Next big 5 technologies that will change your life

Next big 5 technologies that will change your life
February 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A lot can happen in five years. The iPad, handheld video calling, and a virtual assistant named Siri were all science fiction just half a decade ago. Over the next five years, things will change of course again dramatically. Here is one expert's predictions on the five technologies that will change your life.

Maybe this has happened to you. You realize, you forgot to charge your phone, so you ask Siri, "How much battery life do I have left?" and she responds, "Let me think... I can't answer that. But I can do a web search for it if you'd like."

Dumb technology is becoming all too familiar. "Watson" is smart. One year ago, the giant computer beat two legendary human Jeopardy champions. Soon, this kind of intelligence could be in your pocket.

"It doesn't read your mind, it learns from your behavior," said Bernie Meyerson, IBM's vice president of innovation.

Every year, Meyerson picks five futuristic technologies that could be commonplace in five years. Prediction number one is that phones and computers will actually know what you're thinking. Say you're having an imaginary "Bad Romance" with Lady Gaga, you can hide it from your friends, but not your computer.

"It notices that every time there is a news clip on Lady Gaga, you spend ridiculous amounts of time cruising through it. It will actually therefore come to the conclusion you're a fan, and if tickets become available to a concert, it will instantaneously offer you those tickets saying, 'Hey, I grabbed them, you've got 30 seconds to make your mind up,'" said Meyerson.

It's called analytics; it uses lots and lots of data to figure out what the user actually wants. And it's behind Meyerson's prediction number two: advertisers could finally stop flooding you with spam.

"You get aggravated now because people send you all kinds of junk on some pretty awful algorithms that try to guess what you want. They see that you've looked for instance for a pump, so you're offered pumps for the next six years. The problem is your basement flooded because the water heater broke. Truth is you need a water heater," said Meyerson.

If Gmail were like "Watson," it could filter out all the junk and show you ads for things you want instead of ads for Spam recipes in your spam folder.

"Lord, forbid you make a pun. Computers don't like puns," said Meyerson.

When you ask Siri if she understands puns, she can reply, "A fine question. Now, can we get back to work?"

Your phone doesn't need a sense of humor for prediction three, it just needs cameras and microphones. Meyerson says passwords will cease to exist and your phone is a big reason why.

"It actually has the capability to do facial recognition, voice recognition and iris scan. What that means is it unequivocally knows you're you. I can't hack your account because there is no password," said Meyerson.

A phone that can tell you apart from a thief can become your key at the ATM or cash register, replacing that four-digit code that crooks can easily steal -- assuming the battery doesn't die.

You can ask Siri "Where's the nearest electrical outlet?" but she may respond, "I couldn't find any places matching 'electrical outlet.'"

"Having a device with no ability to power it is meaningless," said Meyerson.

But prediction number four: new ways to charge a cellphone, just like a self-winding mechanical watch. Micro-generators will use your body movement to charge your phone while you walk. That's perfect for developing countries where electricity is scarce.

"When you're in the third world, to deploy a cellphone means you put up one tower and you could conceivably handle thousands of phones. To deploy a power infrastructure, vastly more expensive, much slower," said Meyerson.

In some Kenyan villages, communication means knocking on doors. The cell network is there, the electricity is not. However, with micro-generators, prediction five is the digital divide will disappear. It will change everything from family life to farming.

"Imagine being able to know when to plant because you have a look ahead at weather. All these things that we take for granted are not necessarily available throughout the world. And it will make a dramatic difference in the quality of life," said Meyerson.

Micro-generators are not on the market yet, which is a shame because your phone probably just shut itself off.

This story has generated a lot of comments on our Facebook page and some innovations people would like to see are iPads installed on your car's dashboard, solar charging stations for automobiles, cellphones and computers. If you would like to chime in on the conversation, tell us what you would like to see on Facebook.


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