When can we buy robots that will complete all our household chores for us? When will our gadgets be grafted onto our skin and powered by our blood? And when will transporting items into space be as easy as opening an elevator and pressing the "Up" button?
Tech trend forecasting firm Envisioning Technology has put together a beautiful infographic that examines current scientific and technological research and predicts when in the next 28 years possible innovations might become reality. The graphic, titled "Envisioning Emerging Technology For 2012 And Beyond," separates breakthroughs into 11 categories -- artificial intelligence, Internet, robotics and space, to name a few -- and lets users hover over each item to see more information.
Emerging technology strategist Michell Zappa, who led the research team that gathered data for the graphic, told The Huffington Post that this mapping of tech's future was more than a purely imaginative exercise. "My hopes are to enable policy-makers and entrepreneurs to make better decisions about what the near future might look like," Zappa wrote in an email. "The idea behind mapping all of these emerging technologies is to reduce the guesswork about plausible scenarios, which in consequence should allow us to develop better futures."
Just don't expect to see flying cars anytime soon -- they're not included in the infographic. Writes Zappa, "Flying cars, along with cold fusion and quantum computing have been in the 'pipeline' too long to hold any real credibility as a potential emerging technology, in my opinion [...] They're evidently all plausible, but very little current research points to either being rolled out or produced at scale."
Flying cars aside, some of our favorite tidbits from this vision of the future include the prediction that the global online population will jump from roughly 2.5 billion in 2012 to as many as 5 billion after 2019. During that time, Envisioning Technology also sees the number of Internet-connected devices increasing from 10 billion to as many as 50 billion -- that's as many as 10 devices for every person online.
A few more mind-blowing highlights:
- 2018 - 2019: Self-driving cars let human drivers relax behind the wheel.
- 2019 - 2020: 5G connectivity becomes the norm, replacing 4G; traveling into space becomes a leisure activity; eyewear comes equipped with tiny displays that project into the wearer's retina.
- 2026: Humans hand off household chores to domestic robots.
- 2030: Displays can be embedded into human skin and powered by the blood.
- 2034: Manned missions to Mars begin.
- 2036 - 2037: Materials are transported from the surface of the earth into space using an elevator-like structure.
- 2037 - 2038: Anti-aging drugs make us all look young and lovely forever.
Some of these, like autonomous cars and eyewear-embedded screens, aren't too hard to imagine. A number of companies, including Google, have already begun road-testing autonomous vehicles, and the states of Nevada and California have already granted preliminary approval to such tests. Google is also planning a 2014 release date for the consumer version of its Project Glass device, an Internet-connected augmented reality headset that displays digital info on a postage stamp-sized screen that sits over one of the wearer's eyes.
Check out the entire infographic below. Mouse over each item to pull up its description and find out more about how life might change in the near future. For an embeddable PDF version, visit EnvisioningTech.com, where you can also purchase a large poster of the infographic.
[Hat tip, Fast Company]