Clarke once remarked, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
As time goes by and the pace of disruptive technological change advances, the magic of technology has cast a spell on an audience expecting disruptive changes in:
1.Natural User Interface & Ubiquitous computing (NUI & UBICOMP)
1.1.Gesture control – Humans naturally use gesture to communicate. Studies have demonstrated that young children can readily learn to communicate with gestures before they learn to talk. Gesture controlled user interface (GCUI) is therefore a natural evolution from the current touch based system. Leap Motion are arguably the market leaders in this space with their gesture interface as reliable as a keyboard and as sensitive as some touchscreens (shown below). The applications of gesture control will be vast moving beyond the PC and will be a crucial aspect of navigating around the ‘smart home’, and the future smart office.
1.2. Interplanetary internet – The Interplanetary Internet refers to a theoretical computer network in space, consisting of a set of network nodes which can communicate with each other across planets. Experts expect it to be like the internet you use to read this very article, simply on a grander scale. There are however considerable headwinds in overcoming issues with the speed-of-light delay, satellite maintenance and hacker threats to name three of many.
1.3. Web 3.0 – Web 3.0 or the semantic web has been compared to having a personal assistant who knows virtually everything about you and able to answer any question, and logical follow up questions. The semantic web is a vision of information that can be readily interpreted by machines, so machines can perform more of the tedious work involved in finding, combining different searches. For example if you wanted to go to see your favorite band in a concert, instead of searching for tickets, booking a coach, finding the artists, these could all be done in one personalized search.
1.4. 4D printing – This emerging technology will allow users to print objects that then reshape themselves or self-assemble over time. Imagine a printed cube that folds before your eyes. The fourth dimension in 4D printing refers to materials that are able to change and mutate over time when exposed to water, temperature changes and/or air to self assemble. The major applications for this technology will be focused on extreme environments, (e.g. space) where environmental conditions would make human labor extremely difficult if not impossible. In these environments there would be a clear advantage to materials that are able to assemble and reconfigure themselves as needed. The market leader in this space is Autodesk, who are becoming central in the life sciences area, providing design tools for nano scale that originated from their ubiquitous architectural and mechanical design tools.
1.5. Haptics –Haptics technologies provide the next important step towards realistically simulated environments that have been envisioned by science fiction authors and futurists alike. Haptics is a means by which a virtual reality system can offer feedback of sensory information — whether proprioceptive, vestibular, kinesthetic, or tactile — to the user from the simulated environment. The major stumbling block however is that haptics technology is currently two expensive too complement the rest of the virtual reality offering. Over time, we would expect this to fall, and provide the crucial touch element virtual reality currently lacks.
1.6. OLED – OLED is (organic light-emitting diode) and is the crucial material for products such as flexible phones to become more main steam. Universal Display Corporation is the market leader in this space working closely with Samsung, as they aim to further the development and commercialization of OLED technology. OLED screens are growing in popularity and according to Display Bank global shipments reached 53 million units in Q2, 2013, a 41% increase of the previous year’s shipment, and likely to continue through to 2014.
1.7. Virtual reality – This is probably the topic everyone talks about and what Zukerberg has referred to as “the next big computing platform“. Virtual reality won’t just disrupt the gaming market, but training and simulation, architecture and design, and health and fitness as well.A great example of the multiple markets virtual reality will effect is shown below where the Oculus Rift is being used alongside the Omni treadmill.
1.8. Augmented reality – Augmented reality will lead to a revolution in computer interface design in which 3-D virtual objects are integrated into a 3-D real environment in real time.This 3-D virtual integration could occur across three platforms demonstrated in the table below including the user, the physical object, or the environment itself. The near to medium term trend will largely be focused on the integration with the user, with integration with physical objects, and the environment unlikely for at least the next 5 years.
1.9.Supercomputers – Supercomputer refers to the most powerful scientific computers available at a given time. Advances in algorithms and in software technology at all levels are essential to further progress in solving applications problems using supercomputing. Computers have the potential to unlock massive amounts of processing power, and to solve problems that would take conventional computers literally centuries. Therefore with the trends towards the internet of things, and artificial intelligence, the role of the supercomputer is likely to only rise in importance.
