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SIRI, ALEXA, CORTANA, AND FRIENDS WALK INTO THE FUTURE

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By JAY JABONETA

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Imagine waking up in 2047…

Home

“Good morning, Juan.” You hear a familiar and deeply soothing voice as you open your eyes after your alarm goes on.

“Coffee?” asks your personal home assistant Sophia.

And you answer “Yes, my usual,” which usually means caramel macchiato, grande, skim, extra shot, extra hot, extra-whip, sugar-free, please, while on your way to the bathroom.

While walking to the kitchen, you scan the news on pop-up screens coming into your view from the walls.

Finally, when you get to the kitchen, you grab your cup of hot grande coffee next to a 3D printer while you decide what you’re having for breakfast.

School

School returns to its original concept, a place where teachers and students meet but this time, it doesn’t matter anymore if you meet in person or in VR. Half of the global student population now chooses to go to class virtually while at the comfort of their living room, at their friends’ house, or even while traveling.

Imagine going to your science class and, as the teacher is about to discuss the Mesozoic Era, instead of asking you to open your textbooks, she instructs you to put on your VR glasses and enter portal MEJP. As you open your eyes, you are transported 150 million years back into the Jurassic Period. You see different kinds of strange-looking animals, bigger plants, and then you see dinosaurs… It’s as if you got transported to the movie Jurassic Park but, in this case, it’s the new format that schools are using to teach natural history, the sciences, and even biology and chemistry.

Work

After breakfast, you call out Otto to start the engines and get ready to leave for work. Otto is just the latest in these autonomous artificial intelligence vehicles that help bring the new work force to the office.

I think by now you get the picture. AI and smart robots will play a critical role in the coming decades and the most fascinating thing about this is that the technology is already available today. We’re about to hit exponential growth in computing and I hope you’re gearing up for the coming shift.

The five major technologies that will be shaping the next half century

Technology shapes our daily life today, affecting not just how we read, work, and play but also how we interact with others, how we learn, and how we grow, not to mention how we eat, drink, travel, and shop.

Artificial Intelligence

For many decades now, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been slowly gaining momentum and it’s already being used in day-to-day applications, such as video games and mobile apps, spam detection in your emails, and smart infrastructure developments.

AI is evolving faster than ever and through numerous applications that improve our lives and even streamline business operations. From the familiar virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant to Netflix and Spotify suggestions specific for you, web and mobile support chat bots, and even tracking the ETA of your Grabfood or Foodpanda order, these systems help to answer your questions, field requests, and make life generally easier.

Blockchain

Blockchain is an application of distributed ledger technology that’s taken the world by storm over the last few years. It’s set to disrupt most industries worldwide. Blockchain was developed through its first application, Bitcoin, as a way to disrupt the banking industry, in which ledgers are by definition highly centralized in a given bank or consortium of banks.

Blockchain is still in its infancy but its potential for managing the creation, management, distribution, and protection of data and digital identity will make many transactions way easier to process in the future. Estonia is leading the charge on this front with most of its country’s digital infrastructure being built on blockchain technology from recording births direct from hospital to civil registry to establishing identities to delivery of public services and management of contracts. It’s expected to make a big impact on banking and finance and can potentially disrupt how we pay for products and services in the future.

3D Printing

An exciting technology called 3D printing or additive manufacturing will allow us to instantly manufacture any physical item, from food to bicycles, using printer technology. This is strikingly similar to the replicator concept from Star Trek.

3D printing is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data. Already, things ranging from toys to cars and even living structures are being printed and, because the process is done by adding layers of materials on top of one another, they are printed fully assembled and decorated, too.

Other examples are printing of novelty items to hearing aids to prosthetic limbs and all the way to aircraft and spacecraft engines (SpaceX already doing this). The many benefits of this technology include faster builds that are cheaper and less wasteful while also being highly customizable. What’s more, 3D printing enables conceptual designs to be printed to give an architect, client, or shareholder a complete picture of the end product, minimizing miscommunications about product requirements and designs.

It’s also allowing basic housing and buildings to be built for as little as P100,000 for a simple house. The construction industry is realizing the benefits of more efficient use of resources, less wastage, less pollution, and less impact on the environment, as well as better health and safety. While it’s not yet practical for detailed and complex building projects, we’re seeing the benefits of 3D printing houses in fields such relief aid for victims of natural disasters.

AI and smart robots will play a critical role in the coming decades and the most fascinating thing about this is that the technology is already available today.

Many schools and colleges like De La Salle-College of St. Benilde today have makers labs that have these 3D printers for students to create prototypes of their projects on.

In the not-too-distant future, we might also be able to print human organs, which sounds scary. That’s why it’s critical for us to have healthy discussions on this today.

Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)

The combined AR/VR market is expected to grow to $215 billion by 2021. These technologies are becoming increasingly popular within the entertainment and real estate industries, even in manufacturing. They’re helping to blur the lines between physical and digital worlds.

For the video game industry, significantly more interactivity has become possible through AR/VR. The huge success of Pokemon Go, which is perhaps one of the most widely-known AR applications, allows users to catch pokemon on their mobile anywhere. Pokemon Go has demonstrated that everyday people are willing and ready to use AR.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an expansive network of “things” or devices that are connected to the Internet, which facilitates their inter-communication. IoT is another technology that will help bridge the gap between the physical and digital spheres.

IoT will see new relationships develop between things and other things, things and people, and people and other people—all to make our lives easier, more efficient, and more effective. We can, for example, control smart thermostats from our phones so that the temperature is ideally suited to you when you enter your home. Future developments could see our fridge ordering groceries when it detects a given food item is close to depletion.

More creative uses are emerging, too. Sparked, a Dutch startup, implants sensors in the ears of cattle to monitor their health and whereabouts. Sensors are being embedded in shoes, medicine like asthma inhalers, and medical exploratory surgery devices. Coupled with AI, we can increase productivity and learn so much more about the human body, which will then allow us to improve healthcare services.

On the global front, IoT will significantly transition us into “smart cities.” With the help of sensors, IoT will make our cities more efficient, cost-effective, and safer places in which to live:

  • Smart buildings will turn utilities off and turn everything back on as needed.
  • Smart street-lights will turn off when no one is passing through.
  • Smart infrastructure will allow us to detect faults or deterioration in city infrastructure or contamination in water supplies.
  • Smart grids can use and distribute energy more efficiently throughout the city.
  • Driverless cars will be able to connect to smart traffic sensors to determine the most efficient route possible. They may also be able to connect with sensors built into sidewalks to determine where potential parks could be located.

Many of these technologies have their origins in science fiction books since the early 1900s and we’re now able to translate those ideas into reality. These five key technologies will usher in a new age of renaissance for human creativity and potential.

Welcome to the Golden Age of Imagination

But each one of us needs to become an active participant here so that we can influence the technology to be a force for good. I call this upgrading our life’s OS. Just as machines and computers upgrade their software, we also need to continuously update our understanding of the world and how it works.

If you’re reading this, then you’re officially in charge of figuring out what to do next. Consider the baton passed.

Jay Michael Jaboneta is an advancement adviser and consultant on disruptive technologies at the De La Salle – College of St. Benilde. He is also the chief panda of I Am VR Panda.

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