The future of ...

Erwin van Lun predict the long term future and blogs about developments today gradually shaping that future. Also in Dutch

Robot hand with gentle touch grabs eggs

This robot hand, developed by the BioRoboticsLab at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, has three fingers, each with two segments, and is controlled by cables attached to a motor in the wrist. The motor is delicate enough that it can even handle objects as fragile as eggs, tomatoes and wine glasses. The egg example is demonstrated halfway through the video.

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

Three fingers, it’s just the beginning. We will have artificial hands that will play violin, like no human can. Maybe not quite within ten years, but in 2035 it’ll be very normal that a robot can do what humans can.

Energy efficient robot arm

This mechanical arm and hand uses no more energy than a couple of electric toothbrushes. The arm is supported by adjustable springs that counteract both its own weight and that of the object it is holding, so its motors need less power to hold and move objects. The smaller motors also make the arm lighter, and so less dangerous if it hits a worker.

The team at the BioRoboticsLab at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands that developed the device are now adapting their prototype for use in factories, and hope it could also improve artificial limbs.

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

We keep working on imitating real people. All components currently being developed in laboratories will finally add up and between 2020 and 2035 we’ll be shaking hands with humanoids like it’s the most normal thing in the world.

Figure comes out of iPhone with augmented reality

Cyber figure Alice is the world's first Augmented Reality character in a consumer's product. With software, various attributes and a webcam she appears on screen. She crawls from the different markers (printed on the six sides of a cube), but also recognizes images on the iPhone. Then you can interact with Alice. She has a personality, responds when you touch her and is happy when you give her gifts. She even changes or undresses if you want it. The whole game is for sale for $150. Below the video with the iPhone demo.

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Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

Everything will respond to everything. Just like the webcam responds to the iPhone, the iPhone can react to the webcam image, or the tv, or the radio, or the people in the room, but it’ll really be fun when everything reacts to everything. That’s just a matter of time.

75% Mini-owners part of a community

75% of the owners of a Mini living in the US are members of a Mini-community. Not only do most members of the community stay loyal to the brand and buy another Mini, but it’s claimed that about half of all sales leads are actually generated by the site.

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

Brands are increasingly becoming an open network of people where the division between employee and consumer will fade entirely. This is a nice example. Currently 75% is a member of the community, later you’ll standardly be a member when you buy a Mini (new or second-hand) and you determine your activity level. Then you can save customers’ individual transactions and, if wanted, show them, so that you get ‘my Minis’. You can add a picture to it and it’ll be a whole party. Brands with a symbolic function can do this kind of thing, and successfully so it seems.

Artificial nose

Researchers have developed a variety of chemical sensing technologies, or artificial noses. So far, though, these devices work only for a limited range or a certain class of chemicals, and are typically stymied by mixtures of chemicals.

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Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

Artificial noses will be part of our extented sensory system, like contact lenses and hearing aids, like virtual reality glasses and 3D sound ear plugs. We will be able to smell odors better than dogs can, enabling us to smell the presence of others, now or just a few hours ago. It will also enable us to detect illnesses, of ourselves or others. And it will help us to train our olfactory organ, restoring our natural capability to use this sense to make decisions in daily life, for example in communication with others.

Kiva for transparent microcredits

Through Kiva you can lend money to an entrepreneur (in a developing country) directly. With your loan you allow people to lift their lives above the poverty line. You choose an entrepreneur, pay a maximum of 25 euros (by credit card or Paypal) and you get your money back without 6 to 12 months. All investments are shown orderly and you get updates via email.

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Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

Kiva is just a new-style bank. Borrowing/Lending money, saving money, entrepreneurship. It’s all about mutual trust. Later on another social layer will be on top of this: you can build a reputation as an entrepreneur. Have you borrowed successfully before? Are you recommended by others who borrowed successfully before (that’s an indication this person might be trustworthy too), do you come from a family which has successfully started a business? Or has the borrower contacts who’ve borrowed from you before? It all adds up. And they’re undoubtedly the next steps which organizations of Kiva are working on.

Triodos shows investments on map

Dutch bank Triodos Bank lets you see exactly which companies are financed by Triodos Bank and where the interest on your savings comes from. You can also see which local entrepreneurs in your area are supported by your money. You can see the map on the site Mijn geld gaat goed.

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

With banking it’s all about trust. Where trust used to come from stock notation and visibility that’s now going to come from transparency. Later on you’ll be able to decide where you want to invest or not. Or you can think along with an entrepreneur you’ve invested in. Or you get a signal when you walk past a project you’ve contributed to. That’s a very different dynamic from the banks which are now wobbling (and will crash).