1.10. 3D printing –3D printing represents a manufacturing game changer, allowing mass customaization and local printing of what is needed. 3D printing allows users to be able to print almost almost anything from personalized medical devices to customized jewelry and toys. Companies using 3D printing have the freedom to create and manufacture customized products because there is no additional cost for complexity and uniqueness.
Challenges the 3D printing must face is that the rapid emergence of this technology has also created major challenges in relation to intellectual property (IP) theft. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in IP globally. However, with sales of 3D printers predicted to approach $5 billion in 2017, up from $1.7 billion in 2011, as demand expands for everything from consumer applications to markets such as automotive, aerospace, industrial and healthcare short term pull backs are likely to ease.
2.1. Self driving vehicles – Theoretically we should be able to say goodbye to designated drivers, arguments between spouses based on confusing directions, and stressful commutes. Self driving cars thankfully would eliminate all of these problems. Given that there are over 5.5 million car crashes in the US alone, with 93% of these crashes unfortunately having humans error as the primary factor the potential benefits are extremely clear. The hope is that self driving cars will be able to drastically reduce the number of driver related deaths by eliminating human error. The time line for self driving cars are shown below, with Nissain expecting semi-automated cars available as early as 2014, and fully autonomous drive vehicles in 2020 . Some caution however on the extremely bullish sentiments on self driving cars is warranted. Recent announcements that autonomous vehicles have safely driven hundreds of thousands of miles, have raised hopes that this technology will soon be widely available and solve transport problems. Most manufacturers have predicted at least 5 years for the earliest fully autonomous vehicles, and there remains considerable uncertainty concerning autonomous vehicle benefits, the costs and travel implications. They may require additional equipment, new infrastructure, new services and maintenance that will probably increase user costs by hundreds or thousands of dollars per vehicle.
2.2.Domestic robots – The robot revolution is also likely to move beyond the road and into your home. Domestic robots consists of robots doing everyday task and chores around the house, such as vacuuming.Interestingly, experts suggest that humans are unlikely to wish to cede full control to robots, in areas like cooking and ironing where the consequences of a robot malfunction are potentially life threatening. We are therefore likely to see the estimated 400% increase in service robots for domestic personal use between 2013 – 2016 in vacuuming and cleaning, rather than more advanced areas.
2.3. Swarm robotics- This refers to robotic systems where the members of the group interact locally with each other and the environment in a decentralized manner thereby attaining the desired goal via self-organization. An excellent primer on swarm robotics is provided by Roderich Gross. The main barrier that needs to overcome in the next decade in swarm robotics will be producing hardware which is extremely small, and also has sufficient sense and communication with other swarm systems.
2.4.Medical robots – There are many drivers for the emergence of medical robots, with the affordability, quality, and personalization of robotics technology all possible tail winds. The number of medical robots increased by 20% from 2011 to 2012  a rate analysts expect to vastly increase over 2013 , and 2014 as robots become increasingly skilled at completing more complex operations. The advantages of using robots in surgery is already evident in the rapid rate of machine adoption in surgery seen in da Vinci products shown below.
3.1. Personalized medicine – This refers to the customization of healthcare with medical decisions, practices, and/or products being tailored to the individual patient. Personalized medicine has become increasingly popular with the emergence of what Sparks and Honey have referred to as the quantified self. That is an abundance of quantitative health data through channels such as wearable technology. In the near term we’re likely to see the widescale emergence of apps like the Eatery, which offers quantified self-tracking and data collection to influence behavior changes in your health.
3.2. In vitro meat-This describes an animal-flesh product that has never been part of a living animal. There has already been success in the production of vitro meat, with the very first lab-grown hamburger produced last year and tasting like real meat. Vitro meat could make up an increasing proportion of our diets. with artificial meat yielding numerous benefits such as: stopping cruelty to animals, being better for the environment, and potentially even healthier.
