Archive: Science & Tech

September 13th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, New at Futurist.com, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Seattle Sci-Fi Film Series

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New at Futurist.com! We are sponsoring an educated sci-fi film series at Henry & Oscar’s  in Seattle and you need to be there.  Starting September 25th at 7pm, we will be showing Blade Runner, District 9, and Hunger Games over the next few months. Each film will be hosted by a special guest who will discuss the technology and scientific topics presented in the film. So, if you want to learn the real-world applications and research being done today on the science and tech in your favorite films, come be with us! Click the image on the left to enlarge and read more details about these events. And note, if you RSVP by the day before the film, admission is free!

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July 24th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Science & Tech | 1 Comment

Dear Kids, Have It All. Love, Future Toys

istock_000003138127smallKids.  Those extremely wise little Buddhas covered in hair. You may think they can’t grasp basic concepts, but these crafty little beings have somehow convinced us to give them everything they want in the future.

A lot of you have kids now. Even more of you will have them later. And then you’ll have grandkids. And great-grandkids. And with the rate of longevity around here lately, you’ll probably even have great-great-grandkids.  What do all of these kids have in common? They like to play. Oftentimes with toys. The question of the hour is, what will toys of the future look like? Don’t care? You should.  Even if you don’t have kids, at some point during your lifetime you’re probably going to get coerced into buying a toy for a friend’s kid, due to the Law of Social Niceties, so don’t think you can get out of this blog without even giving it a cursory glance.

Kids Will Get Whatever They Want

Word on the street is that the Millennial generation is just a bunch of entitled, self-involved brats (rude). Well, what would you say if these entitled little brats had offspring that could have or be whatever they wanted? That’s what the future of toys has in store for us. With the terrifyingly wide spectrum of 3D-printed toys available, printing whatever their little hearts desire will be a snap. WARNING: For those of you crossing your fingers that your kid is just a little less advanced than all the rest, making it impossible for him to invent his own printable code – get ready to be disappointed. Even if your kid is the slowest kid on the block, a lot of code is already open-sourced, and 8-year-olds are already learning how to code, so they’re going to figure it out somehow.   Plus, we don’t even have to own a 3D printer to design and purchase toys.   The Dreambox is a 3D printing vending machine that allows you to upload your custom design and print with a simple click.

And whatever you don’t print yourself, you’ll buy. Interactive tabletops are fun and multi-functional. One day we might even integrate flexible touch surfaces and interactive holograms to separate these tabletops from giant cellphones, which is what they are now. Toys that are programmable and electrically charged, like robotic blocks, will encourage invention, and things like hover boards, transformer toys, and energy conscious night-lights might also make inspiring toys.

Oh! And don’t forget tech-savvy toddlers will probably need video cameras for their v-blogs, and holographic chess sets to feed their spongy little intellect. I could see things that grow and then dissipate being popular toys as well. Almost like self-destructing Tamagotchis. Physically self-destructing, that is, since Tamagotchis already commit digital suicide when you neglect them. Come to think of it, all digital toys that disappear at some point would be popular for parents, too, as they wouldn’t leave messes behind.

Kids Will Be Whatever They Want

One of the most popular digital toys to come will be virtual reality games. These let kids transform into whatever they want to be, whether it’s a  zombie fighter, or an explorer, or a fantasy character. A lot of ideas for immersive VR games for kids are still in their infancy, but the opportunity to control environments and avatars is already an  exciting prospect for kids testing devices today.

Yes, it’s safe to say future toys will be interactive, customizable, and creative. So, will serving kids a heaping pile of virtual reality diminish their capability to be imaginative on their own? Will kids be able to see a ball of yarn strung up around the house as highly volatile laser beams, A.K.A Tons of Fun? Maybe they won’t. Maybe a pipe cleaner bent into funny shapes just won’t do the trick anymore.  But maybe toys in the future will increase creativity and enhance imagination by opening young minds to a world in which all things are possible.

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July 16th, 2013 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Innovation, Science & Tech | 4 Comments

5 Jobs We May Have a Chance at Stealing from the Robots

RAS-Cook

When robots prove more efficient and effective at doing our jobs, what will we do for work?

Panic, most likely. If it’s early enough in the Age of Robots we’ll use our emotion, creativity, and intuition to prove our worth. Organic, spontaneous, and fluid are not generally words you think of when you think of robots. So what can we use to our advantage to get a little competitive edge?

1) Our random thoughts and silly ideas (AKA Creative Writing). With our unique perspectives and past experience to shape our words, and with the vast array of writing styles and applications, robots won’t be ready to take over creative writing jobs for a while. WARNING: Research and testing is being done on social robots with feelings and a sense of ethical responsibility, so we can’t be too far off from emotional, intuitive robots that can read us like a book. Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

2) Our keen eye for what’s beautiful (AKA Makeup Artistry). For some reason I think people will trust the soft, familiar feeling of people fingers in their delicate, human faces for a long time to come. Potentially rogue metal shards putting my eyeliner on sounds like a lot of fun, and yet, I don’t see a ballerina whisking herself off stage for a quick makeup fix that she will have to either explain aloud or directly program into a robot.

3) Our ear for what sounds “good” (AKA Music Production). Mixing industry knowledge with a feel for innovative sound design and experience with sound production, this job requires a bit of finesse and spontaneity.    

4) Our innovative, imaginative intuition (AKA Art Directing). Across a variety of visual communication mediums, art directors make decisions about how to best position people and things. This requires a long list of past experience to draw from and an instinctively  quick insight.

5) Our fishing skills (AKA Fishermen). Not only is this a dangerous, spontaneous job that requires quick reflexes, and extreme adaptability, it’s also wet. And sometimes disconnected from electricity and the internet. Plus, machines are heavy. On boats you need to spare as much weight on board as possible– and since people would be lighter than today’s typical machinery, we win again!

Don’t get too excited, though. Robots have been taking over our jobs for years already. I’m looking at you two, ATM and Self-Checkout register.

Oh, but isn’t it nice to think that the machines we rely on so heavily to do our jobs are built by engineers and maintained by technicians? Pilots and people need a plane to get across the globe, sure, but a plane needs to be built and programmed before it can even do that. Score one more for people!

So, when robots get creative, intuitive, and random, what do we do?

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May 1st, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy, Environment & Energy, Innovation, New at Futurist.com, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Fast Co.Exist welcomes Glen to their Futurist Forum

FastCo Futurists

I was pleased this spring to join 5 other leading futurists as resident advisers on the future for Fast Company and their online endeavor FastCo Exist. We are called The Futurist Forum and our task is to imagine the future. The image above is a page from the May 2013 edition of Fast Company Magazine introducing the 6 experts to the magazine’s readers.

We each will be contributing articles periodically and participating in webcasts and online conversations. You can find my initial piece here, on the future of transportation. I highlight the prospects for solar roadways and a magnetic induction system for buses from the Wave company.

Check out the other’s in this forum, as they have very interesting things to say.

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