The future is such a big deal to nerds like us. We spend our free time trying on metallic jumpsuits and pretending that we have voice-activated showers, mind-controlled TV sets, and a robot nanny named Rosey. We’ve also tried to picture what the smartphones, laptops, cameras, and cars of tomorrow would look like.
We’re pretty sure that just like us, you’ve wondered at least once what your phone or camera would look like ten years from now. Following the scheme of evolution of technology in recent years allows us to say a lot about how certain gadgets will appear in the next few years and how they will be able to perform and cater to our progressing needs.
Buckle up as we head to the future and make fearless forecasts on what to expect in the world of tech.
Ever seen a mobile device with a mind of its own? Neither have I, but in the future we might witness devices full of innovations that we can only dream of now. We are given a peek at the possible future through the intensive CG creations of Hollywood movies, breathing life (albeit fictional) to seemingly impossible technologies. The mobile device of today has made a big shift from a mere slate capable of simple tasks like calling and text messaging, to a mean machine that allows us to explore the world via the Internet and interact with anyone from anywhere.
MOBILE DEVICES OF THE FUTURE
We’ve all had our fair share of time with our blocky, antenna-topped phones. Years ago, I was a happy elementary kid when they passed me my first second-hand phone. It was a chunky yellow Siemens model that I paraded around everywhere I went. Portability—being the asset that made mobile devices a go-to gadget—is still a major feature for the phones and tablets that we now own. Mobile devices are not just portable versions of telephones anymore; they are not even just personal digital assistants but have become an intelligent daily companion, designed to t seamlessly in your hand or your pocket.
Over the years, manufacturers have jumped from one innovation to another, allowing us to do more than just sending and receiving calls and short messages. Cellphones now incorporate cameras, and have functionalities like video calls, mobile TV, video players, mobile internet and a lot more. With all these innovations, how will mobile devices look and function five to ten years from now?
Mobile devices are meant to be compact, as they are supposed to be handheld devices you can carry anywhere instead of being tied down to a wired telephone system. Looking back at the first models of mobile phones, the design was big and clunky; modi cations executed through the years made them petite, yet still fully functional. In recent years, it seems we are heading back to the larger-sized devices in the form of tablets and large smartphones. Here are some of the predictions for mobile devices that can be a tangible reality in years to come.
WIRELESS, AND NOW HANDS-FREE DEVICES
Now that wires are out of the way, maybe our devices can serve their functions without the use of our palms and fingers. We have seen this come to reality with Google Glass, but who knows—eventually, we might not have to use any of the parts of our body to utilize the functions of our devices in the future.
PLIANT, BENDY-BREAK-FREE SMARTPHONES AND TABLETS
We aren’t perfect. We tend to be clumsy at times, and our devices are often the victims of our occasional mishaps. Say goodbye to broken and cracked screens with foldable yet high-definition screens. During the latest Consumer Electrics Show (CES), Samsung revealed their YOUM display concept, which is an OLED display screen, made of thin plastic. They demonstrated how pliable the screen was, bending the screen without breaking it. Samsung also teased the audience with a video on how foldable tablets and phones might look in the future, and we can’t wait to see first-hand how those bendy smartphones will work.
ECO-FRIENDLY MOBILE DEVICES
With global warming on hand, what could be better than environment-friendly mobile devices that help combat climate change? When the sun bursts its ray of heat, you can go out, turn your device to face the sun and, viola, your battery is recharged!
THE CAMERAS OF THE FUTURE MOBILE DEVICE
Although point-and-shoot digital cameras and DSLRs are still widely used, especially by photography aficionados, smartphones and tablets have already entered the realm of fine photography. With integrated HD cameras and editing applications installed in our smartphones and tablets, the future of the traditional cameras might be under threat. Trends like “iPhoneography:’ mobile video production, and mobile-mentaries (mobile documentaries) begin to shape the digital media, giving more opportunities for people to discover their photography, directing, and filming brilliance with just the use of portable devices. Furthermore, camera phones like the Samsung’s 16-megapixel Galaxy Camera and Nokia’s 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 have invaded the market, posing a challenge to competitors to come up with better imaging innovations for their mobile devices.