3.3. Telemedicine – Telemedicine refers to the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance. This in turn will allow easier access to healthcare, for those who are unable to visit local hospitals for physical or financial reasons. Additionally, with a growing population, and limited facilities, telemedicine aims to reduce the strain on scarce resources. The challenge remains however financing this initiative in the next decade with only 30% of responding countries reported having a national agency for the development and promotion of telemedicine, and 20% reported having developed and implemented a national telemedicine policy
3.4. Cyborgs – Beyond science fiction and Futurama, cyborgs have received very little coverage. The case for technology is natural with those who need artificial limbs, to replace organic limbs. On a 20+ view, analysts predict that demand for artificial limbs will move from those who have lost limbs, to those who demands cosmetic enhancements. Members of the population may begin deliberately replacing perfectly functioning limbs with artificial ones, which may offer greater strength, endurance and dexterity. This is likely to raise serious ethical and philosophical questions alongside the emergence of of 3D “bioprinting” (the medical application of 3D printing to produce living tissue and organs). We are yet to answer questions such as, what happens when complex ‘enhanced’ organs involving nonhuman cells are made? Who will control the ability to produce them? Who will ensure the quality of the resulting organs? To name only a few of many crucial questions.
3.5. Gene therapy – This refers to replacing defective cells with good ones, thereby allowing you to manipulate your genetic code, abilities, and characteristics. On a multi-decade view we would expect this gene analysis to encompass anti-aging therapies to lengthen human lifespans and potentially ‘designer babies’. This is evident in Google’s acquisitions preparing for the long term future of not just a robot revolution, but the pursuit of longer lives, with its purchase of Calico.Indeed, the cost per genome (shown below) has fallen from just under $100,000,000 dollars to just shy of $4000 in the space of 14 years making gene therapy and more generally personalized medicine more feasible.
3.6. Cryonics – Even if you do grown old, who says you have to die? Cryonics refers to the preservation of the human body, and particularly the brain, after death. This is in preparation for a possible future revival through vitrification. An ice-free process in which more than 60% of the water inside cells is replaced with protective chemicals. The cost of this process can vary anything between $28,000- $200,000 depending where and the amount of body being frozen. Given this price, we expect cryonic preservation to become increasingly common place with individuals such as Ted Williams already frozen, and others such as Larry King planning to be preserved.
4.1. Space elevator – The space elevator is a system for lifting payloads, and eventually people, from the Earth’s surface into space. A space elevator reminiscent of Willy Wonka glass elevator will become like a stairway to heaven. The case for a space elevator is compelling with it reported to be safer and cheaper than a rocket. No material strong enough existed to make the cable that the crawlers would climb up and down, until the discovery of carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes properties are unique with it being stronger than Chuck Norris, lighter than steel, and finally able to conduct electricity.
There are some key challenges that must be overcome in the next two decades for a space elevator to be realistic prospect.Firstly, the the risk of collision with potential space debris must be mitigated. Secondly building longer carbon nano tubes must be achieved. Indeed, prior to the successfully synthesized half-meter long carbon nanotubes, by Yingying Zhang, the longest carbon nano tubes were mere centimeters!.
4.2.Space tourism – Whilst holidays in the Caribbean are likely to remain highly desirable a new billion dollar tourism industry in the form of space is beginning to emerge. Your only option today is Space Adventures however, in the next couple years,Virgin Galactic is aiming to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists. Additional potential competitors consisting of Space X founded by Elon Musk, and the less well known Orbital Sciences Corp will provide similar services.
4.3. Private spaceflight – Private spaceflight is at present a niche product and likely to remain so for the near future. The first person paying for private spaceflight being Dennis Tito in 2001. However, on a multi decade 50 + view we would expect the development of space infrastructure and megascale engineering to increases the incentives for private spaceflight.
4.4. Megascale engineering – This refers to a form of exploratory engineering concerned with the construction of structures on an enormous scale. ( Typically these structures are at least 1,000 kilometers in length). Megascale engineering will be crucial in the development of space projects such as the space elevator as well as other core infrastructure.
5.1. Metamaterial cloaking – Metamaterials refer to a class of engineered materials exhibiting highly beneficial electromagnetic properties, and are man made. Utilizing these materials in cloaking will allow the emergence of objects reminiscent of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. A prospect which has become increasingly likely over the last 5 years with Rogers critical breakthrough in 2011. Rogers developed a stamp-based printing method for generating large pieces of metamaterial, thereby allowing the production of larger more practical devices, a feat which prior to 2011 was not possible .The key vendors to look out for to utilize this breakthrough and dominate this new market space are Alight Technologies ApS, Alps Electric Co. Ltd., Fianium Ltd., and Inframat Corp.
