Archive for the 'Nanotechnology' Category

Visions of the Future, No more screens.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Recent conversations about completely unrelated technologies with my friend Alden had me coming back to the blog so I can share with you some of my visions of what I really expect the future to bring one day in terms of technology. Some of these ideas will seem far fetched, but hey, dreaming is free.

I’ll be writing about these visions in posts to come, some of them I think I could even be part of right now to start changing the lives of millions, others I know are completely out of my reach. VCs and Entrepreneurs start taking notes and steal the ideas.

The End of Computer and TV Screens

I want to live in a world where I don’t need a computer screen to use an operating system or watch tv or movies.
I want to live in a world where there’s no limit in screen resolution, where I’ll be only limited by the capacity of my brain to process images.

I think the solutions will be implemented somehow (we’re thinking very high level here) in the following stages:

The Visual Stream will be “projected” first onto my retina, it’ll be part of a pair of sun glasses, or glasses. In the same device there’s also a camera and microphone that exists to read my arms/hands gestures and to interpret voice commands.

Months later they’ll come up with smaller, better technology that can be embedded in contact lenses.

You could achieve this stages, at first using an external device for processing the data, namely your smartphone connects to the Retina Projector Wirelessly. As technology gets better (maybe truly powerful nano-computing happens) all the processing could be done in the the glasses or contact lenses themselves.

Years go by and then it happens the way it should. The user interface and video streams are projected directly into our Brain’s Visual Cortex, all input from you (arms, fingers, facial gestures and maybe even thoughts) is read directly from different sections of the brain.

The applications would be amazing, content could be delivered directly to us, no need for computers or even a workplace. This would kill huge part of the electronics industry and would create a replacing technological field (brain processing units -> BPUs) so we get a better experience year after year.

If you’re currently working with a computer in an office 24/7, you could be doing that laying by a pool with your eyes closed not moving an inch of your body, yet being extremely productive or entertained. How many times I’m extremely busy but I feel bad that I haven’t gone to the gym or for a walk to get a little workout, I wouldn’t have to hold my smartphone and read that tiny ass screen, I could be walking and reading news, a book, or watching tv in a translucent screen the size of the sky if I wanted to.

There is be no IMAX theater screen that can match the size of a screen that’s as big as your imagination.

Stay tuned for more tangible visions on Brain Computer Interaction, and ideas for Smartphone software that we could be building today (had I the resources to do so)

What will be the next thing after the Internet?

Saturday, March 25th, 2006

My girlfriend is doing a paper on how to distribute media (mostly video) through the Internet, and why we’re not quite there yet, during the conversation we started talking about the evolution of technology and she came up with a very interesting set of thoughts. This post will be about how people grew up along technologies and analizing certain factors to try to predict what might be the next boom for humanity (Are we still hoping for those flying cars?)

And Radio was Born

I guess I could talk first about printed media, but I so little time to do this post, and even though its a very interesting subject, even beginning from Radio, I still have a lot to talk about before I get to the point

If your grandma was born around the 30s, she grew up listening to the radio, since first commercial broadcasts where done around that time. Come to think about it, it’s true, radio has evolved from probably as a secret technology used in war, to commercial broadcasting, and now we have satellite radio, and of course the internet mimics it with radio streams, and now with smarter radio broadcasts that adapt to what you like, see Last.fm and Pandora. The best part, is that people seem to love this technologies so much, to the point that it’s hard for them to let go and move on, or being afraid of the next thing, specially if they’re too old. I say this because of the behaviour of my grand parents, they still listen to A.M. radio (and they still play the good old tunes and present news the old fashioned way in some A.M. stations, at least in Venezuela), they watch tv, but they won’t use the internet)

TV!

And then your parents around the 50s started tasting the first commercial broadcasts in Black and White, and then people started getting divorces, or women went to work, and probably your parents, or the generation in between, and probably you, and your little brothers have been raised by that magic box that sits on the living room or in your room (and that box is getting flatter and flatter each year).

My prediction on tv is that it will be actually a computer (that looks like a tv) and content will be distributed via internet to it, allowing users to really see what they want, whenever they want, and not only that, share content, and interact with people to know and to recommend what to see. Imagine you’re watching your tivo, and you get an icon on the screen, you click on it, and a friend of yours has sent you a recommendation to see something that’s happening right now, or maybe something he recorded for you… that’s how I would like to watch tv sometimes, watch whatever I want, whenever I want, and If I don’t know what I want, have my friends tell me what cool things I shouldn’t miss

PCs and Video Games

And probably some of your parents, are still a little reluctanct to get in touch with the internet, they might use the computer for very basic things, but you’ll see that it’s quite hard to make them do things more advanced, unless they have a very curious or journalistic spirit in them, to become bloggers, or understand what RSS feeds are, or go and learn html, javascript, or Ruby, and get themselves wet with P2P or all the things the internet brings… They still enjoy watching TV, they like their cable service (somehow)… personally I hate flipping through hundreds of channels with a lot of garbage and advertisement, or having to wait a special day, at a special hour to watch what I want, for some of us, there’s no such thing as prime time anymore, we’re too busy and we can’t waste time.

