The Future Looks Grand

There are several future lines of development I am looking forward to coming to fruition. Technologically, we seem to be near several inflection points that will radically change our lives in the future. The following is a quick list of some next-gen high points I’m excited about.

3D Metal Printing

Sintered-metal casting and other computer-controlled additive metal fabrication methods have been around for several years now, but the cost and efficiency of being able to print custom metal parts is rapidly improving. Companies like Rapidia have developed systems that are fast and flexible and meet economic price points.

Currently, we think of metal things as being kind of one-size-fits-all because of the cost of developing a single-purpose shape in stamping, forging or casting. Imagine getting durable metal things made with very specific parameters as cheaply as you can get mass-produced single-design ones. Hand tools that are specifically sized for your hand, bicycle components for a specific ride and custom-fit and designed joint replacements, are some of the avenues this technology unlocks. I can’t wait to see what happens when metal truly breaks free from the one-size-fits-all mentality.

VR In the Home

As the technical hurdles and price points of VR systems have fallen, I think we will see a lot more homes with virtual reality rigs in them. Gone are the days of requiring a purpose-built, high-end gaming computer to even make initial steps into VR. Entertainment is an obvious first focus for this technology, but I think the arena will rapidly expand to include virtual presence, education, and even areas we cannot define yet. VR will simultaneously reduce our reliance on air travel while bringing us closer together.

Nonvolatile RAM

One of the greatest balancing acts in the field of computer science is managing the trade-off between slow, persistent, long-term data storage and fast, volatile RAM. Even with the modern innovations of solid-state drives and fast buses like PCIe, reading and writing data from storage that will persist between system reboots is still orders of magnitude slower than reading or writing from cache or main memory. As a consequence, computers spend a lot of time re-hydrating system state between reboots or power-offs.

Imagine when all storage will be as fast as main memory, and still as permanent as disk storage. Carbon nanotube nonvolatile NRAM from Nantero is making those promises. This technology is becoming widespread and will usher in vast changes in systems design from back end servers to PCs and mobile devices. Operating systems and applications alike will see amazing performance and reliability improvements.

Even as we reach the end of Moore’s Law, I think we are on the threshold of a Golden Age of computing and fabrication. The impact of these next-gen achievements will irrevocably change us both as a planet and a people. The future is not without challenges, but I think our species’ ingenuity and creativity will take us to heights of untold freedom and discovery, perhaps even to the stars.

Still Curious about How Next-gen Tech is Changing Our Society?

Check out Mark Michaelis’ article Industry 4.0 Demystified and watch a video 0f his talk about thriving in the cyber physical revolution.

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