Computers have already evolved so much since they were first introduced in the early 1900s. Now, computer have dramatically decreased in size and have dramatically increased in speed. However, computers will continue to evolve throughout the future of mankind. The living conditions of humans in the next few millenniums will completely depend upon the types of computer technology innovative minds come up with.
Without doubt, within the next few decades, people will be able to accomplish almost everything needed to survive without having to leave their desk. All the computers throughout the world will be connected via the Internet, which has been rightfully nicknamed the "Information Superhighway." Currently, there is a Digital Divide, or a barrier dividing those who own computers and have access to the Internet (the "haves") and those who do not own computers and who do not have Internet access (the "have notes"). As more schools and libraries are getting Internet access and as computers are becoming cheaper and cheaper, the Digital Divide will gradually disintegrate. Already, the Internet is becoming more widespread as more families and households are getting involved in the digital world. In addition to the breaching of the Digital Divide, there will be more technology to make our lives both easier and more comfortable in the future. This new technology will completely change our ways of life! Below are a few examples of the new technology that are being explored now, and that, in the future, will most certainly play a major part in our everyday lives.
These two types of transistors can significantly increase the speed of computers in the future. The ballistic transistors have the potential to increase the speed of today's microprocessors by ten million times! This is done by reducing the size of the chip circuitry so that the electrons being transferred by the transistor will not bump into anything, not even themselves!
The single-electron transistor is an idea in which a single bit of information can be represented by merely one electron. This would allow computers to require less power!
In addition, the number of transistors in a microprocessor chip will increase as the years progress. In 1965, a man named Gordon Moore made a prediction known as Moore's Law. He stated that ever year, the number of transistors contained in a silicon chip would double. This has indeed proven to be true. Currently, the number of transistors in a microprocessor doubles every 18 months. This allows for computers to continue to increase in speed, to shrink in size, and to become cheaper!
The Linux Watch is currently in its prototype stage. This means that a model of the watch has already been built, or is being built, but the product is not yet ready to be made available to the general public. This is a watch-like product that not only has the functions of a regular wristwatch, but also allows its user to communicate wirelessly with personal computers, cell phones, and other like machines. With the Linux Watch, you can send and receive e-mail, receive messages, and access calendars and address books.
Like the Linux Watch, the Wearable PC is also currently in its prototype stage. This new innovation is a belt-worn PC that uses a headset display and a hand-held controller. It is completely mobile and is ideal if you want hands-free access to data and other information via the computer! It can connect to the Internet wirelessly and also includes a microphone and an earphone for input and output.
The idea of having a personal computer the size of a wallet was first conceived by Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates. His idea is to have a small wallet-sized PC that could be used to display messages, schedules, weather, and stocks, to send and receive e-mail and fax, and to play games. It could also connect to the Internet and to the "Information Superhighway." In addition, the wallet PC would eliminate the need for cash. Instead of using coins and paper bills, money would be transferred using digital cash stored in the Wallet PC. For example, at the store, instead of handing the clerk $20 to pay for your groceries, you would make the transaction via the Wallet PC. Also, you could digitally exchange money from one Wallet PC to another. Say your child wanted to borrow $20. You could transfer twenty dollars from your wallet PC to your child's. To prevent people from stealing and using your Wallet PC, each wallet would have "keys" that identify with its owner. Thus, nobody could use someone else's PC. For even more security, there are passwords and even voice or fingerprint recognizers.
These Wallet PCs will completely change everyday life. It will get rid of having to carry around bulky wallets full of cash and change, and it is a small and handy device for accessing the unlimited boundaries of information on the Internet.
Scientists have been trying to sophisticate virtual reality and to make it accessible to the entire general public. Virtual Reality (VR) is a type of technology that allows users to interact with a computer using all of his or her human senses. When using VR, the user feels as if they are completely surrounded by an artificial environment, and the user can manipulate objects in their virtual world just like real objects!
Virtual Reality works by using a head-mounted display (or HMD), which is worn on the head of the user. The HMD consists of either goggles or a helmet with a display inside that shuts out contact with the outside world for the user. To monitor the head movements of the user, the HMD has a position tracker. This allows the computer to recreate scenes depending on how the user moves his or her head. However, this is not yet very sophisticated. This is because in order for the computer to keep up with the speed at which we, as humans, move our head and eyes, it must generate new views for the user at least ten times a second! If this is not done, then the virtual world will look jerky and halting for the user. In the future, the HMD displays will most likely be perfected so that virtual reality will be used for all sorts of applications!
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For sound, the head-mounted display contains earphones. To make the experience seem even more realistic, the computer can transmit sounds that are meant to come from one direction to one ear earlier than the other ear. This makes the sound seem to be louder or softer and to have different pitches. However, there are still engineering challenges that prevent accurate audio simulations.