But then again, there’s this generation of people from 1975 ahead, that grew up watching tv, and around 1980 had an ATARI joystick in their hands, and then around 1985 the Personal Computer was available on the market and they played with the Apple // or the first IBM PCs, and we feel like all this electronic stuff is almost an extension of our bodies, so we can adapt to technology naturally (I want too see how my kids will do it). The best part of it all, is that we can appreciate every little thing that comes out because we have experienced all of it from the very beginning, nowadays it’ll be very hard to impress a 10 year old with the graphics of a PS3 game, at least they won’t be as impressed as me, who used to play

So Video Games are very interesting, they have a hughe market, and they can be played on that Magic box, on computers, and now they’re mobile (I gotta get one of those PSPs but then my productive blogging/coding life would be over, I know it)

Internet

So like 10 years after people started watching tv, some guys formed Arpanet, and I’m not sure when a guy in CERN came up with the whole concept of Hyperlinks and the web, but we were too busy watching tv and listening to radio, and buying vinyl records, and then CDs, and things started getting digital, and we got cellphones (which are a great great invention ), so up until around 96 that Arpanet I mentioned was replicated by companies and they made it available through dial-up, making it all over the place, and some of us tried HTML based chatrooms, and Webcrawler, and the reign of Altavista, and we all used Netscape, and we had our phone lines busy and paying big phone bills (at least in South America where they had no flat rates), and we tried ICQ and chats were obsolete, and then we tried Napster, and the best downloading music service ever called Audiogalaxy (when it was free and the RIAA wasn’t around) and that fax modem was burning hot (and public p2p was born, but some geeks like me used IRC to get the goodies, and people that were even geekier than me were using the internet way before this with BBCs and got stuff through usenet…)

Now its all broadband in most places (although a lot of people still need to get it), and connections are getting faster, and companies are investing in fiber optics and they’re starting to promise higher speeds of 50mbits, and then I think my girlfriend’ s paper will be very easy to write, at 50mbits transfering movies will be so easy, and imagine P2P networks with all that bandwidth. (omg, all the cool services and fields we’ll be able to add to those protocol packets)

So what’s next Guby?

So as you have seen, everything is an ugly, but tasty mess. The internet has put everything we did before on it, it’s been a meta-techonological-platform, and it exists because of many inventions, the Internet is and is because of Printed Media, Radio, TV, Music, Phones, Cellphones… so, let’s suppose one day, everything will actually be on the internet… no more need for current Radio (Wireless internet will deliver Digital Streams and Satellite Radio), or Phones (which is starting to happen with VoIP, or Skype, or when we have wireless internet all over we port skype or VoIP to cellphones), and TV the same way, and why not movie theathers, Movie distribution to digital theaters by download…

So If things will be the way I picture, for the next thing after the Internet to come… it basically needs two things:

  • Global Wireless Support
  • A Lot of Bandwidth

And there’s a lot of people working to make this happen, people working on stuff like Cognitive Radio, Internet 2, and so many other developments in the area that I can’t think of right now (read MIT Technology review, or Wikipedia if you want more insight you’ll find a lot there).

20 years ago computers were something for nerdy wizards, some people wouldn’t even use them, and software development or hardware development was a mistery to most people. And everybody said… If you study computers you’ll make big bucks (and for some this was true, and still is), but I believe that for smart people computers aren’t that much of a mistery anymore and you can go to school and learn, or if you have the time you can use the internet and learn how to do software, or learn about electronics and put a chip on a board and play with it…

So what is it?

So what would I recommend for your baby kids to go to school for now? what’ll be the next thing to change the world, or the next thing to become the platform for an invention as big as the internet (if the internet can be called an invention, or more like a hub for all technological inventions have found its own little space to interact with each other and make the whole system better and better), where the Internet and many other things will converge?, or work along with?

If I had a son/daughter I would tell him/her… “Study Nanotechnology, and you’ll make the big bucks and you might help change the world in the process”.

So as a computist, I know I still haven’t changed the world, and I hope I can change a little bit of it with software I’ll write during the rest of my life, but I wasn’t born back at the Arpanet when everything was still dark magic, where the decisions made on those project gave us amazing tools today, and also gave us big nuisances like spam (bad design of email).

Now,I believe, is the dark magic era of Nanotechnology, where only a few privileged have the privilege of doing research and development of technologies most of us only have a very unclear idea, no matter how much we read about it. Thank god, the dark era of nanotechnology is moving way faster than that of the internet, thanks to it and the power of computers nowadays.

I remember I first heard about Nanotechnology around 2000, and I thought we’d the the very first fruits of it 15 years later… well, we’re starting to see the fruits of it now, step by step, although I think there are many companies out there using the “nano” word for marketing purposes (please don’t think of the iPod nano as a fruit of Nanotechnology, although its a pretty cool and amazing device if you think of it from the perspective of someone who used a walkman in the past), there have been several developments in this area that are giving us better, stronger, lighter materials, and they’re starting to experiment with biology at nanolevels.