With the introduction of Google Glass and smart watches, we will see a whole lot of new wearable technology in the future-smart contact lenses, a ring that enables you to call, or garments with the function of mobile devices, you name it!
WILL THE HYPE FOR SMARTPHONES AND TABLETS DIE OUT?
Walkie-talkies, beepers, Walkmans, and Tamagochi all have one thing in common-their fame waned. Smartphones and tablets continue to dominate the tech realm, but will this hype last for long?
Personally, I don’t think they will. The features of today’s mobile devices are a collection of every mobile technology that existed. Innovations today are built upon the concepts of yesterday; they are perfected to cope up with the changes and demands of consumers.
Mobile devices evolve to meet and adapt to our needs. They assist us in our daily activities and further help us organize our lives. With innovations coming faster than expected, mobile devices will be increasingly pervasive—they will be everywhere. There might be no such thing as a mobile device in the impending future as it could become an omnipresent feature that is accessible to everyone, occupying the air and every bit of space that we live in. But one thing’s for sure: these mobile devices are here to help.
Digital imaging refers to the creation of digital images, which involves—you guessed it!—digital photography. The landscape of digital imaging encompasses a whole lot more than the cameras, scanners and printers you see in electronics stores and it even comes into play in fields such as science, medicine and intelligence. But for this article, we’re going to talk about the consumer products that are involved in the digital imaging process, shining the spotlight on the digital cameras of today and tomorrow.
The challenge to create the smallest and lightest cameras without crippling quality is one race that camera manufacturers are running. The concept of extreme portability—evident not only in this product category, but also in computing devices—is what drives the shrinking of size and decrease in weight of digital cameras.
Apart from being thinner and lighter, today’s cameras are also trying to be ‘faster’ than the offerings of their competitors—’faster’ in reference to autofocus (AF) and ‘faster’ in terms of shutter speed and burst shooting.
Cameras have also become ‘smart’ in a sense that they are more intelligent. By this, I mean they are equipped with features and settings that are automatically activated by external triggers. Facial recognition is an old, but suitable example of this.
Today’s cameras are also said to be ‘smarter’ because of integrated wireless capabilities, and it’s not just the point-and-shoot models that are evolving. DSLRs—the Jedi Masters of the camera hierarchy—have jumped on the bandwagon as well, not leaving imaging giants Canon and Nikon out of the party.
Because smartphones and mobile devices in general are progressively eating into the market of portable cameras despite the integration of wireless capabilities into the latter, camera manufacturers have been working hard these past couple of years to integrate operating systems into their cameras. The Samsung Galaxy Camera and the Nikon Coolpix S800c are great examples of how companies were able to successfully pack their point-and-shoot models with Android. Polaroid, meanwhile, took on an interesting road when they developed the first interchangeable lens smart camera to run Android, the iM1836.
What makes devices touted as “smart cameras” different from cameras in mobile gadgets like smartphones and tablets? Smart cameras put the prime on camera functionality instead the capacity to install and use apps. It is a camera first above all else, and a mobile device second, and that is precisely its appeal.
Still running in the race, smartphones and tablets continue to develop technology to change the game for mobile photography. Aside from special features incorporated into each device’s native camera app, like the Drama Shot function of the Samsung Galaxy 54, more powerful sensors are being incorporated into the devices. The new Lumia 1020, for instance, is armed with a 41-megapixel sensor and PureView, Nokia’s pixel oversampling technology. Although there are arguments about the drawbacks of packing so many mega pixels into such a relatively compact device, the fact remains that it is a feat for a smartphone to be able to capture high-resolution images. That goes for all smartphones equipped with powerful imaging technology—Sony’s Exmor RS sensor for Mobile, the Ultra Pixel Camera on the HTC One, and other innovations.