VR makes use of a data glove to correspond to an image of a hand in the virtual environment. Using this glove, the user can touch and grasp virtual objects. However, the downside of this is that the user cannot feel what he or she is touching. In order to generate this feeling, the computer would have to have a physical force that would push against the user to create the feeling of tapping a hard object, feeling a rough texture, etc. Hopefully in the future, this, like the HMD displays, will be perfected.
In the future, scientists are hoping that by using virtual reality, they can create a 3D environment on the World Wide Web. This can be created by using the programming technique, VRML, or Virtual Reality Modeling Language. There has been research in VRML, as people have been hoping to create a 3D Internet world. Although this is still an infant technology, it is projected that its problems and bugs will be fixed and that it will replace the 2-dimensional setting of the World Wide Web today.
Another aspect of Virtual Reality that is being studied and researched is Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality is a technology that is used to overlay 3-dimensional graphics produced by virtual reality onto the physical world. Virtual Reality can be used to design all sorts of machines and tools. However, to actually convert these designs to an actual product, augmented reality is needed. By using this technology, the virtual representation of the instructions to assemble the machine or tool is projected onto a pair of goggles. Workers can match up key points on the virtual prototype with the actual work system!
Virtual Reality has a bright future ahead. It is projected to be used for all sorts of jobs and tasks, not just entertainment. Surgeons can use VR to practice operations, instead of practicing on actual human beings. Architects can use VR to present a virtual model of a building before it is actually built! They can give "tours" of their buildings to potential clients before they are built by using virtual reality. In addition, virtual reality can be used to train operators of aircrafts, as well as other complex machinery, and it can also be used as part of networks. This could allow many people in different locations to participate in teleconferences! As you can see, there are many possible uses for virtual reality! VR has great potential to dramatically influence human life!
Artificial Intelligence is the term used to incorporate human and animal behavior and characteristics in machines. Scientists have been, and still are, trying to build machines that can learn in the same mannerism in which humans learn. They try to get these robots to speak, to be able to reason, and to have common sense, emotions, and consciousness just like human beings. These artificially intelligent robots would be able to adapt their behaviors to their surroundings and to the demands of a certain situation. Scientists have been trying to get robots to understand certain "rules" that they could employ to the real world. For example, we, as children, have learned that if we step into something that is soft and squishy, we will sink, and that if when we take a step we can feel nothing beneath us, then there is no ground where we wish to take our next step. Scientists hope to create this same type of learning for machines. For years we have been trying to create robots that are as intelligent as humans. However, it is harder than we once thought to create these well-rounded intelligent machines. Our brains are more complex than we had ever imagined, and it is impossible to recreate these amazing organs. However, some day will come when, holding two conversations, one with a computer and one with a human being, we will not be able to decipher which conversation is the one we are holding with a machine, and which conversation is with another living being.
In the present, scientists have been successful in creating a few highly intelligent robots, but none that we can truly call "artificial intelligence." Two of these robots dwell in Boston, Massachusetts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT.
MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
First, there's Kismet. Although Kismet is merely a head with no body, she is extremely intelligent. She is extremely expressive and can even have face-to-face interactions with human beings! Kismet has many different facial expressions and vocalizations. She can appear to be stern, content, calm, or even angry, depending on her mood. Her different emotions reflect upon what she is experiencing and going through. When presented with a favorite toy, Kismet will show great happiness and interest, while on the other hand, when presented with an undesired toy, she will show her disapproval by her facial expressions.
Cog is another robot residing at MIT. He can be described basically as a human-shaped robot without legs. Currently, Cog has motor freedom in his trunk, head, and arms, and he has sight in the form of video cameras. He has human-like eye movements and can move and orient his head and neck to his surroundings. This robot can even play with a slinky, turn a crank, swing a pendulum, and hit a drum in a steady rhythm! However, this is not all. Scientists have planned out many more additional features to be added to Cog in the future. For example, they hope to be able to give Cog the two senses of hearing and touch, as well as a vestibular system and hands!
Courtesy of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
In the future, robots like Kismet and Cog will be considered primitive. Some day, there will be computers and machines that will be able to perform all sorts of duties and jobs for human beings! With all the new technology that is sure to come in the future, our life styles will no doubt be much better than what they are now! We will be able to build intelligent robots that can plump our pillows for us, that can clean and dust our house, that can make coffee for us when they sense that we are feeling down! Refrigerators will be able to purchase milk and bread for us when they sense that we are running low on these objects, and television screens will be able to choose specific programs for us depending on our reactions to various shows!
With all of the new technological advances certain to come in the future, the world will be a completely different place! Artificial Intelligence will completely change the ways of life of human beings!