Once upon a time you would have owned a computer, an alarm clock, CDs for music storage, a GPS guidance system for your car, a watch, tape recorder, camera, video, landline, diary, index card system, calculator, filofax and money. Today, the process of miniaturization and convergence in computer technology means that electronic devices are becoming, faster and more efficient. To the point, all of the above are now obsolete and found on your mobile phone. All of this is happening now. What about the future? Today we live in a world where trying to predict technological change is more like science fiction, the pace of change is so fast that the blurring between technology and science fiction is in fact, reality. Travel and Tourism Futurist, Dr Ian Yeoman of Victoria University was recently keynote speaker at the UNWTO Login Technology conference as part of the G20 series of meetings in South Korea. Here are some of Ian's futuristic thoughts.
Minority Report is a 2002 science fiction neo-noir directed by Steven Spielberg set in Washington, D.C. in the year 2054, where "Precrime" a specialized police department, apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called "precogs". Precrime employs three "precogs", mutated humans with precognition to view murders that occur in the future; the officers of Precrime then analyze and interpret their visions to track down and stop the murder before it happens. Sounds like science fiction, but what if we could read your mind? Well we can, Electroencephalography (EEG) is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain. In clinical contexts, EEG refers to the recording of the brain's spontaneous electrical activity over a short period of time, usually 20–40 minutes, as recorded from multiple electrodes placed on the scalp. Researchers at the University of Technology, Sydney have developed technology to allow severely disabled people to move around more easily by using their minds to control their wheelchairs. Whereas the US military science organisation DARPA is working on a project called Silent Talk. The goal is to allow user–to–user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals. Before being vocalized, speech exists as word-specific neural signals in the mind. Darpa wants to develop technology that would detect these signals of "pre-speech", analyse them, and then transmit the statement to an intended interlocutor. Darpa plans to use EEG to read the brain waves. It's a technique they're also testing in a project to devise mind–reading binoculars that alert soldiers to threats faster the conscious mind can process them. This all reminds me of the film What Woman Want, in which Mel Gibson has the ability to read the minds of women. So imagine, if that came true in which all hotel staff were programmed to respond to our thoughts. Bartenders anticipating your next gin and tonic or concierge staff knowing which restaurant to recommend. The options are endless!
Referring back to Minority Report, in the opening scene Tom Cruise is in the "Precrime" control centre connecting aspects of future crime using a clear display panel, what is called gestural interfaces. Gestural interfaces use embedded optical sensors to track the movement of the user's fingers so they don't have to come into contact with the display. Many have pegged gestural interfaces as the next big thing in computer interfaces, including Microsoft whose Project Natal uses a peripheral embedded with a small camera to capture gestural information. Gestural interfaces unlike touch screens, like those found in iPhones, use capacitive sensing, where the touch of a finger disrupts the electrical connection between sensors which determine the location of the touch. If you combine gestural interfaces with ubiquitous computing, a post–desktop model of human–computer interaction in which information processing has been thoroughly integrated into everyday objects and activities. All models of ubiquitous computing (also called pervasive computing) share a vision of small, inexpensive, robust networked processing devices, distributed at all scales throughout everyday life and generally turned to distinctly common-place ends. For example, a domestic ubiquitous computing environment might interconnect lighting and environmental controls with personal biometric monitors woven into clothing so that illumination and heating conditions in a room might be modulated, continuously and imperceptibly. This is the world of contemporary devices that lend some support to this latter include mobile phones, digital audio players, radio-frequency identification tags, GPS and interactive whiteboards. Imagine the hotel bedroom in 2050 in which the bathroom mirror is a communications centre. You can speak to your partner, order food, change the temperature of the bedroom and even watch TV. Speaking of mirrors, an MIT graduate has invented a medical mirror which can tell you if you are ill by checking pulse measurements from ordinary low-resolution webcam imagery or the next generation of personal MRI scanners which can complete a body scan of you as you enter a room. A hotel bedrooms medical mirror would then provide a diagnosis using an intelligent agent, a computer generated image which will advise on an appropriate fitness and exercise regime during your stay. Menus will be planned automatically, with appropriate calories, vitamins and minerals designed for you individually. These are just some of the changes that are happening now in which the world of Star Trek and Captain Kirk will come true.
Previous Viewpoint articles can be found in the Archive here.
Watch talk about the core drivers of change and Europe's future here.
Ian presents his views on technology futures to the OECD – 21st June here.
Ian profiled in Qatar Airways Oryx Magazine about the 'life of a futurist' here.
The future history of Revenue Management here.
The future of ping pong here.
Ian publishes research paper on scenario planning and policy in the Journal of Tourism Futures here.
The Future of Food Tourism reviewed in Annals of Leisure Research here.
Ian speaks to the EU on the future tourist here.
Fifteen years of Revenue Management here.
Ian appointed series editor by Channelview about the future of tourism Read More.
The Future Tourist: Ian speaking at the European Travel Commission on the 8th September in Vienna More.
Dr Ian Yeoman to keynote at CHME 4-6th May at Ulster University on the future of food More.
Ian to speak on the future of tourism at the New Zealand Airports Association on the 11th September: More.
Ian to speak at Sri Lanka World Tourism Day conference: More.
The Future of Science: Ian guest edits the Royal Society's journal here.
New publication: New Zealand's Sustainable Future and Maori Identity.
The Future of Food Tourism at Wellington on a Plate – 25th August 2015 More.
Previous News items can be found here.