Looking Ahead to Future Communication
One way we might see advances in communication is through augmented reality. In an augmented-reality system, you view the world through a technological overlay. This could take the form of a hand-held device like a smartphone — there are several augmented-reality applications already available right on your phone. Another application is through a set of augmented-reality glasses. In either case, you can view the world around you and see real-time digital information about what you're viewing.
The classic example of augmented reality is the restaurant review. You could stand in front of a restaurant and, through an augmented-reality system, read customer reviews or view the daily specials without ever walking inside. But the applications don't have to stop with locations. Augmented-reality systems might extend to people as well. Imagine looking at a stranger and seeing that person's name, Facebook profile, Twitter handle and other information. Clearly, augmented reality systems will raise concerns about privacy and safety, but such systems are already in development.
Then there's video conferencing. The technology is not new but video calls have grown in popularity in the United States in the last few years. Mostly used in virtual workplaces or among friends, cameras on laptops and on phones have helped to facilitate the spread of video conferencing.
One drawback to video conferencing is that it might require you to stay in one place for the duration of the call — for example, if you are on a job interview — or to hold a device so that you're visible for the whole conversation.
Language barriers are disappearing as well. Devices that can translate languages in real-time allow people from different countries and cultures to communicate without the need for an interpreter.
In the distant future, we may be able to communicate by sending our thoughts through a network directly into someone else's brain. We're decades away from such technology, but scientists are working on creating brain-computer interfaces that allow people to transmit thoughts directly to a computer. Perhaps 50 years from now we'll all use an electronic version of telepathy.
The technology of communication evolves at a blistering pace. It may turn out that our predictions don't even scratch the surface. Only time will tell.
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