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
In this column on the future of computing, we’ll look at how a handful of advances—including artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), sciences of human understanding like neuroscience and genomics, and emerging delivery platforms such as 3D printers and virtual-reality (VR) headsets—will come together to transform software and hardware into something new that we’re calling smartware.
Smartware are computing systems that require little active user input, integrate the digital and physical worlds, and continually learn on their own.
A Tribute to Dead Machines
Humanity and technology are inseparable. Not only is technology present in every facet of civilization, it even predates archaeological history. Each time we think we’ve identified the earliest cave paintings—such as that by an unknown artist in Figure 1—stone tools, or use of wood for fuel, some archaeologist finds evidence that people started creating or using them even earlier. Indeed, while our own species, Homo sapiens, is only about 300,000 years old, the earliest stone tools are more than 3 million years old! Even before we were what we now call human, we were making technology. 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