There are plenty of hints about the future of technology hiding in your home, car and smartphone.
For example: An expensive novelty in the 1980s, home robots are seeing a modern resurgence, thanks to the Roomba and similar automated devices.
As robotics tech improves, our little mechanical friends are expected to take on more responsibilities (window cleaning, cooking and so on) that we humans would rather not be bothered with.
Today, your options for getting a virtual-reality fix are limited -- you either need an Oculus Rift VR headset or a jury-rigged cardboard apparatus for your smartphone.
But in the future, you can bet that VR will be far more commonplace: Your kids could be playing virtual-reality Minecraft on their headsets while you take a virtual vacation on yours.
Wearable technology such as smartwatches and fitness trackers is very trendy right now, but don’t write it off as a passing fad. As the tech improves, these tiny trackers are expected to become vital in diagnosing diseases and tracking your personal health.
Augmented-reality glasses such as Google Glass, meanwhile, could prove invaluable in industrial settings, where workers need access to data while working with both hands.
Digital personal assistants such as Siri and Google Now are only the beginning of what artificial intelligence can do.
Soon, AI might predict your actions in advance, providing for all your needs even before they arise. In grander applications, robots with AI are expected to conduct space exploration missions where constant communications with Earth are impossible.
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Apple’s Touch ID technology, available on the iPhone 5S and later models, replaces traditional identity verification methods with a quick scan of your fingerprint. Biometrics have huge potential to replace traditional credit card signatures and PINs in the future. As the tech drops in price, it might soon replace your car and house keys, too.
The OLED technology currently found on smartphone displays and TVs offers big benefits over traditional LED technology: it weighs less, consumes less power and improves color contrast.
Motion sensors such as those built in to the Microsoft Kinect accessory for the Xbox One have plenty of uses beyond video games. The Seattle-based company has experimented with using motion sensing in health care applications to aid with patient visualizations. Supermarket chain Whole Foods has also mounted a limited number of Kinect devices on shopping carts in a test to aid customer navigation.
We’ve come a long way from the solar-powered calculators of the late 1970s. The price of installing solar panels per watt has dropped significantly over the years, making it an increasingly attractive option for private homes.
Solar power tech likely won’t replace your local power plant completely, but it does have the potential to open up new opportunities for off-grid living throughout the globe.
Rechargeable battery technology has come a long way, with devices now holding more power and charging more quickly than ever before. Case in point: The Tesla Powerwall home battery is designed to store enough solar energy to power a home off the grid.
Continued improvements in battery tech will bring inexpensive, reliable power worldwide -- a literal lifesaver for developing countries without reliable electric infrastructure.
Laser light bulbs
With old-fashioned, incandescent light bulbs marked for extinction, you might think the future is LED lighting. But lasers hold more promise; they can convert more electricity into light than a standard LED.
Smart TVs are increasingly popular, but when it comes to smart appliances, they're just the beginning.
The growing Internet of Things promises that appliances of the future will interact with each other and with you, sending text alerts when the laundry is ready or dinner is done. Expect these appliances to talk to your phone as well -- tell an app exactly what you’re trying to cook, and your future smart oven will program itself and take care of the rest.
Soon, fiber optic cables won’t be the only way to get blazing-fast Gigabit Internet speeds in your home. A number of companies are working on tech to boost the speed of DSL connections delivered over copper phone wires to 1Gbps via G.Fast technology. That will be a huge game changer for rural areas where Gigabit Ethernet fiber is too cost-prohibitive to build.
Cloud data storage is a huge part of modern computing -- your files, media, phone backups and more can be accessed just about anywhere on any device.
The future, however, also seems to be in cloud computing, where all the processing work of your computer is done off-site. This will give small devices access to massive amounts of processing power with little more than an Internet connection. An early example of this is the PlayStation Now service, which can stream video games to your Samsung Smart TV without a PlayStation console.
The same voice commands that give you hands-free access to your phone are expected to be available everywhere eventually, throughout your home via your smartwatch or similar device.
Imagine turning on your lights simply by saying, "Lights on," or turning on the AC by saying, "I’m warm." Smart appliances already exist, and just about any device with a data connection will likely support voice commands in the future, all on a single platform.
Smart grid tech
Smart thermostats such as the Nest are a convenient way to control your home’s climate while saving energy. As more communities have their electricity infrastructure upgraded to the smart grid, these devices will serve as the gateway to taking advantage of dynamic utility pricing.
Soon, your dishwasher might automatically delay its cycle until electricity rates are at their lowest, saving you money and reducing the frequency of brownouts during peak times.
Connected home security
Smart home cameras can give you a look inside your home when you’re not there, and send alerts if unexpected motion is detected.
In the future, this tech is a prime candidate for integration with existing facial recognition and home automation, tracking your location in real time far more accurately than GPS ever can.