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The future is here! And also, it isn’t.

Posted by putsimply on 20th March 2009

cold_deeringAh, Tomorrow’s World was great, wasn’t it? I could watch crazy people getting the future wrong all day. In the future we were to have everything; from jetpacks to sentient computers, Sinclair C5s to nuclear-powered hoovers. In a roundabout, disappointing way, that last one did actually happen.

Well 2009 is definitely the future, if Gerry Anderson is anything to go by. And most of this rubbish has failed to appear.

Every once in a while something turns up, and you think, ‘Wow… That’s a little bit of the future that’s just arrived.’ For me, those things were mobile phones, laptop computers, and the capacitance-screen phone. Also, to a lesser extent, Flash and Hard Disk Drive technology. It seems I can store the entire world on my external HDD.

But if you want to put a date in your diaries when the future actually *did* arrive, it’s this week.

On Monday we saw the announcement of a lifelike, walking robot; the difference being that this time it *was* an actual, lifelike robot, that didn’t have a tangle of wires, and didn’t walk like it had just dooked its trousers. Yes, the animatronics are a little JonnyCab, but I defy you to not be impressed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpO57NltoAI&feature=related]

As if that weren’t enough, holy moly, on Wednesday the Register informed us of the maiden flight of the first flying car.

Yet one aspect of the future that resolutely failed to impress me this week was Microsoft’s 2nd generation Surface computer. This is intended to allow groups of people to interact with on-screen objects as if they were on a real desktop; complete with touchscreen ad real-world physics.

I’m guessing that, like many companies, Microsoft is trying to gain some of the ‘ain’t it cool’ factor of Apple’s iPhone, without possessing the appropriate capacitance-based touchscreen patents.

robotsd20sexI’ve been on this soap box before, but what’s the point of a table-computer? Granted, the table Space Invaders and Pong gained a modicum of respect in the 70’s. But then again, people were impressed by Space Dust in the 70s.

It all comes down to interface. Interface, interface, interface. Who wants to expend extra effort to complete a simple task like moving an on-screen object? At the moment I can’t see a reason people would want to indulge in this expensive ‘social computing’, not unless someone invents a killer app. But hey. That’s in the future.