Are you ready to be engulfed by technology?

Jim Lee, futurist and Delaware economic strategist, shares his take on technology's quickening pace.
Jim Lee, futurist and Delaware economic strategist, shares his take on technology’s quickening pace.

By Michael J. Mika

Smart dust, machines that can learn and augmented reality are the new shiny objects in the tech world that may soon impact business.

Jim Lee, a futurist and Delaware investment strategist, kicked off the new season of Technology Forum meetings last month explaining the quickening pace of technology into daily life.

As our devices become more intelligent, how will we keep up, he asked more than 80 members of the networking group, now in its 16th year. “There is just so much information available right now, and there are some really significant questions on how to make that data accessible and easy to use,” he said.

Lee shared some forecasts he sees as moving into mainstream this year:

Wearable tech goes invisible — Designers are now creating wearable gadgets that look like everyday objects. The clunky look of Google glass is being replaced with glasses that look like prescription glasses, with transparent display lenses built in.

One area of wearable technology that Lee thinks is ready to explode is in the area of health care. The smart bandages that help track healing as well as those that contain biocompatible materials to kill off bacteria are on the rise.

Not surprisingly, to date, the majority of wearable technology is connected to watches, which are doing more things and looking more like watches.

Wireless and ambient power sources — Technology is about to get more wireless and more invisible. Ambient energy such as radio waves can be used to power hordes of small objects the size of a grain of sugar in wireless mesh network collectively known as smart dust.

This is a fine powder of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips that act as sensors to communicate information about the world. These can be programmed to measure anything from light, to temperature, to moisture, movement and vibration.

“With Smart Dust, the ‘Internet of Things’ can now include mining operations, railway systems and even acres of land. Even paper currency may be trackable with smart dust,” Lee said.

Virtual reality gets real — “Virtual reality has been the next big thing for the past 30 years, but in 2016 virtual reality gets real,”  Lee said. “We are literally going to be immersed in our games and data.”

Lee said one of his new toys is a Samsung Gear VR, which he got for Christmas. You snap in your smartphone, and screen is divided and magnified into two parts for stereoscopic viewing. The perspective changes as you move your hand. It provides the real gaming immersive experience, but he has also used it to watch virtual reality concerts, or visit places like Cuba or Berlin.

“It was $100 worth of awesome,” Lee told the group.

“This is a really gaming immersive experience, but I’ve enjoyed using it to watch virtual reality concerts or visit places where I wouldn’t normally go, such as Cuba or Berlin. You can wander around and gaze at the ceiling or look at people’s shoes. Colleges are now using this platform for VR campus tours.”

He said most of the major tech players are getting into this game, from Intel to Google and Facebook. It has been estimated that VR revenues will increase 88% annually until 2020, when it hits $120 billion per year.

The empathetic Internet — “The good news here is that computers are getting better at understanding our needs and emotions,” Lee said. “These may be built into our environment, so with the Amazon Echo, we only need to mention that we need more paper towels, and it will re-order them for us. If we had asked Google to book a flight, a year ago it would send us to Expedia, but now it gives us dates, times, and prices from the nearest airport.”

The digital assistant that talks to you when you search online, or reminds you of upcoming events, or adjusts your thermostats has taken a new turn with the introduction of the Amazon Echo, which connects your digital network at home.

It has the ability to learn your likes, and anticipates responses to questions. Many other developers will be bringing similar products to the market.

He concluded his remarks by talking about the Gartner Hype cycle, a tool that helps enterprises identify which emerging computing technologies, services and disciplines to invest in. The Cycles provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and how their potential is relevant to solving business problems and therefore good investments.

Find more information about the Cycle here.

The Technology Forum of Delaware meets the third Wednesday of each month, offering members the opportunity to make new connections and discover exciting new technologies being developed in the region.

The group will also sponsor its third annual Idea Challenge in March — a battle between teams to demonstrate how collaboration and creativity can result in innovative ideas to advance Delaware’s tech community.

For a complete listing of planned events, visit techforumde.org

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