What Could The Next Big Thing In Technology Be?

One larger thread in the conversations I have been in about the future of Apple without Steve Jobs centers on “what will the next big thing in technology be?” Jobs was responsible for so many game changers through the years that it is hard to imagine the technology world without him. But to be honest, there have been many game changers through the years from many non-Apple companies.

Will the next big thing be a fundamental re-design of a the phone as we know it? Tech crunch has an interesting article on a bendable phone that is controlled by kinetic movements as much as touch. An interesting concept even if you hate the shape (which some seem to – I kind of like it). Some think the phone will also become implanted in a pair pf glasses, with an interface that virtually floats in front of your eyes.

The bigger concept to realize is that the iPhone is not going to be the last major re-think of cell phones as we know them. Computers themselves may one day “disappear” as they become so small that we no longer notice their presence – just their interface.

I’m still thinking that 3-D printing will be a major game changer in ways that we can’t image yet. Think of how it could change online learning if you can email actual physical objects. Even face-to-face learning could be greatly enhanced by the ability to print objects. A spontaneous question from a student could be examined in a matter of minutes rather than waiting until the next day (after the teacher has had time to go home and find what is needed to answer the question).

Or will the mysterious Google X lab come up with something so crazy that we can’t even imagine the possibilities?

I still think there is also great potential in virtual worlds. At some point in the near future, some one will crack the interface issues and steep learning curve that Second Life is infamous for and we’ll have Star Trek holodecks before you know it.

The times they are a-changin’…

The Newest Tech Buzz: 3-D Printing

I know that we have been interested in 3-D Printing at EGJ for a while now, but it finally seems that this newer area of technology is finally catching on and becoming a new buzz word.  At least, the New York Times thinks it is.

Reading about 3-D printing reminds me of other technology breakthroughs and where I first used them – things like Laser Jet printers, flat-bed scanners, copy machines, etc.  Usually, these technologies were too large and expensive to be practical for home use (just like 3-D printers are now). It was usually up to my high school or college to get one and then put it in a central location in a library or computer lab.  So you have to wonder – how long before we see these popping up in campus around the world?

Better yet – how long until we see papers and PowerPoint projects replaced with 3-D print assignments on a regular basis?  Think that this kind of assignment will only be for art or computer science majors?  At one time, printing out a paper was only seen as something you did in computer classes – typewriters were seen as “proper” for all other fields.

The more I think about things like this, the more I realize that so many parts of education have changed radically over the past few decades.  There is still much more that needs to change, but those that think education has been stale and unchanging for decades obviously haven’t been paying attention.

The Future of 3-D In Education

THE Journal released an interview last week with Chris Chinnock (board member of the 3D@Home Consortium) about the future of 3-D in Education.  If you haven’t read the article, then go read it – there is some interesting information in there.  But I have a few thoughts that were left out.

What about computer graphics/modeling and virtual worlds in 3-D?  Chinnock discusses the need for content in 3-D.  Why not give students the ability to create content/images/etc?  Will the programs to do this be too expensive for schools to utilize in individual classes like they do with some programs such asMicroSoft Word?

These questions (and more) will all probably be asked and answered in the near future, I am sure.  Not to mention that the future of 3-D  is not just about projectors.  There are also advances being made in holographic displays and three-dimensional monitors.

But this is all leading to the fact that the walls between the real world and virtual reality are slowly crumbling away.  We now have the ability to create a virtual reality room.  Surround sound and cameras that can follow your movements already exist.  Combine that with the projectors that Chinnock discusses, pointing in all directions in a room, connected to a super-fast computer that can feed realistic CG to those projectors based on your movements, and you pretty much have the early version of a Star Trek holodeck.  Imagine what Second Life would be like then?

Scanning 3-Dimensional Objects is a Reality

This is something straight out of Sci-Fi, but it is for real. 3-D scanners have existed for a while, apparently, but now they are coming down in price. 3-D printers are still expensive, but something that is possibly coming to a place like Kinko’s soon.

The New York Times had an article about this technology. You put an object on the scanner, the object gets scanned with a laser, and then you have a 3-D scan of a 3-D object. If you have something too big for the scanner, they also have laser devices like a camera that can take care of those. Then, you can edit the 3-D object in a computer program. Scanners start at $2500 and go up to nearly $40,000 for the camera, just in case you want to start saving up (to buy me one of course).

They also have the 3-D “printers” that can re-create the objects, in full color, using a resin or a starch-based powder. Sweet.

I’m thinking that, other than being cool, this could also be a giant leap forward for Second Life. The $2500 scanner is for desktops. The way the computer world goes, that will come down to about $250 in 2 years, right? So, want to create a realistic avatar of yourself? Want to recreate your favorite chair, coffee mug, chia-pet, or what ever in Second Life? What ever you want to transfer into Second Life will be a realistic possibility in the future.

The educational possibilities for the 3-D printer are also endless, as soon as the cost comes down. Ancient artifacts could be scanned and “faxed” to classrooms everywhere. Distance art education could become a reality. Of course, there are also new legal issue to wrangle with. The Time article linked above deals with those issues and some other ideas.

I’m ready for my Holodeck now….