Nanotechnology is of similar nature to computer, but it goes beyond it. Computer technology can help in almost every area of human knowledge but it can’t directly touch or be part of things, Computers are more like tools, where Nanotechnology can be part of everything. Nanotechnology can be inside your blod, inside your screen, in the air. I see nanotechnology is a very broad word to be honest. I think you can divide it in many different areas, and I wish I was an expert to give you the full lecture on it, but from what I know I can say you can have:

  • Nanoagents and Nanotools
  • Nanomaterials
  • (See Wikipedia for a better definition than mine, the explain molecular manufacturing or nano systems)

    Nanoagents I see as nanomachines, or nanocomputers, where some or millions of them will interact with each other and with the target environment where they are deployed to fix, build, change it, or mantain it. Examples of what I think could be done with Nanoagents… Nanomedicine (already in progress there are designs of nanoparticles that guide drugs to fight cancer and other illnesses. Governments probably have research labs developing biotech weapons with nanoagents).

    Nanoagents could help genetists too, imagine nanoagents that would go and fix your dna to avoid cancer or other ilnesses that are waiting to be triggered at some point in your life… or maybe you want to have a child with blue eyes…, and I guess genetics and genome studies can also be called a nanotechnology (but then again, I don’t know if this happens at a nanoscale or at a bigger scale, remember nano, is very very small, it’s at a molecular level).

    One of my favorite, and probably hardest to accomplish dreams of Nanotech, would be the to use Nanoagents that can be spread in the air,land or water, these little fuckers would be smart enough to detech the different types of molecules and once deployed they would be used to alter the target molecules to clean pollution or help regulate the weather, change temperature, humidity, then transport them elsewhere and give rain, snow, sunshine, or clouds where needed, although if this was possible one day, it could be dangerous, mother nature knows best, although it be good if we fixed all the damages done to the planet. I can’t imagine the complexity of what I just proposed, how to power these little machines, how would they store molecules, and how they would travel, but then again, I think everything is possible.

    Then we have Nanomaterials, which I would define as arrays of nano-constructs. If we thought of nano technology as geometry, there would have to be basic shapes, like dots, lines, poligons, ovals, then you use these to build 3d solids, and so on… Nanotechnology must have the same, and I know you’ve probably heard of carbon nanotubes… these materials are being developed as we speak. I read an article about these nanotubes being used on tv screens. I’ve also read about nanomaterials being used to recharge batteries out of solar light, so you could use thin films of this material as an envelope for your laptop, or cellphone, and just by having your laptop exposed to sunlight it would charge… I read about this and many of the things I’ve mentioned on MIT Technology Review.

    Some researchers are using Nanotechnology to develop new disruptive data storage technologies, let me quote from TechWeb article:

    Nano-engineered information storage products will surpass the $65 billion mark by 2011, potentially disrupting traditional storage markets, said a report released Wednesday.

    “Nanostorage is potentially highly disruptive for the disk drive industry,” states the report from market research firm NanoMarkets. “It alters the boundaries between disk drives and memory chip. High-density, small footprint nanostorage technologies will enable a new generation of consumer devices, such as portable HDTV players as well as new media formats based around holographic memory.”

    The report examines various nanostorage technologies including MRAM, FRAM, holographic memory, ovonic unified memory, molecular memory, nanotube RAM, MEMS-based memory and polymer memory.

    Some interesting uses I’ve seen on movies, girls using nanohairtints to change hair color at will… or imagine the same applied to the walls of your house, or your car. Could we use this to generate gold?, Nanotechnology if going too far will disrupt everything, and we’ll have people working at it in all levels.

    So come back to reality and see how it works now for computers and the internet. There’s a chain, first you have people who barely hear about computers and internet, but their life is affected by them in ways they can’t imagine. Then you have direct users, people who depend on information systems, telecommunications, etc. Then you have system integrators, people who know the technology at a level where they can install it, and integrate it in some ways, and maybe develop a few basic things using things here and there… and these guys make decent money, and then you have people who disrupt and build the backbone of the technology, people like Intel engineers, making the cpus (and you can have very very smart programmers that know a lot about process architecture and how to use them with Assembler code, but can they build one?, I don’t think so), who do you think makes the big bucks?

    So, if Nanotechnology were to affect everything, from how you dye your hair, to how you fuel your car (just imagine the decay of the oil era, that’s another big post of its own), to how you live longer, or how you decide the color of the skin of your child or how smart he could be, to how we can have all the gold in the world (and economic schemes as we know it will be crap), where do you want to be on the Nanotechnology ladder?better yet, where will you put your children on that ladder, I think it’s too late for you now, unless you’re about to go to school and you already took a few courses on phisycs, chemistry, biology, and god knows what else do you need to start doing nanotechnology




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