Tablets, too, are catching up, simply because there is a demand for better-quality images and more efficient camera features in such devices. (Yes, no matter how much we are annoyed by hovering iPads obstructing our view during concerts, it is undeniable that one function of the tablet is to take pictures.)
Developers of apps also realize the propensity of today’s consumer to use mobile devices as substitutes for dedicated cameras, which is why they ceaselessly create apps to enhance the mobile photography experience. There are sharing platforms like lnstagram, mobile editing suites like Photoshop Express, and apps with special effects and purposes like Night Vision Camera and Thermal Vision Camera.
DESKTOP AND PORTABLE SCANNERS
Nowadays, scanners made for home and small office use are incorporated into multi-function printers, like Canon’s PIXMA products and Epson’s Expression printers. Nevertheless, we treat scanners and printers differently in this article as they differ in purpose: digital image input for the former, and output for the latter.
Scanners, like cameras, are emphasizing ‘smartness’. Of course, efficiency features like automatic document feeding (ADF) and duplex scanning are still being built into today’s scanners-nothing has changed there. Character recognition and quality restoration are also clever features found in both photo and document scanners.
Most importantly, manufacturers are trying their best to make scanners fit into today’s digital ecosystem which is characterized by wireless connectivity. Paired with appropriate apps, scanners with wireless connectivity enables users to access their scanned photos and documents even when they’re on their phones or tablets, provided the scanner and the mobile device are connected to the same network.
PRINTING AND DISPLAY
The output medium is equally important as the input medium in the current digital environment. Printers, for instance, have wireless connectivity and accompanying apps. So do projectors. However, no matter how much we integrate these image output devices into the wireless circuit and digital workflow, there is still the demand for top-quality output, especially since we’re dealing with images. We’re human beings with aesthetic needs, so our yearning for good-quality images is practically immortal.
Printer heads are persistently being enhanced to be able to reproduce finer images on paper. Projectors are being furnished with improved color reproduction. More and more monitors are getting 4k resolution so that the display does justice to whatever stunning image you take.
So, yes—no matter how ‘smart’ our imaging tools get, image quality still matters to manufacturers because it also matters to us consumers.
STORAGE AND SHARING
The best way to illustrate the evolution of storing and sharing photos is the recent major Flickr update. The Yahoo!-owned photo-sharing site now has a storage limit of 1 TB per user, up from the 200-photo limit they previously imposed. This means that you can upload large-resolution images to your heart’s content, so you don’t have to downscale them and kill quality. It also has an app that lets users upload photos from their mobile device.
Here’s what the Flickr update indicates: Internet connection speeds are getting faster, progressively increasing our potential to upload high-resolution photos, and we now have the option to store them in all their full-res glory on the web so that (a) we can share them with the world, and (b) they don’t eat up the space on our hard drives.
Cloud-based storage is currently a big thing and it will continue to be big as the speed of the Internet matures.
Will there be an emergence of hybrid cameras? We will see more of them, but it’s more likely that cameras in mobile devices will undergo drastic improvements because they have a higher demand than hybrid smart cameras. The emphasis of the development will be on quality.
With technology like PureView, it shows that we’re not just focusing on wireless connectivity and integration into the current digital ecosystem; we still give prominence to image quality. Good image quality doesn’t even have to be sacrificed for easy online sharing anymore, what with LTE and all the other advancements. This is why smartphone and tablet cameras, together with dedicated portable cameras (that includes point-and-shoot cameras, interchangeable lens cameras, and everything in between), will continue to upgrade their sensors and imaging engines to produce better-quality output.
Not only that; since we’re so keen on quality, professional and advanced enthusiast cameras will eventually have features that allow them to be part of the digital ecosystem driven by wireless connectivity.
