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On the tech radar

On the tech radar

Looking out 10 years, Gartner predicts that more than 30 percent of mobile workers will combine the virtual and real world using augmented reality and wearable environments such as head-up displays. Rather than accessing a separate device to glean data relevant to a specific task, relevant information-such as text, graphics and video-will be superimposed on a head-up display. For example, people performing equipment repair and medical procedures could benefit from more integrated data displays and advanced interfaces, such as voice and gesture. Advances in screen technology, including low-cost flexible screens and low-power consumption displays, will enable more rich media experiences on smaller devices.

Given current trends, Gartner's prediction that by 2010, 70 percent of the population in developed nations will spend 10 times longer per day interacting with people in the digital world than in the physical one is not surprising. Coincident with that trend, collaboration tools for enabling electronic interaction -- ranging from Wikis to sites that can identify and provide specific expertise to a group -- will take on more prominence, as will tools for monitoring and managing collaborative environments. Gartner predicts that collaboration tools for collective content creation will be available in mainstream products, resulting in more distributed decision-making.

In addition, the infrastructure for e-commerce will be transformed over the next 10 years with the availability of improved micropayment schemes and services. According to Gartner, services such as parking, taxi dispatching, security or other more granular location-based tasks will be available within micropayment environments.

All of the Gartner predictions fall within the range of reasonable and inevitable transformations that will gradually evolve into the mainstream. What is less predictable is the social impact of embedded computing, in which the entire environment of everyday objects is invested with some form of computing power and possibly intelligence. It's also likely that in the next decade computers will get much smarter, not just faster and cheaper, and understand more about content in context. PalmPilot inventor Jeff Hawkins has a book, On Intelligence, that proposes a way to create smart machines by applying principles from artificial intelligence and neural network studies. It will take a breakthrough in developing machine intelligence modeled on human brain function to make another great technology leap forward.


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