The future of virtual reality… is video

By Andy Smith on July 6, 2015 | Permalink

The VR revolution is coming, and it’s not going to be what you expect. While VR gaming is considered to be the “tip of the spear” that will see the initial launch of mass-market devices like the Oculus Rift, the breakout application for the technology may not be gaming but video that allows you to look in any direction as the action unfolds around you in real time.

With GoPro’s recent acquisition of VR video company Kolor, it is clear that by the time that the Rift hits the market they will support a ready market for virtual reality video. In theory, the ability to naturally look around in a panoramic view sounds simple, but in practice it’s game-changing – as significant an advance to the medium of film as the move from black and white to color. (more…)

Virtual reality meets social media: what is Facebook’s endgame?

By Andy Smith on May 28, 2015 | Permalink

With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, the creators of the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality Headset, the general consensus is that Virtual Reality is about to be “the next big thing”. Major companies are starting to investigate the Oculus rift and ensure that when the wave breaks they won’t be caught unawares. Google is even reported to be working on a virtual-reality version of the Android OS.

But what is far less clear, is exactly what form mainstream virtual-reality will take, and how precisely Facebook will drive mass adoption of the platform, let alone monetize it. The Oculus Rift was originally aimed at mainstream video gamers, who were none too pleased to see their gaming platform co-opted by a company whose principal revenues are driven by advertising and metrics. (more…)

A thousand man years in a weekend: How the power of iteration may make artificial intelligence unbeatable

By Andy Smith on March 23, 2015 | Permalink

Technologist and real-world Tony Stark inspiration Elon Musk recently donated $10 million dollars to the Future of Life Institute to run a global research program focusing on Artificial Intelligence, specifically “keeping AI beneficial to humanity”.

But does Artificial Intelligence pose a genuine threat? There is a lot of hyperbole around AI, and in science fiction rebellious or malevolent AI is practically a whole sub-genre in and of itself. And while it’s easy to laugh off ridiculous scenarios like killer robots, the real threat that AI presents may not be to life and limb, but to economic stability and the unscrupulous wielding of artificial intelligence to disrupt markets and outpace human-driven innovation.

Avoiding the pitfalls of AI

Elon Musk was one among a number of prominent co-signers of an open letter that was also published by the Future of Life Institute. In it, they note:

Launch of Map of the Decade, ExaTrends of the Decade, and the Zeitgeist for 2011

By Ross Dawson on December 14, 2010 | Permalink

It is traditional at the turn of the year to look forward at what is to come.

We have crystallized our thinking on the year ahead and the decade of the 2010s in a new 3-page visual landscape.

You can download the pdf of the framework by clicking on any of the images. The full text of the ExaTrends and the Zeitgeist themes is below.

Note on ExaTrends: Given the exponential pace of change of today we are far beyond a world of MegaTrends. Exa is the prefix meaning 10 to the power of 18, following Mega, Giga, Tera, and Peta. As such Exa is Mega cubed.

Map of the Decade: 2010s


The future of social networks and television distribution channels

By Ross Dawson on September 15, 2009 | Permalink

Last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph published an article titled Tech to the future that looks at what’s coming next in consumer and social technologies. Unfortunately it isn’t available online, however here are the sections where I was quoted:

Futurist and author Ross Dawson says the next big shifts will pivot around how we connect to other people and “how we share the content of our lives with others. It’s all about the social use of technology.”

Analysts predict that rather than a new Twitter-styled platform emerging, social networks will move towards being meshed or interconnected. They say private and public data will blur together and an advanced version of the social networks of your choice will be your browser of entry point.

Now that we have as a society discovered sharing the content from our lives, the floodgates are open. Interoperability across social networks is evolving slowly, but is what we are coming to expect. Then later in the article:


The emergence of mobile augmented reality

By Ross Dawson on June 17, 2009 | Permalink

A new mobile app called Layar has been launched recently. It will initially only be available for Android, with the intent of getting it onto the iPhone 3G S as a priority. At this point it only functions in the Netherlands, but will be available in Germany, UK and US this year. The video below shows how it could work, giving an example of identifying vacant real estate simply by scanning around.

One of the phone features required for this app to run is the magnetometer (compass). This has been available on many Nokia and some other handsets for a while, and makes its iPhone debut with the 3G S. Magnetometers are actually very inexpensive, but allow a wealth of new mobile applications that depend on knowing which way the camera is oriented.
There is no question that augmented reality will be a key feature of our technological future, and clearly this will be primarily relevant when we are mobile. Annotation of our environment, including detailed information about its features, and particularly user-generated content, will be extremely useful as well as fun. The pervasive nature of the iPhone means this is the platform which is likely to popularize mobile augmented reality. Layar is a player and no doubt there will be more.
Additional commentary from TUAW, IntoMobile, ReadWriteWeb, AndroidGuys, and MacRumors.

