How Google Glass will Disrupt the Hearing Aid Industry?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 26th, 2013

Hearing aids are for old people. At least that’s what I thought when I was young and invincible attending rock concerts far louder than they should have been.

Even though I still have most of my hearing relatively intact, I’m also part of the aging baby boom generation whose sheer size is already beginning to tax the limits of today’s healthcare systems.

People over the age of 65 typically spend 3-5 times more on healthcare than those who are younger, so unless we figure out ways to radically disrupt this trend, we may all be dealing with some rather dire affordability issues. 

As a tiny pebble being dropped into the massive pond of healthcare costs, one of the first truly disruptive technologies for the hearing aid industry may be Google Glass with its conductive-bone audio transmission capabilities. 

Three features that give it such disruptive potential are the elimination of an earpiece, the processing capabilities of its onboard microprocessor, and an open API that allows the geeks of the world to develop apps far more ingenious than anything in existence.

Here are a few thoughts on why this tiny sub-category of Google Glass will likely have such a massive impact.

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Downloadable Personalities for Your Computer

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 19th, 2013

Fifteen years ago in an article I wrote for The Futurist Magazine, I made the prediction that once we had talking computers, we would soon have downloadable personalities to create a more human-like experience. I went on to suggest that most of us would actually download multiple personalities so we could interact with the right persona at any given moment.

Machine-like voices tend to grate on us after while, and the notion that the heartless pile of equipment we currently spend our days with could somehow be magically transformed into a warm and engaging human-like organism is rather alluring. Many of us would like to see that happen.

However, an interactive voice is only a small part of the “personality” equation. 

As we’ve seen from some of the early entrants in this space, most notable the smartphone duo of Siri and Robin, current technology leaves much to be desired. A few inquiries into a test run and you’ll find that most responses totally miss-the-mark.

Most GPS systems allow users to change the voice of their commands. But like Siri and Robin, these are one-dimensional voice-only manifestations of a personality, lacking the emotional queues, non-verbal expressions, and the intellectual prowess to answer anything more than a common factoid. 

Human-like personalities are hard to define, and since we don’t have any good examples of them, no one has any sense as to the needs or desires of a personality marketplace. 

For this reason I’d like to take you on a journey into the unchartered territory of downloadable personalities. 

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Monitoring People from Space: The Good the Bad, and the Ugly

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 11th, 2013

In the late 1980s, I was an engineer working as part of an IBM team to build a mobile satellite command and control center for monitoring missile launches from space. This contract was part of Regan’s “Star Wars” missile defense system.

Whenever a missile is launched, the heat plume coming out of the back of the rocket produces a distinct heat signature instantly detectable by satellites with infrared sensors.

The technology we were using over 25 years ago could instantly distinguish between types of rockets, calculate trajectory, and give information on time of impact.

Since those early years of working with infrared sensors I’ve often wondered if it would be possible to monitor people from space by tracking their personal heat signatures.

Two overarching trends that get little attention today are those of rapidly increasing precision and awareness. As both travel up the exponential growth curves of the emerging big data industry, what inevitably becomes possible is an ability to distinguish a person’s identity from a distance, even space.

On the surface this may be a frightening prospect. Having someone know where I am at any moment of the day, does indeed make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

But at the same time, there is an undeniable convenience factor. If a person is suffering a heart attack or stroke, being kidnapped, or otherwise in a condition of extreme stress, a monitoring system that can shave minutes off emergency response times can mean the difference between life and death.

As with many of today’s emerging technologies we have to sort the good from the bad. Here are a few thoughts on what may happen in the future. 

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Piercing the Field of Knowability

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 5th, 2013


“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it” Albert Einstein

As a futurist, I’ve always been interested in our relationship with the future. But lately I’ve become obsessed with understanding more about the dividing line between the present and the future.

I constantly find myself asking questions like, “when does the future end and the present begin?” and “how does the future become ‘now’ and where does it go from here?”

When thinking about this topic it’s easy to slip in thoughts about premonitions, ESP, and similar unexplained phenomena. But that’s not what this is about. Instead, I’m searching for a hard-science approach to the unveiling of the present.

Over the past year I’ve been developing a theory about what I call the “Field of Knowability.” Parts of this were described in a column I wrote on the “12 Laws of the Future.”

My theory begins with the assumption that there is a small gap in time between when the future is formed, and when we know about it. The point when we become “aware of the present” is what I refer to as the field of knowability.

This means that the “present” would exist for a tiny period of time, perhaps just a fraction of a second, before we ultimately experience it. Think of it as a staging area for what occurs next.

Here’s why I think this is important. 

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