Today, DSLRs have wireless functions: GPS, built-in Wi-Fi or provisions for wireless adapters, and supplementary apps that let users use a mobile device as a remote viewfinder or shutter trigger. Many tomorrows from now, the DSLR market will breed the capability of app installation, or have some apps already built into them. There’s a good chance that they might even carry their own OS. Android is the most possible candidate, but sooner or later each DSLR manufacturer will come up with their own OS similar to Android and their own app markets along with it.
Tomorrow’s DSLRs will also have their own dedicated cloud services that enable seamless file sharing and importing to an image editing software that supports access to the same cloud service, making the images they capture accessible by one’s computer, smartphone, tablet or printer.
The bottom line is that the cameras of tomorrow won’t have to sacrifice quality to be able to function efficiently and harmoniously within the wireless ecosystem. With that, other devices, software, and web-based services will follow suit. Even professional cameras won’t be left out of the upcoming connectivity upgrades and features, precisely because internet connection—even here in the Philippines—will eventually be able to support the large file sizes that come with the finest photos, and image-sharing services like Flickr, together with cloud storage platforms like Dropbox, are extending their services to wirelessly capable cameras.
Admit it. You’ll never be rid of your penchant for high-quality images. Not even in another thirteen years.
I’ve given up on flying cars. The promise of these marvels of mobility that laugh in the face of land-bound grid locks are a great idea, sure, but we’ve been teased by all sorts of flying car concepts, designs and even working prototypes; this morning though, when I checked the garage, it was still the same, old, white Kia that has been there since I was in grade school. Imagine teaching your elderly mom to fly the family car. No thanks.
If we are to find the future of mobility, then, we should turn our eyes from the sky, and back to terra firma. We do need to change things, but we don’t need to change them that much. There are trends that are already here, but we already know they exist. Let’s dial things up a bit and look at what the future may hold for those who sit behind the wheel on a regular basis.
The quest for the automobile of the future involves the search for a vehicle that delivers greater efficiency and creates fewer pollutants, as well as increased connectivity and safety for riders. Technologies exist today that allow cars to operate on their own and react to other vehicles, but they still need human drivers. This has been a limitation of technology. Capturing information is hard enough, processing it to something meaningful, even harder, and thinking about what to do with the information requires brain power approaching that of sentience.
Okay, that might be a bit overly dramatic, but it is true. The amount of computing power a vehicle needs to drive autonomously is rather large. With all the sources of supplementary information increasing, though, it takes the load off of the individual machine, and opens the doors for self-driving. Further easing the burden is inter-vehicle communication, which can, if executed properly, allow cars to avoid each other, even before they are in earshot. It used to be an idea planted firmly in science fiction, but as technology catches up with the engineering necessary, this is starting to become a reality. A recent seminar by Ford outlined a plan to introduce such features in the mid term.
Taking it further, self-driving cars could very well remove the need for a personal chauffeur. Just set the time and place, and your car could come get you. If it runs into anything unexpected along the way, it could very easily let you know by sending you a message or giving you a phone call. If you decide mid-way through the day to change your plans a bit, just send it a message, and you should be all set. Get dropped off at work, have a meeting out of town and have the car come and get you afterwards.
Hydrocarbons like gasoline and diesel have always been the preferred fuel for the cars we drive. There is a perfectly good reason behind this: both gasoline and diesel have huge amounts of energy stored in their chemical bonds. Still, for all the amazing benefits of petrol, there is a very clear drawback to using these as fuel: exhaust emissions. Carbon dioxide, as you should all know by now, is a greenhouse gas that has some pretty nasty, long-lasting effects on the well-being of the only hospitable planet in our solar system. There are two approaches that are being attempted to try and fix this problem. The first is increase the efficiency of hydrocarbon-burning vehicles, and the second is to skip them all together and go for an alternative power source.
For the time being, there are gasoline-powered vehicles on the road that are capable of getting upwards of 20km/L, but this just won’t cut it in the future; the dwindling supply of oil won’t let us. The same goes for petrol-electric hybrids. Hydrogen fuel cells are nice, but for all the promises this tech has given us, we haven’t really seen more than the odd concept car or two.