Keynote: Transforming Aged Care with Technology

By Ross Dawson on May 22, 2009 | Permalink

Tomorrow morning I am doing the second day opening keynote at ITAC09 – Information Technology in Aged Care conference.
Here is my presentation – as always these are intended to accompany my speech, not as stand-alone slides.

I hope to write some more on this blog on this topic before long, though it depends what I can fit in…

Availability of talent drives entrepreneurial innovation – the story of Silicon Valley unemployment

By Ross Dawson on April 4, 2009 | Permalink

The human toll of unemployment is stark, as is being experienced around the world.
The most recent unemployment statistics for Silicon Valley below illustrate how the region has greater cyclicality in unemployment than almost any other region in the US. In good times unemployment can fall to almost nil, in bad times unemployment rises faster and higher than most regions.
The recent dramatic upturn in unemployment is likely to be far from peak, with for example the mooted IBM – SUN merger potentially leading to 10,000 layoffs, a large proportion of which would likely be in Silicon Valley.
What is bad news for some is great news for others. Bringing ideas to market takes talented people. In good times those people are either not available, or cost too much for start-ups to engage. Today there are once again fantastically talented people who are looking for opportunities, and willing to work for lower – or even no – income in return for a share of what might become big later.

This balances out to a large degree the far more constrained availability of investment capital. The money may not be flowing into start-up companies at a massive pace, but they need less.

So don’t expect innovation in Silicon Valley (or anywhere else) to dry up. The spigot of one of the key enablers of innovation – talent – has just been turned up high. Entrepreneurship is being democratized as more people with ideas and energy are able to execute their vision, rather than being constrained by lack of resources.
This is just one key driver today resulting in the pace of technology innovation going up, up, up…

It is totally INSANE that you cannot use an external keyboard on an iPhone

By Ross Dawson on March 25, 2009 | Permalink

I love my iPhone. But it has some deep flaws. OK, so cut-and-paste will be available with the 3.0 operating system – that’s good. The lack of a video camera is annoying and strange – rumors are that the next iPhone released in the northern summer will have video capabilities.

But the thing that really gets me is that you cannot use an external keyboard on the iPhone. Unlike the other issues, there is no way you can argue this is a technical problem. Apple has deliberately crippled the Bluetooth functionality so external keyboards can’t be used.

The whole point of a smartphone is that it can be your central hub when you’re on the move, increasingly obviating the need to carry a laptop around. If the iPhone had an external keyboard, I could use it for a large proportion of my needs when I’m on the move or travelling, including email, working on documents, blogging and more. For now I have a choice of carrying a laptop, or taking a Palm and external keyboard with me in addition to the iPhone, just so I can write.


Our trend map for 2009: The vital Trends, Risks, and Red Herrings you must know

By Ross Dawson on December 20, 2008 | Permalink

Following our extremely popular Trend Blend 2007 and Trend Blend 2008 trend maps comes…. Trend Blend 2009!
Created by Future Exploration Network’s Chief Futurist Richard Watson, also of, the 2009 trend map moves on from the subway map theme of the last years to show the multi-tentacled hydra that is the year ahead.
Click on the map to download the pdf (810KB)

To pick out just a few noteworthy elements of the trend map:
CORE THEMES include:
Global Connectivity
Power Shift Eastwards
SOCIETY: Search for control, enoughism
TECHNOLOGY: Simplicity, Telepresence, Gesture based computing
ECONOMY: De-leveraging, 2-speed economies, Shorter product lifecycles
ENVIRONMENT: Bio fuel backlash, Negawatts, Nuclear power
POLITICS: Virtual protests, Globalisation in retreat, Immigration backlash
BUSINESS: Networked risk, Transparency, Asset price uncertainty
FAMILY: Debt stress, Allowable luxuries, Middle class unrest
MEDIA: Flight to quality, Facebook fatigue, Skimming, Micro boredom
Climate change crisis
Fall of US Empire
Nuclear power
Device convergence
Major Internet failure
Influenza pandemic
Major earthquake in economic centre
Electricity shortages
People taking trend maps too seriously
As usual, this is released on a Creative Commons license, so feel free to play with it, adapt it, and improve it!
Wishing everyone a fabulous 2009 – be sure to take advantage of these upcoming trends!

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