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Blurring the line between man and machine

By Scott Mims

This week I feel compelled to continue my discourse on modern technology, the reason being the newsroom here at The Advertiser just made another stride in that direction.

As of this week, all the computer monitors in our editorial department are super-thin flat screens, as opposed to the bulky, eye-straining monitors that either scar the wall or scratch your desk if you try to move them an inch.

For most of us, we don't really think about it that much, but I am continually amazed by it. We have come a long way from the green screens and the ancient floppy disks we had to use circa 1989.

But we're just beginning to scratch the surface. Although the flat panel plasma display technology is much more efficient with its combination of lighter, thinner hardware with more crisp images, it is no match for what we will see several years from now:

You might want to store up a few newspapers because they could be a thing of the past with the introduction of electronic paper - that's right, a digital display on a device about as thin as a conventional sheet of paper.

Imagine getting your newspaper this way. Not only could you carry it around with you, but it would update itself as you read it. It would be completely rewritable - possibly featuring animated images instead of just inanimate photos.

The advantages will be numerous - students will most likely carry all their textbooks in one portable electronic notebook, eliminating the need for heavy backpacks.

I recently read that Xerox has selected 3M to manufacture and market the product, which means it is one step closer to becoming part of our everyday lives.

But that's nothing. Imagine not only carrying your computer around like a newspaper or magazine, but wearing your computer like you might wear a pair of reading glasses. No, I'm not talking about virtual reality, I'm talking about something called augmented reality, which would allow you to work on things while researching them at the same time (imagine putting together a piece of equipment while receiving the assembly instructions from a computer you wear on your person).

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