Holograms, virtual reality and AI: The future is already here, says Google

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Creative specialist Amar Thanki spelled out innovations ranging from holograms fashioned from 3D pixels to ocean-cleaning bikinis

LONDON — Forget "Back To The Future." The future is now, with a multitude of future-gazing research and technologies already shaping the way humans will live for years to come.

Speaking at BBH's SXW1 Digital Expo here Wednesday, Google creative specialist Amar Thanki delved into the future, pondering how sci-fi films like "Back to the Future," "The Matrix" and "Minority Report" have seeded wild ideas that are already fast becoming reality. 

Here are the most forward-thinking, pioneering innovations out there, according to Thanki.

Virtual reality, frighteningly realistic holograms and the rise of the "uncanny valley"
Virtual reality is somethig brands and technophiles have been obsesssed with for some time, but Thanki says technology is making it even more realistic and that the tech is "seriously about to level up."

VR has become so realistic, in fact, that gamers may find themselves experiencing "uncanny valley" — which is shorthand for being freaked out by virtual reality that is so realistic it looks and feels like the experience of real life but isn't quite right. This concept has been explored in films like "The Matrix" and "Inception."

Thanki outlined laser technology and holograms that can mimic physical physical objects to such a highly detailied degree so the human brain can't comprehend the difference.

Scientists are designing holograms that are made using "3D pixels," he said — tiny particles in the air to project images rather than traditional vapor or smoke.

Artificial intelligence as the next phase of human evolution
AI could dramatically enhance human life as it evolves and "will impact technology in ways we can't comprehend yet," Thaki predicted.

Just two weeks ago, he said, Illinois university developed a robot that had the IQ of a four-year-old child — a development that is "pretty scary" and perhaps indicative of the human evolution path to come.

It can also enhance accuracy in surgery, he said, by separating cancerous from healthy cells, for example and pinpointing where treatment is needed.

A supercomputer has already been developed that can tell with 96% accuracy when a patient is likely to die within 30 days by reading data including blood pressure to oxygen levels.

Liquid data that can transform the human body
Scientists have been able to transfer data including genetic information onto human cells and DNA, which could pave the way for future treatments. They can be synthesised into liquid form and can hold 490 billion gigabytes of data onto a single gram.

He said current predictions state that by 2020 all the data used in the world will amount to 40 trillion gigabytes. This could be stored on 82 grams of DNA — the size of an egg.

"These are massive enhancements," he said.

Responsive tech and wacky self-molding objects
Scientists are already experimenting with 3D printed clothes and have designed bikini sets that literally clean up toxins from the ocean when you swim. It's hard to imagine the concept could overtake the traditional two-piece any time soon but the concept taps into a desire for collective human action.

And then there's the concept of smart, adaptive "intelligent furniture" that can change its shape by moving according to the proximity of a person and predicting their next action, such as sitting down.

For example, in the future you could reach over to your responsive table to put down your iPad (or probably something even more mind blowing than that) and the unit will adapt its shape to create a convenient holder. Or your furniture could adapt to create a board game for you.

Marty's self-tying shoes? Eat your heart out.

Next-generation energy powered by technology
Just as Dr Brown in "Back the the Future" refuels his car with rubbish, so too are scientists developing new ways to harness energy from waste and natural sources of energy like solar power.

Now researchers have developed a portable, light weight, totally transparent solar cell that can create energy from the sun in a more powerful, convenient way than bulky solar panels. Imagine the power that could be absorbed from an entire skyscraper in sunlight, Thaki said.

3D architecture and bridge-building drones
Everyone's gone mad for 3D printing — with many a brand shoehorning it into their PR plans via the creation of fun but impracticle figurines and objects.

But imagine a world where you could 3D print hospitals, schools and cathedrals? That time is already here, Thanki said. And with 3D printers already creating intricate architectural buildings in Beijing, it is not too far fetched to envisage a future where it could be the norm.

Drones, too, could be used to limit the need for inetensive human labor.

Researchers have already programmed small drones to create a sturdy rope bridge in an experiment and in future, this could be scaled up with drones sent to environments where it is too dangerous to build.

The pilotless planes could also be used to deliver medicine and emergency supplies to developing countries and diaster-hit zones, Thanki said.

This article first appeared on marketingmagazine.co.uk.


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