Following up my last blog, here are more interesting emerging technologies that are likely to transform life soon:
Really Smart Phones: Google, Intel and other companies are leading the way to phones that talk, do intelligent search, and more.
An intelligent world is forming all around us. With continual gains in computer power, bandwidth, and good AI systems like GPS navigation, we are likely see smart phones that listen, talk, and solve problems. Intelligent search that provides precise answers to difficult questions. Intel is working on smart phones that are aware of their surroundings and act as virtual assistants. The company’s CTO, Justin Rattner, said “Within 5 years, smart phones will be aware of the information on your laptop, desktop, and tablet, and they will use that knowledge to help guide you through the day.”
Google is using AI to improve search results. It is using speech recognition to take instructions by voice and respond in kind. They can automatically translate among 57 languages. Google Goggles lets an Android phone recognize an image. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, said: “AI might remind us of appointments and connect us with friends. Imagine a future when you don’t forget anything because the computer remembers. You are never lost. Never lonely.” Well, the latter may be asking too much.
Thought Power: Using brain-computer interfaces, scientists have taught a monkey to “walk” a robot by simply thinking.
Researchers at Duke University trained a monkey (Idoya) to walk on a treadmill, and electrodes were implanted in her brain to capture electronic signals. The signals were translated into computer instructions and sent via high-speed Internet to the lab in Kyoto, Japan, where the robot “Computational Brain” (CB) resides. The monkey could watch the robot on a large monitor and was instructed to control CB through her own walking motion. As Idoya walked, CB also walked at roughly the same pace with minor time delays. The lead scientist, Dr. Migeul Nicolelis, said “We have shown that you can carry brain signals across the planet to control devices in the time scale that a biological system works.”
But that’s just the beginning. The researchers stopped the treadmill, leaving the monkey standing still and continuing to stare at the video of the robot. Whereas before Idoya was merely thinking about its own walking, now it was asked to make the robot walk using its thought alone. For 3 minutes, Idoya “walked” the robot using sheer thought power. The team plans to demonstrate by the end of 2008 that human thought can operate an exoskeleton (robotic body suit). Intelligent brain-computer interfaces enabling people to communicate mentally with distant objects and people are likely to arrive commercially in about 1 decade.
Space Tourism: First Flight Due Soon
Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture of Richard Branson, broke ground on their $300 million Spaceport America launch facilty in New Mexico, and also tested the mother ship that will carry the space ship itself to launch. The first space tourism flight is scheduled to launch in 2011, and will take tourists paying $200,000 each into suborbital flight.
For more on emerging tecchnology, see www.TechCast.org