What will be the next big tech breakthrough? Each year thousands of visitors gather in Las Vegas to find out at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Held this year from 8 to 11 January, the event drew many IEEE members, several who discussed their thoughts on the hottest gadgets and gave their tech predictions for the year. IEEE posted several of the interviews on YouTube. They discussed video games, 3-D glasses, what types of technologies might replace today’s keyboards, and more.
With gaming systems already out that can do real-time motion capture and turn players into the controller, like Microsoft’s Kinect, what else is in store for gaming?
IEEE Senior Member Will Lumpkin says the most profound advances will come in the form of artificial intelligence. AI is expected to make video games smarter, a topic The Institute wrote about in 2010. For example, AI is used by enemies to learn a player’s attack strategy and change their moves to outsmart the player.
He expects iris-tracking technology to be used together with AI “so as [users] play the game, the system looks at their iris and can tell whether they’re still interested,” he says. “If the system detects they got sleepy or are not interested, the system can change its volume level to bring [the player back] in, or it can change the game play itself to, say, make it easier.
“One problem with gameplay today is that when you play through once, the next time you know how to beat it,” Lumpkin adds. “With new advances, gameplay will change to evolve with your character as you learn, so when you think a boss [known as an enemy, in video game speak] is jumping out from one area, he’ll actually circle around and blow you away.”
Have you had enough of 3-D yet? It seems like every new TV offers the feature nowadays. But it has failed to catch on with most people, say many experts, who blame the lack of popularity on the bulky, expensive glasses that must be worn. In another interview, IEEE Senior Member Tom Wilson says he believes the future of 3-D depends on glasses-free displays. “In the long term, we have got to get rid of glasses all together for 3-D to really take off,” he says. “That is what I’m really excited to see developments in multiview ordered stereoscopic displays where you don’t have to wear any glasses to get the effect.” You can check out an article The Institute ran on glasses-free 3-D in 2010.
In addition to taking note of what was hot at this year’s event, IEEE Fellow Stuart Lipoff, an electronics industry consultant, spotted what was noticeably missing. “I’ve been unable to find desktop computers or wired telephones,” he says. “They’re gone, and maybe it’s no surprise, because they have pretty much been replaced by portable versions of themselves.”
Lipoff adds that what he found most intriguing at CES were sessions on technologies that haven’t yet made their way into products but may be on the horizon. “The things that interested me were all related to human interface: better displays as well as input devices—things that allow you to interact with large and small devices through nonconventional means.” Those included so-called pointing devices instead of keyboards. They rely on a user’s hand gestures or eye movement and voice recognition give commands. “These various forms of nontraditional keyboards and pointing devices are really likely to make significant inroads in some of the new products coming down the road,” he says.
These IEEE members weren’t the only ones who got the chance to weigh in on tech predictions at CES. Online visitors to the IEEE Gadget Graveyard—a Facebook app you can access from the IEEE Facebook page—let people vote on which types of gadget would become obsolete before the end of the year. CES visitors were also able to vote on them at the IEEE booth. The top 10 technologies were:
- Landline phones
- MP3 players
- Cable boxes
- Car keys
- Plasma screens
- GPS units
- Ethernet cables
Which technological breakthroughs do you think we’ll see this year? And do you agree with the list of soon-to-be obsolete technologies voters chose or do you have others to suggest?
Photo: David Becker/Getty Images