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November 17, 2013 / Poooooooooonie

#11. Future of the Internet

If any of you are a big fan of The Avengers (as you should be, if you had good taste), you’d know that Tony Stark’s life revolves around his technology. One of the most fascinating aspects of the technology he so freely and casually wields is the hologram interface of his programs that allows him to “hold” onto components and move it as he pleases.

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I like to think of it as an incredibly updated and much more interactive version of Xbox’s Kinect device, only much more user-friendly and less frustrating (if you have a Kinect at home you’ll know what I’m talking about; how many times have we held out our arm at that stupid angle in order to get the game to pause, only for it to automatically pause when you’re in the throes of dancing your passionate heart out to Dance Central and the device mistakes one of your moves for the “pause” movement). In fact, this futuristic 3D technology that can be manipulated at fingertips may not be too far off into the distance for us. For example, in the video below, this individual has created a way of projecting an image so it looks like a hologram that can be seen from all angles (thus giving the 3D effect) and has incorporated the use of technology called leap motion that allows one to direct the image as he or she pleases.

In fact, Elon Musk, the billionaire who has inspired the portrayal of Tony Stark in the Marvel movies, has stated that he (and his team) has been inspired by the technology shown in the movies and intends to recreate it in real life.

What exactly am I getting into by delving into the topic of Tony Stark’s incredible technology? While technology continues to evolve at lightning speed, with newer devices being produced and rendering older versions obsolete, I feel that we haven’t really been able to bridge the gap between the digital or intangible, and real life slash the tangible. What I mean by this is that we are unable to bring memory stored digitally out into the physical world. For example, we can store a PDF file onto a portable thumbdrive, or save it into Google Docs, but to access it we’d have to go back through digital means such as plugging in the thumbdrive or logging into Google Drive; simply put, we cannot use our physical self to reach in and actually pull the PDF file for reading.

Using another Avengers-related example, in a scene in the first movie of Thor, Loki faces off against Heimdall who has surely uncovered Loki’s treacherous plan of taking over Asgard. As Heimdall unsheathes his sword in a move to strike Loki down, Loki reveals the Casket of Ancient Winters in a swift motion and uses it to freeze Heimdall where he stands. What’s remarkable about this is that Loki wasn’t carrying the Casket; he uses his magic to bring it out of ~magical storage~ (as I like to call it) into the physical realm in order to deploy its use as a weapon. While not exactly digital, this is what I mean when I say bridging the gap between technology and real life.

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Imagine the possibilities we could achieve with such technology! For far too long I’ve dreamed of being able to reach into the computer and pulling out food when I was hungry but far to afraid to step out into the darkened kitchen so late at night, or of being able to immediately “download” clothing from shopping sites as I please without having to wait for that 8-10 days for my parcel to reach me.

This is a few steps down the technology I’m referring to, but a few months ago I read an interesting article about the development of a 3D printer that could print out food! Aimed at creating food for astronauts, NASA has funded the research and development of a printer that, when loaded with the appropriate powders and ingredients, can “print” out food like pizza that can be kept for years. While it isn’t exactly the technology I envisioned, I still have to admit that it is a pretty cool concept. Already, there are similar printers that can “print” designs onto baked goods, “print” chocolate, and so on.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the rate at which technology improves itself is very fast, so fast that sometimes it is difficult to keep up with it. In about a decade we’ve gone from the bulky disc-man to iPod Nanos that are the size of our thumbs to being able to store our music on the Internet. The convenient use of cloud computing has taken over and vastly changed the way we store our information – Google Doc has become a huge part of my academic journey so far, for example. I definitely think the direction in which this future might take us will definitely be aimed at improving convenience and efficiency for mankind’s sake. Aside from the digital-to-physical technology I thought of earlier, I also see more portable devices that are lighter and smaller, such as in Spy Kids where the camera technology is practically invisible to the naked eye. I also see augmented reality becoming a much bigger part of our life; maybe in the years to come everyone will start using Google Glass on a daily basis. We might also start wearing a permanent earpiece that allows us to receive information transmitted as well as contact anyone else anywhere at any time, like that in Fahrenheit451 and Doctor Who. The potential for what the future holds is vast, and I surely am excited to see what it brings us.

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