Blurring the digital divide
Digital advances present opportunities but will disrupt and destroy those who do not adapt
By Adam Bates | Published 11:06, 30 May 12
For most of my career I used keyboards for inputting and screens of varying quality to read the output. Then came the iPhone and iPad and the touch screen did both. Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox brought motion sensing input to the living room and, with 18 million sales so far, the public clearly welcome this advance.
Much research has also been undertaken to develop gaze-tracking interfaces by which anyone can operate a computer using only eye movements. For $299 (plus postage) you can buy a headset that measures brain waves and allows the user to teach a computer how to interpret them.
Replacing conventional screens is well underway. Google’s Project Glass gives us a peak into the future where your view of the real world is overlaid with information from the digital one. Prototype contact lenses have been developed which are capable of streaming real time information to the user and scientists are racing to develop uses for new materials such as Graphene to produce flexible and wearable circuits.
Across many fields we are therefore breaking down the divide between the physical world and the digital one; and some would argue that it is the latter which is actually growing.
So what does this actually mean? Imagine walking down a street and seeing who in the crowd you know or are connected to via any social network. Or not having to use a laptop to shop for your groceries online; simply thinking will do the trick. Forget typing, you will be able to direct your thoughts to the cloud for transmission to whomever or whatever you want.
Restaurant ratings will appear before you, weather reports and customised news will appear immediately; you will have complete access to all of humanity’s knowledge at a glance.
Such advances would have physical knock-on effects. Who will buy a restaurant guide again? Who will gain from completely transparent pricing; the high street or online merchants? Could criminals become easier to catch? Will online dating increase or decrease? The possibilities are nearly endless.
However, one key question remains for me; will we still be using and holding what we now recognise as a mobile telephone in years to come? People are tactile and like objects, so for now my view is yes.
Readers of this blog who are still with me will know what comes next. These changes present opportunities but will disrupt and destroy those who do not adapt. Remember cassette tapes? VHS tapes? Slide film? So, it is important that you identify the person or team in your organisation who is tasked with researching this field and weigh up the risks of adapting or not adapting to the digital world.
And if you think I’ve gone beyond future gazing, remember what Arthur C Clark said “New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can't be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!”