5.2. UAVs – Similar to metamaterial cloaking Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), commonly known as drones are expected to be more widely adopted. UAV’s generally refers to an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. Like many military innovations, this has commercial spill over affects with Amazon said to investigating potentially delivering packages to its customers in the US via UAV’s.
UAV’ industry however have the largest political headwinds of all the new emerging disruptive technologies. A heated debate about the ethics and legality of using autonomous killing machines can be expected to emerge in the near future. UAV’s raise serious accountability issues with it being unclear if a wrong target is hit, who commits the war crime and who is held accountable? When accountability is absent Wikileaks has shown that countries regardless of nationality will undertake undesirable behaviour. Additionally, given that war is often brought to close due to the political pressure to spare the lives, of “sons and daughters” will the movement towards hardware rather than human based warfare lead to governments being quicker to embrace war?
5.3. Exoskeletons – These essentially will be the building blocks to real life Iron Men. The exoskeleton is mainly being designed for the military, to assist soldiers by boosting their strength and endurance -Raytheon XOS funded by DARPA being the market leader. The long term future exoskeletons will be aiming to offer better integration with humans, blurring the line between man and machine. The challenge exoskeletons face from a commercial view is that similar to healthcare, those who need an exoskeleton the most are unlikely to be able to afford them.
5.4. Cyber- warfare – Forget Bitcoin, the most valuable alternative currency of the 21st century is actually your data. The internet has become a powerful tool for self-education, and freedom. Freedom by definition must be accompanied with a lack of control, and it is this very lack of control that has been viewed as a threat by national bodies over the last decade. Powers ranging from the NSA to the North Korea, have undertaken cyber warfare to control what information people have access to as the importance of information and data grows to new heights. This has been reflected in the labour market with the most recent US Bureau of Labor statistics, reporting demand for graduate-level information security workers will rise by 37% in the next decade. This is more than twice the predicted rate of increase for the overall computer industry!
6.Artificial intelligence:Artificial intelligence (AI) broadly refers to the emergence of intelligent machines and software than can perceive their environment and take actions to maximise its chances of success. The importance of AI cannot be overstated with the two main aims of determining which ideas about knowledge representation represent real intelligence (the scientific aim) and solve real world problems (engineering goal), crucial to all future developments.
By utilizing the new product, and diffusion of innovation model provided by Rogers, we can generate a vague idea for what the adopted curve across these 6 key technological areas should look like which is:
- Innovators– They will produce a product with provides advantages over existing solution. This will be either in the quality of the experience ( e.g. Apple Iphone), or by offering new features or capabilities (the App store) or the price.
- Early adopters – The emergence of early adopters will be easier if the product augments or is compatible with existing values. For example, the movement from mobile banking is easier for users due to being accustomed to internet banking.
- Early majority – In order to move to the early majority the relative complexity of the innovation should be made as small as possible. This has been one of the key problems Bitcoin has faced due to its complexity compared to fiat currencies. The early majority seeing the benefits the early adopters are reaping will then adopt the new product.
- Late majority – Once a product has proven to be reliable, and is increasingly becoming the norm, the late majority will also adopt the product.
- Laggards – Laggards typically represent groups such as grandparents, who are completely oblivious to events before it comes to the news after watching Sherlock Holmes.
Overall, the range of technologies that will be emerging will have massive impact, on how we interact and work with the environment around us. Interesting philosophical questions will emerge, as the ability to manipulate, genes, print organs, and integrate technology into our bodies become an increasingly reality. Issues we will be exploring as we go into much greater depth into each of these 6 technologies over the coming weeks.
Sources and downloadable excel data
 Augmented Reality: Linking real and virtual worlds A new paradigm for interacting with computers Wendy E. Mackay p2
 3D Systems stock price data from FT
 Self-Driving cars: Are we ready KPMG p7
 World Robotics 2013 Service Robots
 Health 2050: The Realization of Personalized Medicine through Crowdsourcing, the Quantified Self, and the Participatory Biocitizen Melanie Swan p 99
 Department of Physics and Tsinghua-Foxconn Nanotechnology Research Center,Tsinghua UniVersity, Beijing, Fabrication of Ultralong and Electrically, Uniform Single-Walled Carbon, Nanotubes on Clean Substrates
Everett Rogers The Diffusion of Innovation
Artists Tom Fishburne
 Infographic design inspiration Michell Zappa