It seems straight electric is the answer. Power transmission to charging points is easy; power lines are everywhere already, negating the need for trucks or pipes to deliver petrol to the pumps. The technology is solid, and is going to get even better. The Federacion lnternationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of all international four-wheeled motorsport, including the Formula 1 for example, is starting the Formula E GP that will have all-electric race cars. Nothing pushes progress faster than competition, so that’s a great way to develop the technology that will slowly trickle down to the consumers. The only real limitation to the straight electric car is the relatively poor battery technology that powers it. There is already technology on the horizon that allows a smartphone battery to charge fully in about half a minute, and if that can be scaled to the size needed to power a vehicle, then we’ll all be golden.
To recap, we’ll have cars that can talk to other cars as well as fixed points on the roads, allowing them to drive themselves, and intelligently, on the fly, find the best route, taking into account traffic, distance and even engine load. The cars will likely be electric, needing only seconds to charge, and with a range in the hundreds of kilometers between top-ups. All the safety features will still be there, though increased visibility will probably also be a thing, particularly by adding skeletonized A pillars and other beams that block the driver’s view. Just the same, collisions are going to be far less likely, as long as the brains behind the car are working okay.
It doesn’t seem like there will be much change to the layout inside the cabin. Cars have been around for upwards of a hundred years, and while the control locations have changed (The Ford Model T’s throttle was on the steering column, and “reverse” had its own pedal, for example) the means by which we control the vehicle will likely be the same, simply because we don’t really need anything else, and all the technology that makes things easier can be executed in the background. There might be a few extra buttons, but a steering wheel and pedals are going to remain standard.
Manufacturers will also step up when it comes to production. Volkswagen, for example, has already started making vehicles with modular internals, in different classes. This allows a huge percentage of parts interchangeability, and much lower production, logistics, and repair costs. This will not only ease the burden on a consumer looking for a repair, but it drastically drops the cost to produce the vehicle, as well as allowing for greatly reduced environmental impact, while still giving buyers the variety they will always look for.
So we have the vehicle. How are we going to implement using it? A curious phenomenon in the UK is that car ownership is going down. It appears that people don’t really mind not owning a car of their own, as long as the other modes of transportation are solid enough to take them from point A to point B, at least when it comes to the cities. As urban planning starts to keep pace with the necessities of city mobility, perhaps a transport system of semi-selfdriving, electric cars, in organized stations will start plying the roads. Mass transit can handle the larger, mainstream trips, with these smaller vehicles taking care of getting people from the station to a more specific destination where mass transit would lose its efficiency. They can then make their way back to a hub, where the next user can take it to their own destination. This doesn’t seem terribly exciting for people who want more horses under the hood or the hiss of a blow-off valve, but this is where urban transport seems to be going.
There will still be a place for those, though. Electric cars offer acceleration like nothing else, since power is transferred straight to the road, without having to wait for the RPMs to climb. All other things being equal (or as equal as they can be), an electric car will out-accelerate an internal combustion one every time. This allows for sportier rides that are similarly efficient to their basic transportation brothers. There will always be a way to create a vehicle with premium features and abilities and, as long as people remain people, there will always be a market.
Overall, it doesn’t seem like the car will change very much, at least in the near future. The primary, practical concern isn’t developing more muscle, it’s more finesse, and the ability to get people where they are going in the most mechanically efficient way possible. Smart vehicles will do a lot to move this process forward, and continue to get us where we are going, with a smaller environmental footprint than ever before.
Good things come in boxes. Shoes come in boxes; pastries come in boxes; so do rings, toys, gifts, gadgets, jewelries, chocolates, and what not. Even entertainment comes in the form of boxes! Whether it’s a TV screen, a computer screen, or a movie screen, we all experience ultra fun times with these “squares,” though many light years from now, that might not be the case.
