How to: Make Sense of Future Technology
Technological innovation is surging as never before. With exciting new formats springing forth only to be seemingly snuffed out months later, exactly which direction our tools and toys are headed is nearly impossible to pinpoint. But that won’t stop us from sharing a few intriguing trends – just don’t hold it against us if they all end up going the way of the Betamax.
Over the past 20 years or so, TV and computer screens have been getting thinner and thinner. Now they’re about to go full-on anorexic. Concepts for razor-thin OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays, some of which are totally transparent and others that are so flexible you can roll them up in your hand, have been the talk of trade shows in recent years. OLEDs can match the performance of plasma and LCD devices, while reducing energy consumption and incorporating paperthin designs by virtue of producing light naturally, without a bulky backlight. Home theatre-sized options remain in the concept stage, as issues like lifespan and colour fading still need to be worked out. But it’s no stretch to say that in a decade we’ll be watching all of our 3D movies on a near-2D screen.
Even though public demand for existing 3D-capable tech hasn’t really been all that overwhelming, next-gen 3D has already started to break through. By now, North America has seen its first glasses-free 3D TV, courtesy of Toshiba. The device uses parallax bar technology (a special sheet laid over a traditional LCD panel) to essentially divide the screen’s pixels between your eyes, creating the illusion of depth. Companies like HTC, Nintendo and LG have already released glasses-free handheld devices internationally. Peering further into the looking glass, Sony has been showing off its prototype “Ray Modeller,” a desktop device capable of projecting a full 360-degree image of a panoramically photographed subject, which you can rotate with hand gestures.
Last year, Microsoft (working with Samsung) introduced the 2nd generation of its Minority Report-esque “Surface” display. It’s basically a 40-inch computer in the form of a table, used to share info and pictures. The new version employs the sophisticated PixelSense system that allows for 52-point touch control, meaning that multiple users can interact with different parts of the display, accessing data, scrolling through pictures and even doing a little finger painting. The system (which is also wall-mountable) distinguishes between individual fingers and hand gestures – potentially, it can even recognize and interface with objects like cell phones and credit cards.
The past decade has seen remarkable IQ spikes among high-end tech gadgets. Now, our domestic devices are smartening up, too. Samsung has already released a touchscreen-interface fridge that can run apps like weather notification, post-it messages and recipe downloads, in addition to Tweeting when it’s, say, out of mayo. Further facilitating this uprising is the eventuality of the “smart grid,” a high-tech in-home system linking all compatible appliances to one another, while regulating power output to reduce both your expenses and eco footprint. MC