Apocalypse, as thought to be according to the Mayan calendar, has come and gone, and it has all turned out to be just Maya. So we have another year coming, with wonderful things in the works as far as technology is concerned.
While I don't have a crystal ball to bring you what the future holds as it unfolds, I can make some educated guesses. Here is what I foresee in the near future, both in IT and other aspects of technological advances. Some have a futuristic twist.
1. Wristwatches that sync to your location automatically
When I saw the SIEKO Astron, I was impressed with the a radio-controlled personal time-piece. These watches automatically tune into what is called “atomic time.” Radio transmitters globally (India included) send out a signal on the accurate time, and reset themselves. What a boon for jet-setters! They don't have to reset their watches whenthey land in a different place.
The Astron uses solar power to charge, and even the light of a fluorescent lamp is enough to charge it. But it costs a bomb at $3,000 (Rs. 165,000) — out of the reach of most. But then, Casio has announced the GW A1000, sporting the same features and even more, for just Rs.29,500. Watch this space!
2. 3D printing
Three-dimensional work is cool, and the younger generation is good at it. But the main drawback is that you can only share your three-dimensional work only through digital files. Or so we thought.
You can now buy a 3D printer, and just print out a model, create a toy on your own or the prototype for the next big thing. The technology has been around for some time, but desktop 3D printers such as Maker Bot ($2,000, Rs.110,000) have only just begun to emerge.
A 3D printer may not be far from your workstation in the none-too-distant future
3. The death of the desktop?
The desktop computer as we know, with its cabling mess, the box under the desk and the separate monitor, seems to have both its feet in the grave, with the emergence of powerful laptops, tangle-free and space-saving, and portable to boot, and equally powerful tablet devices and digital smart televisions for content consumption. Who needs a desktop anyway?
The latest avatar is the two-in-one laptop-cum-tablet or the desktop-cum-tablet such as HP’s ENVY 23. High costs may be a deterrent in the short run, but over time, are bound to come down.
4. Rise of the robots
A couple of years ago the wife and I were testing out first robotic floor cleaner. It would wake up in the middle of the night and vacuum the house. Then came the iRobot Scooba 390 with a four-stage cleaning process — washing, scrubbing and squeezing to leave the floor spanking clean. Major manufacturers such as LG have been pushing their robots too, but I see the iRobot moving in big time.
It still needs to be imported and costs about $500 (about R27,500), but it will never use dirty water like your maid does, nor does it need a holiday.
Corners, areas under the sofa or the bed are all accessible to it, all that you need to do is to leave the doors open. If you don’t want it go into a specific room, you can set up a virtual wall to keep it out.
The LG robot automatically goes back to the charging station when it is out of battery. Sc-fi is no longer fiction!
5. Intelligence in all devices
Phones became smart, the washing machine followed, then the refrigerator and now the television. A fridge that tells you that you are out of milk or eggs, a water bottle that reminds you to drink — and keepd track of how much water you consume; a TV that let you connect to the Internet and stream movies from cloud servers, and even update your Facebook status.
Where all this smartness will finally wind up, is anybody’s guess, but driverless cars are already under road-tests, so don’t be surprised at the applications and devices that hit the market this year with elements of this intelligence.
6.Micro Networks — specialised social networks
Facebook and Twitter changed the way we interacted, Pinterest and Instagram have enabled people to share images and be creative, while YouTube allowed people to put their home videos on the Net. But soon people started moving away as they lost their privacy, and this gave birth to specialised social micro networks.
Google tried it with their Google Plus, where you could put people in circles, but it still had limitations. Now you can set up a closed social group for free by using sites such as familyleaf.com; or use an iPhone application called Pair that lets you setup a network for you and your loved one (yes, just one!). Specialised social networks are the next big thing coming in.
7. Cheaper tablets
Of course, this is the dream — a $100 (Rs.5,000) iPad or its equivalent. The Google Nexus is a powerful tablet that starts at just $199.
The Aakash, though not as refined as the Google Nexus, starts at Rs. 3,499. Cheaper tablets are bound to be the focus in 2013, cutting through the digital divide and bring us closer.
The iPad Mini and the Google Nexus are still not in the lowest price bracket, so we have much to look forward to next year.