Wonga deposits loan in a few minutes

Using Wonga people in the UK can take short mini-loans online. Or, as they call it themselves, 'instant money' or 'cash on demand'. The applicant can determine the figure and span themselves and hear immediately if the loan is agreed to and, when it's accepted, you can expect the money on your account in a few minutes.

The loan vary between 50 and 200 pounds and have a maximum time span of 30 days. Wonga maintains an interest of 1% a day and £5,50 transaction costs per loan. To stimulate quick payback good borrowers get a higher score and as such more flexibility on future loans. This is how Wonga manages to reduce its debit costs. (demo)

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

Everything will become real time, everything will become instantaneous. Later on, you’ll be able to do this via mobile phone, anywhere in the world. Furthermore your reputation will go up if you friends’ reputation is high. And furthermore you’ll be able to borrow money from your friends directly too. They can, for example, stipulate an amount they want to lend to friends with a good pay-back reputation. This is how Wonga will facilitate in a very fast, worldwide but reliable economy. A foundation you can build on. This is a step in that direction.

People can only oversee the coming weeks

Research shows that the best time to ask someone a favour is a few weeks before. It shows that people consistently overburden themselves because they believe to have more time in future.

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

In the future of 2050 we’ll barely plan far ahead and live by the day. That sounds short-sighted, but if we leave the long-term planning to computers we can enjoy the moment far more than we do now. This kind of insight are the arguments for this.

3D models from Google Earth as augmented reality

Using ARSights it's possible to see the 3d models of buildings from Google Earth on your webcam images, added to the normal image. You do have to install the Google Earth API on your Windows computer first. Then you install the ARSights application and print the marker. If you then hold the marker in front of the camera you'll automatically see the models appear (demo)

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

It won’t be long before we see the 3d models immediately. We won’t need to install anything; we’ll just be walking down the street with our mobile phones and the environment will be recognized. From famous buildings, but increasingly also of less famous buildings and then also of regular houses that are for sale and of which the owner is sharing the models. This is how the world is becoming (almost literally) transparent.

Voice notes

Microsoft's Recite software is an ultra-simple voice note app for smart phones. One button records your quick notes, and the magic happens with a second button that you use to search your previously recorded notes by voice. For example, you can record "Sean Cooper's birthday is May 22" and later search on "Sean," "Sean Cooper," "birthday," or any combination of words you've mentioned in the note to recall it.

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

Speech innovations will be very important in the medialandscape the next years. Now it’s the machine (the phone itself) which recognizes your voice, but soon it will be the brand you want to talk with which will recognize your voice and continue the dialogue whenever you want.

Solar powered reading light

Electronics manufacturer Philips will launch a new solar powered reading light, which enables people to read (and write) after dark. The light – called ‘My Reading Light’ – was developed specifically for the education sector in Africa and will allow a new generation of school children to continue with their homework after sunset.

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Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

Developments like this will have a tremendous impact on third world countries. Even the most rural areas will be connected by solar lighting and solar internet connections. The world will experience cultural clashes like never before, but it will also balance the knowledge in the world. Combined with the young demographics, Africa will finally be the future continent.

Phone on solar energy

Samsung has created the Blue Earth, a touch screen device that works on solar energy, made from recycled plastic (PCM). The device comes with an energy efficient charger: in stand-by mode it takes up less than 0.03 W.

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

A device from which third world countries, very poor people and the homeless, will profit from the most, when the prices have gone down enough. It’s not a nice gesture; it’s a very important development. It’ll lead to a fundamental change in the world’s balance. And that the Western world wants to call ‘green’ is completely beside the point, but we like to stress it a little.

Widgets on TV

The newest Sony Bravia tvs allow widgets. In a widget, an application that appears on screen, a company can show specific (personalized) information. By making a choice of the widgets that can appear we can determine what we want to see on our opening screen.

Future vision by Erwin Van Lun

And this gives the concept ‘multimedia’ a whole new meaning for brands. Where first we spoke of text, in combination with pictures, sound and moving images – we think that’s normal now and see it everywhere – now we’re switching to a situation in which text, images and sound are transmitted across a series of difference devices with different properties. The tv is the biggest (consumer) screen, and brands have to earn a place there too. Because the time that you could simply buy 30 seconds in a consumer’s evening is now finally going away.

117 million mobile internet users in China

CNNIC reports that, end 2008, there were 640 million mobile phone users in China (that's half the entire country's population) of which 117 million have used their mobile phone to access the internet in the past half year. That's double the number last year. 43% uses internet daily. 70% is 19 or younger.

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