future of technology | a pov

This blog first appeared on experiencesutra.com

As a technologist, I am always urged to answer this question – What is the future of technology? A lot is being written on how the new future may look like and how soon that will dawn upon us. Some say that it is about reaching the target of 2billion internet users by 2020. Some say it is about more wearable devices and intelligent systems like IBM’s Watson.

“To me, the future of technology lies is enabling experience. You and your surroundings will be the platform through which that experience is delivered.”

Consider this: Imagine the year 2049. You are sitting on your couch that takes your body shape as you lean on it. You feel like soaking in mother nature from up close and at your thought your window glasses change the scene from a high tech modern city to a lush green next to a lake setting, room lighting changes to reflect the mood and your smart connected devices participate by playing sounds (birds chirping), breeze (air-con adjusts temperature and fan speed). Not only that your cloth respond by changing color (to a more floral outfit). You might have programmed your virtual assistant to dial in your partner to be with you at this moment and so you get a 3D virtual hologram face to face interaction with your partner right at that moment. In all this, technology is trying to create experience that is quite natural and which could be driven by you and your thought. This is the future of technology.

The future will be about deriving experience through technology. The term Experience Technology is born out of this concept. As the name suggests, it is any technology that could lead to conditions that evoke human experiences. Watching a 3D movie with dolby sound and in a large wrap around screen is an immersive experience powered by technology.

This isn’t entirely new. As author William Gibson says, “The future is already here. It is just that it isn’t evenly distributed”. We are at a powerful moment where technology is both the catalyst and mirror to change.

The seeds of experience technology have already been sown. They are around us in the form of :

  1. wearables that generate data about our lifestyle.
  2. sensors that collect data about our health.
  3. headbands that can recognise 8 different impulses.
  4. switchable displays.
  5. 3D holograms.
  6. programmable environments (lights, sound etc.)

The day is not far away when your calendar will realize that an important early morning meeting is cancelled and communicates to the alarm to wake you up half an hour later.

“Is experience technology limited to lifestyle experiences? It isn’t, it never was.”

As I write this, somewhere on this planet, the future of mankind is evolving as technology is making a huge positive impact in other fields like medical sciences. Currently, with our understanding of human bodies and our ability to program our genome we are creating nano robots that will heal our body automatically. Scientists are researching on how to train our brain to view, hear or respond a completely different signal from a different sense than it has been used to.

We want a world in which deaf people can hear through eyes and blind can see with their ears. Experience then becomes more than just human and becomes humanitarian.

Recently in China, a boy whose eyes were gouged out in an attack has been fitted with an electrical device that enables him to visualize images and walk unaided. Mind-controlled prosthetic devices plugged directly into the brain seem capable of restoring some self-reliance to stroke victims, car crash survivors, injured soldiers and others hampered by incapacitated or missing limbs. At the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab, researchers are creating prosthetic devices that feel and act like biological limbs. Those limbs have computers, sensors and muscle-like actuator systems that enable movement.

When experience technology start touching lives in most humane ways, brands too will be drawn towards it. We are at an incredibly exciting stage where story telling is marrying technology. The new breed of marketers understands the power of experience which is enabled by technology to create a ubiquitous and omni-channel experience.

Think about a day when a marketer could directly plant messages through a neural connection – or program something directly to be used for sight, ear etc. Tomorrow, an app could be written for you specifically based on your interest for your exoskeleton.

As a technologist, my vision is to impact the lives of millions of people and create experiences that are unique and endearing. It is not about technology alone. It depends on our ability to envisage the changing patterns of human experience.

Deriving the intangible from the tangible needs a mindset. You will be part of the change if you have a mindset that appreciates the trivial and draws inspiration from the usual, natural and the mundane.

break boundaries, you are born to

Breaking boundaries; come to hear of it in all parks of life. For argument sake lets agree on one common definition – in any discipline an individual goes beyond their current capacity, he/she has broken a personal boundary. e.g. an athlete may break a personal record or a benchmark record but both are breaking boundaries in my book.

Let’s look at some great examples of our history that fueled the evolution of human race (truly). Invention of fire and wheel were two big inventions of past. Transportation and Press were two greatest vehicles for information and people exchange that transformed societies. Internet and Telecommunication just shrunk the world in terms of Space and Time (very very crucial to where we find ourselves in todays world). In between there have been events of huge importance like race to moon – in 60s human race broke a huge boundary of reaching an intergalactic body (Moon) and since than we have been exploring other planets, satellites and galaxies (far far away in our universe).

Like you, i also believe that we will outdo ourselves in coming times in every possible way. My conviction in human races ability comes from my belief in how we are wired (genetically). Nature has built us like an open hardware and software – so that we can plug extensions, enhance our firmware and possibly create a new human species (be in-charge of our evolution). If you dont believe me ask yourselves following questions:

– why are kids of next generation smarter?

– when you look into the starry sky, why do you feel inquisite?

– why does status-quo feel boring?

