The Future of Communications Technology

2 Feb

As technology has improved, the ways in which we communicate have changed and will continue to evolve along with the rapid growth of technology. From mail to the telegraph, to the telephone, to email, to video chat, the ways in which we communicate have exponentially improved, but is this progress nearing an end? Have we perfected communication? Of course we haven’t! While I can’t predict the future of the industry with certainty, the trends in science and business paint a fairly clear picture of what is important, and what issues will be addressed in the future products and services associated with communications.

Time is Money

Above all, communications technologies seek to convey information as accurately and immediately as possible, which explains the telephone’s popularity over the telegraph, email’s popularity over the telephone, and the growing popularity of Twitter and video chat. Each of these technologies has either improved the accuracy or time efficiency of transmitted information.

Personal Presence

Although email, texting, tweeting, and other forms of electronic correspondence seem to be less personal than telephone calls, people want to be as connected as possible to those whom they are communicating with. An interesting example of digital representation occurs in social gaming, where avatars allow users to connect with one another on a deeper level than a phone call would allow. I think that the prevalence of social gaming is due to the incorporation of this aspect of design. Visuals are becoming increasingly important in communication, whether they take the form of a profile picture, an avatar, or live video.

Motivation for Future Communications

If the importance of these trends holds in the coming years, we can expect new means of communication to arise that improve upon them. In my opinion, two existing technologies will be most important to communication in the future. The first is real-time video conferencing. Personal presence is so important that business people will fly thousands of miles to meet face to face with one another, even though that wastes an amazing amount of time and money that could be better spent elsewhere. Video conferencing will evolve to fit this need, saving time while preserving the personal presence that is infinitely valuable. Given, video conferencing will not replace travel, just as email has not replaced the phone, but like email, video conferencing will become much more prevalent.

Future Communications

Oddly enough, I think the next breakthrough will combine video conferencing with the unlikely lessons learned from social gaming. These games have shown that deep interactions between people are possible across a digital platform, which is the goal of video conferencing. This begs the question; what about games allow people to feel so involved? Games have captured freedom of motion as a means of transposing a person onto his or her avatar. This freedom needs to be integrated into video conferencing to enhance the depth of communication. A person needs to be granted more control when video conferencing. In the future, a person will be able to video conference with another person, move around in that area, and interact in that secondary environment. This technology would reduce the need to travel long distances frequently. If video conferencing were to allow a person to move between rooms without assistance, the purpose of travelling would be diminished. Futuristic video conferencing will be based around collaboration, and people will be able to work together on physical and digital projects. The downsides of this new video conferencing system are that it will never truly take the place of person-to-person contact, and furthermore, it will take a fair amount of time to be integrated into society. The costs of these systems will start high because the technology will undoubtedly require a new hardware system, but like tablets, smart phones, laptops, and cell phones before it, this new technology will transform the ways in which we communicate, and become commonplace in future.

Check out this video for a preview of the future video conferencing technology.

http://www.willowgarage.com/blog/2009/10/26/texas-robot

by Max Witt

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2 Responses to “The Future of Communications Technology”

  1. Julia Joy Berk February 4, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    Max, the idea of using avatars is fantastic. Do you imagine that I would be able to design my own avatar, or would I be assigned an avatar that resembled me? Would the avatars with whom I interacted be able to judge the strength of my handshake, or eye contact during presentations?

    Definitely food for thought. Thanks!

    • Max Witt April 19, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

      As I see technology progressing, our ‘avatars’ will closely mirror who we are. That is, our faces will be transmitted via video streaming, our gestures will be conveyed via some type of robotic arrangement, and we will be able to control our own movements as we see fit. I don’t think we will see handshaking avatars for a very long time. There are a number of technical and psychological problems associated with lifelike robotics ranging from the complexity of lifelike muscle movement to the aversion to robots that are ‘too human,’ but anything is possible.

      Sorry for the late response!

      Max

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