My prediction for the next five years is finally an awesome natural language user interface that works. Then the possibilities are endless. IBM, Apple and Google know it.
[From the New York Times]
Behind I.B.M.’s Big Predictions
By QUENTIN HARDY | December 19, 2011, 4:52 PM
I.B.M. just issued its annual list of five predictions of developments in technology that it thinks will come true in the next five years. Like lots of predictive lists, particularly those that come around New Year’s, this is something of a pseudo-event that serves as an advertisement for the predictor’s own product or service. I.B.M.’s is no different in that regard, but it is worth looking at, both for the pedigree of who is doing the predicting, and what I.B.M.’s choices say about itself.
“To predict the next five years, you have to have a deep understanding of the last 50,” said Bernie Meyerson, vice president of innovation at I.B.M., and a highly regarded researcher in advanced microprocessor design and computer systems who oversees the list’s creation.
And so here are the predictions:
– Small amounts of energy created by actions like people walking or water moving through pipes will be captured, stored in batteries and used to power things like phones, cars or homes. “You’ll see new ecosystems of generation and capture,” Mr. Meyerson said. “You generate 60 to 65 watts while walking. You could easily use that to power a phone forever.”
– There will be no more passwords, as increasingly powerful phones and sensors will store your personal biometric information, enabling machines to automatically know you are who you say you are.
– Better sensors on and inside the human brain will allow for mental control of objects. Already there are experiments involving moving cursors by thinking, but his prediction is that technology will go further. “You will observe thought patterns, which are highly personal,” he said. “You can use this to better understand stroke, or disorders like autism.”
– Powerful mobile devices, capable of precise language translation, will belong to 80 percent of the world’s population. While this is nearly intuitive, given the ever-lower cost of phones, the real breakthrough will be ubiquitous voice recognition and translation capabilities, which will make the phones highly useful to large populations who are illiterate, or who have languages that aren’t easily written with keypads.
(A question is: What would this mean for world markets and politics when ordinary people can easily communicate with each other despite speaking different languages?)
– Much the way powerful mobile devices store your biometric information and translate your language, personalized information filters and search engines will bring you only the information you want. “This will invert the premise of marketing,” Mr. Meyerson said. The phones “will start to be your advocate, recognizing what is near and dear to you and getting it. Instead of companies speaking to you, you will reach out to companies.”
While I.B.M. is conducting research in all of these areas, it makes neither phones, games nor commercial batteries. Why, then, should it be predicting the advent of such magic-seeming devices for the commercial periphery?
The most likely reason is that I.B.M. makes the software and services for the core networks without which all these devices would not function, commercially. If Mr. Meyerson’s ideas play out, the phones and sensors will do their magic only by interaction with an Internet almost unimaginably more complex than the one we have today. Few companies in the world will be able to engineer and run it at a large scale, and I.B.M. would almost certainly be one.
“With devices like this at the edge of the network, at the core you will need to have machines that can manage 30,000 complex commands a second and yawn,” Mr. Meyerson said. “We’ve spent over $15 billion buying analytics companies in the last five to seven years. It is a huge investment that has given us deep, deep scientific and technical skills that go way beyond the businesses these companies were in.”
I.B.M. is said to have over 300 people working just on the advanced math needed to make this much complexity something like a well-integrated whole. If its predictions come true, I.B.M. may need many more people than that.