Smartware are computing systems that require little active user input, integrate the digital and physical worlds, and continually learn on their own. Now, in this, the final edition of our column on smartware, we’ll consider how the powerful capabilities of smartware will enable new interactions and user experiences that, over time, will become seamlessly integrated into our digital lives. Read More
Do you remember the first time you saw magic? Something that stretched your imagination beyond what you thought possible? For Dirk, this happened in a most unlikely place: a Sears store in a sleepy mid-Western shopping mall, circa 1977, at a demonstration of the Home Pong console, which was, at the time, the latest technological wonder. A small crowd had gathered in awe around a chunky tube TV, and children and adults alike turned the control wheels with delight, bouncing a pixelated ball back and forth. Although, as a child, Dirk had experienced a variety of traditional magic shows involving cards, rings, and pigeons, it was that Pong demonstration that stayed with him. In that moment, the television transformed into a machine with which he could interact, and he began a newfound relationship with the screen.
The interactivity that so enthralled Dirk that day is, in fact, core to computing. Ever since consumers adopted the earliest personal computers, we’ve input commands to yield desired outputs. Today, however, interactivity is changing, becoming far less direct. Using artificial intelligence (AI), services such as Amazon and Netflix have mapped a detailed identity graph for each of their customers. Machine learning enables these services to recommend products that customers are likely to buy and new shows that viewers are likely to enjoy. Read More
The push for education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by governments and in business is now more than a decade old. Over this period of time, society has embraced intelligence and welcomed geekdom—at least on the surface. We see this in aspects of popular culture that demonize bullying, glorify inclusivity, and make it admirable, if not cool, to be smart.
At the same time, scientific research is experiencing a golden age. One reason for this boom: the ubiquity of the Internet, which revolutionized communication and information dissemination in the 1990s and has fostered greater cross-disciplinary involvement among researchers in disparate fields. New tools and technologies have galvanized the cross-pollination of ideas and revealed the intricacies and secrets of the human animal as never before. Over just the last two decades, we have developed plausible solutions for questions that have beguiled us for all of human history. This is an incredible time for scientific discovery and insight—one that will also have profound impacts on the everyday technologies that will surround us in the 2020s. Read More