When I speak at various conferences and events, after my presentation the most common question I am asked is where do I see technology heading in the future?
Excellent question, but certainly not an easy question to answer in a 5 minute chat. Given a bit more time, here’s how I would answer this question.
I believe before you can make a forecast on the future, you must first look back at the past and then the present. By doing this you can get a feel for some of the trends and fads that took off and those that flopped.
Let's start with the past and think about the creation of the Internet. This connected millions of computers together and most importantly allowed people to connect and share in new mediums. Eudora Email, MySpace, Skype, Yahoo, Netscape, Internet Explorer, the list of early adopters is huge and each of these pioneering companies paved the way for some of the more successful companies that we now see today. Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest and so on. Some of the early adopters faced disruption and sadly didn't keep pace with consumer wants and needs.
Now let’s look at the present day. I believe we are in an "Internet of Information" phase. What I mean by that is that never before in our history have we had such easy access to information at our fingertips. Literally anything you want to know you can find out by asking Siri or Google. How many times have you been watching a movie with your friends and someone asks, "Wasn't he in that movie...um...what was it called?!” You grab your smartphone, dive into IMDb and search up every movie that said actor has starred in, to find the answer. Brilliant - you can now sleep soundly tonight!
So if we look to the future, I believe we are at the early stage of what some are calling "The Internet of Experiences". I first had a glimpse of this back in 2003 when the Linden Lab launched Second Life. Second Life is an online virtual world, and had approximately 1 million regular users, of which I was one. I bought an Island, terraformed it, and sold plots of virtual land for real money. I also built two offices on the main island which served as real estate brokerages that sold the land plots. It was a lot of fun but a total distraction from my real job, in the real world.
Pretty impressive technology for 2003 and the real constraint back then was internet speed and the fact that the Second Life application required a huge amount of grunt to run online.
But if we take Second Life and turbo charge the concept with full Virtual Reality (VR) experience, then that will be next level for those living in Second Life. But I want to experience something slightly more real, and so I'm looking to apply the "Internet of Experiences" to different sectors such as education, extreme sports and surgical.
In the future I see classrooms of VR headsets with kids learning about the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The teacher takes the kids on a VR tour up the elevator and explains the construction and history. The kids can see the view over Paris and the teacher points out some of the Paris landmarks. This type of experience can't be beaten. We were often told as kids that you need to travel to experience the world and therefore learn about other cultures and amazing places. Sadly, this VR experience could be the closest some kids will ever get to Paris. But just imagine learning about history and your teacher takes you into a bunker during a World War II battle? Scary? You bet. Will the kids remember the battle? You bet. Will the school need parent consent? Absolutely.
There is a real opportunity to make the stale old textbooks of yesteryear come alive and literally ‘jump off the page’ and into a sensory experience that is sure to inspire. As kids become more and more technologically savvy from a very early age, we need to communicate and educate them in their own language so to speak and high-tech cutting edge VR software could be the answer.
There are many other applications and one I've started to see come of age is VR for adrenaline junkies. I've already experienced the Sony PS4 shark cage dive. It exceeded my expectations, however, I want to see this experience reach the next level and that would be with a full haptic body suit. Haptic feedback devices create the illusion of substance and force within the virtual world. So imagine you are 100 metres deep and the cage door is ripped open by a 5 metre shark. The sharks nose bumps you backwards and you feel the nudge on your chest. Now that's an experience! Or for the gamers out there, you are playing "Call of Duty" first person shooter, you get shot in the shoulder, the haptic suit is going to let you know about it. There will be a time when you won't be able to differentiate the virtual world from the real world.
In business you will be able to experience VR conference calls over the internet and it will feel like you are actually in the same room as your colleagues.
I'll finish with VR surgical training. What an awesome opportunity we are already seeing for promising young surgeons to craft their skills in the VR/Augmented Reality (AR) world. Mix this technology with robotics and you can now have top surgeons performing operations remotely.
In this post I've only talked about VR and AR concepts. I haven't even touched on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Internet of Things, Nanotechnology and so on. I'll save these for another post. But literally every day, there is a new concept or break through with someone creating something that utilizes the Internet, to create a real experience.