the potential.
In advanced machine learning, deep neural nets (DNNs) move beyond classic computing and information management to create systems that can autonomously learn to perceive the world, on their own. In 2015, Google released it AI platform TensorFlow on the world to help gain momentum in the development of applications and Facebook has it’s system – Em – integrated as well:
AI like this will power the future of business, medicine, and the systems that we use in society. It will unlock opportunities we have never imagined before.
5. The rise of autonomous vehicles
The final prediction for 2016 is around self-driving cars. The news is full of buzz in this area and it’s inevitable that eventually we will live in a world where we will no longer drive. We will be chauffeured. Here’s Stephen Colbert talking about his Tesla:
Cars can no longer be seen as just vehicles, they are software platforms. All major car brands are developing self-driving vehicles. This is a good thing. In the U.S. alone there are about 35,000 deaths caused through bad driving and accidents. What if we all just stopped driving and let the vehicles do the work for us? Less fun, sure. But really, how much fun is the gridlock in Vancouver anyway?
Welcome to the future!