THEY say the future isn't what it used to be. The wildest
imaginings of science fiction visionaries tend to give way to the dull reality
of daily lives. But it doesn't have to be this way.
That appeared to be the simple thought behind a new approach
to imagining the future, presented in San Francisco last week by computer chip
At the annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF), kicking off this
past Tuesday just a block away from where Apple was about to unveil its new
iPhone the next day, large banners declared: "New horizons invented
Inside, researchers from Intel Labs discussed a vision of
the future that goes beyond a mere handheld device. Paradoxically, it was
firmly grounded in the technology of today – and therefore a future that is
entirely possible rather than one based on wishful thinking.
Some of the more conventional ideas were pulled right out of
science fiction dreams.
For example, a demonstration titled Display Without
Boundaries showed how a combination of a data projector and an Xbox Kinect
gaming device, with a software adaptation, could turn any surface into an
interactive touchscreen display.
The photos could be pulled out of your own collection or
from social media streams like Twitter and Facebook, to create a collage of
photos or a single wall-sized image on any surface.
I tried it myself. With a swipe of my hand, I flipped
through images on a wall and resized them. The science fiction concept of a full-sized
video or scenery wall in every home was suddenly alive, in my hands, with a
social media twist.
Perhaps this is merely the digital photo frame reinvented,
using common household objects found in any high-tech research lab, but it is
also about how the future is imagined.
According to Intel "futurist" Brian David Johnson,
it is about using science fiction as a tool to explore real world implications
and uses of future technologies today.
Johnson drives an Intel initiative called the Tomorrow Project,
which attempts to answer the question: "What future do you want to live
Most of us don't know the answer, but we do know that we
want technology to make our lives easier and more efficient.
On a mass market scale, Intel hopes to address that desire
with a new computer chip to be released next year. Codenamed Haswell, it will
power a new generation of super-thin Ultrabook computers. The chip will be able
to run a computer for twice as long as the equivalent devices on the market
Coming down to day-to-day problems, the computers themselves
will become – among many other things – wireless charging sources for mobile
phones. Right now, wireless charging works with a technology called induction,
which requires a device to lie on top of the charger, but with a power
accessory plugged into the phone.
The amount of effort and equipment that requires means you
may as well plug in a normal charger.
But now, using "resonance" technology, a phone can
be fitted with a phoneback containing a small coil, and merely put down
alongside an adapted Ultrabook.
You arrive at home or
in the office, put the phone down next to the computer and pick it up a while later,
It is such practical but much-needed innovations that really
add up to the future most of us want. But the science fiction dreams persist.
One of those is trying on clothing and accessories without
ever stepping into a store. In the past, this was achieved through submitting
measurements and watching an avatar with your shape trying on the items.
An exhibitor at the IDF technology showcase this week took
the concept further into the future. TryLive uses a normal webcam in an Ultrabook
computer to capture an image of your face. It then "watches" you,
using your live image to show how different spectacles will appear on your
As you tilt your head from side to side, your image on the
screen moves to show what the glasses look like from different angles.
Again, there is nothing new to the technology itself. The
way it is being used, though, shows that the future is as much about new ways
of imagining as it is about new technology.
*Arthur Goldstuck is editor-in-chief of Gadget. Follow him
on Twitter on @art2gee
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