A 2013 tech retrospective (and future trends)

  • Smaller has become cooler in computers. Tablets sales continued to increase and have eclipsed PCs and desktops. The iPad mini, which at first seemed to be a disappointment, was a major success. Prices are continuing to plunge as computing power and functionality grow exponentially. With the US availability of the India-made budget Datawind tablet, there will be greater downward pressure.
  • Electric cars proved their mettle. Tesla achieved astonishing success. Its stock rose to new heights. Consumer Reports gave Tesla’s Model S its highest ranking ever. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reaffirmed its 5-star safety ratings. Tesla has proven the viability of electric cars and demonstrated their superiority.
  • Technology is improving health care. Quantified Self devices such as Fitbit and Nike Fuelband are becoming widely available. Companies are running contests using these devices to encourage employees to get more exercise. Smartphone add-ons such as the Alivecor heart monitor are being prescribed by doctors.
  • Advancements in robotics. Computers have entered the age when they are able to learn from their own mistakes, a development that is about to turn the digital world on its head. Last year, Google researchers were able to get a machine-learning algorithm, known as a neural network, to perform an identification task without supervision. The network scanned a database of 10 million images, and in doing so trained itself to recognize cats.
  • The space race is on again. In 2013, India launched a spacecraft that is headed to Mars and China landed a six-wheel rover on the moon. China also announced that it is planning to land a man on the moon by 2025. Add to this the success that private companies SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Moon Express have had and you realise that we are at the cusp of a new era in space travel.
  • The bad news: we still have a few more years of disappointment before we marvel at all these advances. The base of an exponential curve is flat. When it turns upwards, dramatic developments happen, but for the longest time nothing seems to change. This is where we are with robotics, sensors, artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, 3D printing and medicine — all of which are exponential technologies.In 1977, the president of Digital Equipment Corp, Ken Olsen, famously said “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” The first personal computers were just for geeks and nerds. Then they were for the rich. About two decades ago, we began to question their usefulness and productivity. Now they are transforming industries, and we can buy a tablet for the price of a book.How to use this information:Providing an insightful answer to ‘still’ and ‘really’ questions hinges upon recognition of present and future trends.

via A 2013 tech retrospective (and future trends). from (NYT)

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