You could argue that since nature created us with a bunch of limitations – our sense of color, our ability to distinguish frequencies (audible) and our ability to sense a certain spectrum limited by the five senses and than further limited by the limitation of these senses. One of the important part of our body that has not been proven to have any limitations is what we have between the ears – Brain. Its a fantastic computer, it is designed such a way that it can accept data from any source and make sense out of it. (various experiments around the world vis a vis extending, substituting senses have proven).

here is a great Ted talk on Next Species:

and here is one from MIT on practical technology evolution:

I think we were born to believe that we can outdo ourselves, nature designed us in a way that we continue to look for “Upgrades” … and i think its time that we believe it and live it in day to day life.

Real – Virtual – Emotional | connections – impact on our life

Everyday we wake up with a preoccupied set of thoughts that are connected to an outcome for the day, through the day. That set of thoughts continue to get complicated as we live through the day and the connections keep getting complex and complex; but somehow we live through it, make sense out of it.

IOT (the next wave of Digital era) isn’t really different, if you re analyze your day – you would realise that bunch of those thoughts and connections are now being made across “Digital” and “Physical” (Social Networks, Messaging, Emails, Voice, Websites, Mobile phones and so on). And if you were to expand this idea to everyday objects in your life (your watch, shoes, shirt, belt, bag, kitchen appliances, cars and so on) you would be able to wrap your head around the notion of “Highly Connected World” – Internet of Everything – IOT/IOE.

Simple truth about IOT is that there are going to be “n” number of connections that will be made either with your involvement or without your involvement but in the context of YOU (who you are, what you do, wherever you are and so on). All of these connections will help in creating an understanding of your life, events, activities, behaviors as has been the case in non-digital world. (before digital arrived) You were making all these connections by using an organic matter (your Brain) that internally leveraged millions of neurons in your brain (which is an interesting connections of senses) to sketch out the meanings that helped you take next course of action.

Think about –  your observation of your friend’s behaviour and suddenly you felt concerned about him. Series of events that you noticed about how your friend were missing classes, or hadn’t met you for multiple days or hasn’t been reachable / communicable – from these observations you derived insights that led you to reach out to him to check in on him.

Similarly, in new era – machines check on your routine, share observations, and derive insights (all automated – AI) that helps you always be in know how about your friends/family.

As the marketers learn to truly leverage Digital, it will become evidently clear that every single “Micro” moment that gets created between Brand and the Consumer lives in our brain somewhere. So, every time a new message or new “Micro” moment that gets thrown at us if doesn’t connect back to the previous one – the impact becomes lesser as our brain can not make the connection. And if there aren’t enough connections about the same object and the messaging it never really becomes an embedded experience for the consumer. So “Connections” in itself is an important pattern to explore and implement when Marketers are trying to develop consumers and keep them loyal to their brand.

That’s the real true purpose of all this – how do we use the technology to impact (Truly) the way we live, help us become better human beings. That is the true impact of “Connections” – Assembly of events that turn something into a memorable experience that helps me truly stay connected (human 2 human).

cave walls to facebook walls, why share?

When you have focus problems and need continuous distractions as a means to focus back on your mainstream work – you end up answering a lot of questions for yourself. Let’s say that I am able to do that for myself.

I have always asked myself a question – why would anyone have the need to leave their footprints (not literally) on this world? I have been fascinated by sumerian tablets, to cave wall paintings to ancient writings (scribblings mostly) and now facebook walls (check-ins, broadcasted messages in form of status updates and so on). As a society why do we do so ? share moments?  why have we tried to tell stories, leave hints (whichever way like it?)

Few weeks back i happened to watch “Lucy” the movie while i loved the imagination and the concept i didn’t fall in love with the movie (it was an average overall watch in my opinion).  I carried a couple of interesting imaginative scenes from the movie though and i kind of think about the possibility of bringing those solutions to life. here is one such concept (as shown in movie):

lucy – movie

(what you see in this picture are connections between mobile devices and satellites – in other words visualised data streams – isn’t this beautiful?)

However, that movie helped me find the connection and answer the question for myself – that entire universe and all organic life came to be because it wanted to spread (big bang,  evolution of complex organisms from single cell organisms and so on), transfer the knowledge that it has (gene transfer mechanism) — that idea (if you come to terms with it) to me is such a fundamental truth to our existence (if we believe in it, that is). More i think about it, its a good hypothesis – most importantly helps me answers the question for me. It has also helped me answer other corollary questions like : why do we believe in stories ? why have we always told stories (to pass on the knowledge?)

You could argue that in computing field why would i care?, why would this bother me? The answer to that is that it is important to answer (may not be an accurate answer) simple questions to move on – human brain is complex (lets just leave it at that). However, there is a logical reasonable answer as well – today, you don’t look to solve the problem by boxing it as a “computing” or “economic” or “health related” problem. Think about it – you would ask, whats the problem ? how do we solve for it would be decided based on what it takes the problem to be solved (that most likely means a combination of multiple domains – multiple disciples coming together). So, knowing more about our social structures, human behaviours enables us to solve complex problems that we want to solve today.