THE “SQUARE IS THE LIMIT
In the future, entertainment will go beyond the box and into simulated space. Come to think of it, most people treat screens as a window, but it can also prevent viewers from fully and actively engaging in their entertainment; the marginal box between the real and the simulated is where the fascinations of entertainment reside, but if that box becomes a barrier, the best solution would be to remove it.
Steven Spielberg explained it best, saying: “We are never going to be totally immersive as long as we are looking at a square … We’ve got to get rid of that. We’ve got to put the player inside the experience, where no matter where you look you’re surrounded by a three-dimensional space.”
THE IDEA OF IMMERSIVE ENTERTAINMENT
The idea centers on how entertainment will be shown and distributed in the future, and the ways in which these hybrid media forms could become as immersive as possible. Going beyond the box means doing whatever it takes to make entertainment landscapes a consuming experience. Video game design, for instance, has been rapidly transitioning towards experiences that are completely immersive-both physically and emotionally-thus generating constant reinvention of how games look like.
The idea of immersive entertainment-in which you can lose yourself and in which the line between fiction and reality blurs-isn’t new at all, and its impact can be bewildering.
The protagonist in Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century novel Don Quixote went tilting at windmills because he had engrossed himself so much in the practice of reading. Don Quixote buried himself in his books that “he read all night from sundown to dawn, and all day from sunup to dusk until with virtually no sleep and so much reading he dried out his brain and lost his sanity:’ His beguiling madness hints at a degree to which art in general and reading in particular might literally derange one’s mind.
Centuries later, Orson Welles showed that radio could have similarly disturbing capacities. When Welles broadcasted a live radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds back in 1938, thousands of listeners actually believed that Martians invaded New Jersey, with a few presuming that they were Germans instead. Even with recurrent announcements that the radio drama was fictitious, frightened listeners telephoned police stations, hurried into churches to pray, packed their belongings, prepared to evacuate, and even volunteered to take up arms.
Nowadays, of course, losing oneself in print, broadcast, other forms of media is intensely familiar. lmmersive entertainment has moved into the realm of hybrid media forms, making strides in the direction of a more exciting experience.
THE OCULUS RIFT
The most advanced immersive entertainment on the horizon now may be the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset for 3D gaming. To demonstrate its capacity, developers created a “guillotine simulator”—which, by the sound of it, seems like a hair-raising affair—that surprisingly turned out to be a big hit with those who have already tried it. In the simulation, you kneel with your head placed on a surface and experience the visual sensation of being beheaded in front of a virtual crowd. At the end of the day, though, you’re just lying there with a box strapped to your face, staring into a pair of screens.
THE FUTURE, IN HOLOGRAMS
The Oculus Rift is a stunning invention, but it’s still constrained to the idea of a box, causing everyone to shift their fascination to the possibilities and promises of a holographic 3D world that does not only produce images but also sound.
Holograms began as a classic parlor trick known as Pepper’s Ghost-an illusion that took advantage of a cleverly angled mirror to project the reflection of a ghost in a secret room. This simple technique, which dates back to the 19th century, is still used in some degree today, most notably within Disney’s Haunted Mansion, where the largest Pepper’s Ghost installation resides to give guests the illusion that they’ve entered a haunted ballroom.
More recently, with major events such as Coachella and the London Olympics showing off the latest in hologram technology, the concept is becoming more and more embraced in theaters, stores, or homes.
Although, nothing has yet been able to capture true hologram capabilities since holograms are still largely illusions rather than an instinctive, glasses-free 3D projection of a life-size image, we know we’re well on our way to realizing this.
In a sense, the future of entertainment is already here-at least in a finite way that’s available to a small group of people. Now, if we only have the technology to scale things up to a higher level-that would be amazing!
Words by Mia Carisse Barrientos, Racine Anne Castro, Ren Alcantara, and Janelle M. Bustilla
Art by Cla Gregorio
First published in Gadgets Magazine, August 2013