Imagining the future can be fun, but I personally believe the best way to predict future events or products is to help create them.
The present is heavily defined by iPhones and iPads. Simply put, Apple benefits from this reality because Cupertino helped anticipate the future it created. In short, it is relatively easy to predict the future when your actions play a significant part in defining it.
Another major technology player who believes and helps shape the future is Intel. Indeed, Santa Clara is one of the only technology companies that employs both an ethnologist (Dr. Genevieve Bell), and a futurist (Brian David Johnson).
This makes Intel unique, because the corporation doesn't just think up technology, but rather, attempts to imagine the potential world that will host its future tech. You see, there is a growing belief that most technology, instead of making our lives better, is actually making it more complex and less enjoyable. Essentially, this theory claims we increasingly serve technology, rather than it serving us.
Santa Clara wants to alter the scenario in humanity's favor and at the head of this effort is Intel’s CTO Justin Rattner. Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk with him and review a significant number of technologies coming out of Intel’s labs designed to make the world a better place. So let’s talk about 2020.
Waking to Intel Inside
You’ll wake to soft music from a new song that has been quietly downloaded based on your preferences to find your room preheated, towels rewarmed, the water in your shower preheated (hot water is at the shower head), and your toilet seat pre-warmed. By the time you are dressed the kitchen has warmed and your coffee is ready (the bedroom is powering down). You approach your garage door, which recognizes you and automatically disarms your home alarm - turning on the lights in your garage (your kitchen starts powering down).
Noticing you are awake your phone beeps, letting you know your boss needs to talk to you immediately about your last expense report. She wants to discuss the matter using the video feature of your phone, but having just awakened, you instead choose to load your virtual avatar. Oh, and yes, this has the additional benefit of not showcasing your moment of panic because you don’t actually remember the report in question.
Fortunately, anticipating your need and extracting key information from the message, your tablet has already queued up the relevant report. You then see the issue of concern is a bill from an establishment known as "Gentlemen’s Club." A quick search shows this was the name of a sandwich and you forward the related link to your boss who chuckles and asks you if it was any good. It wasn’t.
Preserving Self Driving Balance
You go to your electric car which has been charged based on the lowest cost energy times. Your route to the office has been set based on an analysis of traffic patterns and updated based on current events. You have full control of the car as you leave your driveway, behind you the garage is powering down, the door has closed, and your alarm system has rearmed all automatically. While you are away your house switches to minimal power.
You hit heavy traffic and your car asks if you want to drive in the controlled lane. Driving in heavy traffic sucks so you say yes and the car shifts into self-driving mode and moves you into a lane designated for automatic driving. You move faster because the cars are computer controlled and automatically slow or speed up to let in cars or to respond to cars leaving the lane. You are now free to watch TV, read emails, work, or take a nap (it was a long night). You decide to open your email and take out a tablet which is synched with all your email, instant messages, news and social media activity.
The car approaches a toll bridge, the toll is paid automatically, yet you don’t even notice as you are lost in an email regarding an important project. As you approach the off ramp to your office the car asks you to take control and when you are ready, eases you out of the controlled driving lane and up the off-ramp to your office. You arrive and are already caught up with all of your email, you know what projects require your immediate attention, and are able to hit the ground running. But one of the emails you received indicates a new executive wants some face time and you’ve never been to that part of the company campus before.
Your Smartphone as a Partner/Guide
You take out your smartphone and load directions on how to get to the correct building and office for your meeting. The full route, including the appropriate floor, is displayed on the device. As you enter her office, she is leaning over her conference table and on it is a projection of the new company campus. Apparently, the executive is concerned the new HQ building isn’t impressive enough. Placing your hands on the table you are able to manipulate the view so you can see the building from street level (she had a bird’s eye view) and from the street the front entry is truly impressive.
You then tap an icon on the table and the building costs along with the project time lines are projected in graphical form - clearly highlighting problem areas that need attention. As such, you move to request resources so the timelines can be maintained. Of course, the entire conversation has been automatically transcribed and translated so the appropriate project leaders receive the information they need. It turns out most of the lingering concerns are related to where personal offices are (whether they have a window view) and whether they are big enough.
As you leave, you find yourself a bit hungry and tapping on the food icon on your phone takes you to the vending machine down the hall. As you approach, your favorite protein bar drops into the bin and is automatically charged to your account.
You check your schedule on your smart phone and see it has been automatically updated to reflect the recent meeting, along with pending apology notes for the ones you’ll now either miss or be late to. In addition, your "to do" list has been prioritized according to your interests, your boss’s priorities, and your employment objectives to optimize time on the company site.
Technology: Keeping You Safe Getting You Home
At the end of the day it has started to rain, but your smart headlights make the rain disappear (this is actually a really cool demo) and other than getting a little wet on your walk to the car (you forgot you could have it drive to you by hitting an icon on your phone) it is almost as if it isn’t raining in the first place. On the way home you decide to watch a movie and evidently you aren’t alone as bandwidth for movies is hard to come by. Fortunately your car uses Smart Streaming which only sends data for the part of the image that has changed so you don’t need a long buffer and can get to the latest James Bond Movie (a remake of Goldfinger).
As you pull into your driveway your house powers up and unlocks. On entry you see a video, condensed, of all of the major things that happened around the house while you were gone, news updates in your interest areas, and receive a video message from the guy you cut off getting on the freeway. Apparently he is particularly good and finger and arm signals. The TV then resumes the movie which you watch as you prepare dinner.
After dinner you decide to do a little shopping. So you bring up your shopping avatar and have it try on clothes for you, with the outifts responding and fitting realistically. You can't help but wonder how you’d look in a kilt and decide that hairy legs, even on a guy, under what looks like a skirt just aren’t that attractive.
Heading to bed, the water heated and cooled mattress sets the temperature you like to sleep with and your eBook powers on putting the story on the cool tech out of the James Bond movie you just watched first in your list of things to read. You go to sleep knowing you are up to date with work, your home and car are secure, and that James Bond has once again kicked Evil’s ass.
In this article, I hit most, but certainly not all of the technologies Intel showcased at its event. Yes, I added the water heated and cooled mattress, yet it actually exists in the market today (I have one) but it too could be controlled through Intel’s Sustainable Living efforts. Another interesting point? Intel Labs recently concluded folks don’t necessarily want cars to drive themselves all the time, but rather, only when navigation is a chore, like in heavy traffic or waiting in a boring toll line.
At the core of all of these initiatives is the idea of freeing up time, giving people back their lives, and using technology to provide more time to enjoy life rather than filling up every free moment with additional technology and management chores. So if our lives are indeed improved by 2020, it is probably a safe bet that Intel likely had a lot to do with our brave new future.