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Futurist: Moving to the Mass Market Is Hard

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I am a long-time Futurist, and technologist. In my career, I have spanned the birth of personal computers, to the rise of Cloud Computing.

Moving from idea to mass market is really hard.

Moving from idea to mass market is really hard.

The cell phone came out of radios developed for WWII

I think I am adopting this as my starting point. Although, from now on, I will start with "as a futurist," I often look to what technology will bring to the rest of us. In this case, us refers to all of us. Not just those of us who live and breathe in the technology world. There are many things now I see and fear and work with that people don't see for many years; it is that evolution, that explosion, that I find interesting. I talked about things I thought would be big, ultimately, a bit. The reason for them never becoming big is, however, a very interesting concept. That move from idea to experiment and then to something we use daily is part of what I love about technology.

The move from idea to the mass market isn't easy. Sometimes it is more of an accident than a plan. For example, in the period after World War II, the reality of wartime production was a hard transition. One of the problems was that the parts built to support the war effort were often no longer needed. A great example of that is Radar Arrays. During the war, the need for Radar Arrays expanded rapidly. After the war, the market contracted nearly as fast. Companies have many radar arrays, and how can we reuse them? There was a lab looking for different things to do with Radar. There is a legend that a cheese sandwich ended up by an operating radar array, and the cheese in the sandwich melted. The melted cheese was just the start of the testing. The lab tested a lot of different food items, and they all got hot when exposed to the Operating Radar Array. In the end, it became what we now call the Microwave.

In the early days of automobiles, you had very little instrumentation with the vehicle you purchased. For example, a Model T did not have a number of interesting diagnostic instruments available to the driver. The advent of the computer chip, thanks to NASA and many other space agencies, allowed the placement of computers in automobiles. You can now have a digital display that shows you everything that is going on in your car. It can be fun to drive an old car until you realize there is no gas gauge. You have to use the old-fashioned method of placing a stick in the tank to see how much gas is in it. Most of us don't think about our gas gauge. Until that little red, you are almost out of gas light comes on. But we have gauges now in the car because there are computers.

The progression of the next device is also military to civilian. The cell phone burst out of the packet radio systems built during World War II. That old radio headset was huge compared to what we have today. They also didn't support your email, videos, or streaming services. But the origin remains that World War II communication system for field soldiers. The hand-held radio was not a mass-market device. The cellular phone became one very quickly.

The next house you buy, may have been printed by a 3d printer!

There was a time when your car didn't have a computer inside. There was a time when answering the phone was critical. You see, there was no such thing as voicemail or answering machines. If you missed the call, you missed the call. There wasn't even a caller ID! There were discussions we used to have. Do you let the phone ring seven times, or do you let the phone ring 11 Times? Rushing to answer the phone was back in the days before answering machines. There was a time when having a television was rare. Most people had ready. Radio is a great example of a technology that was new and then exploded. It is still widely used but does not have the mass market appeal it once did. I know I've cherry-picked big evolutions and technology to make my point. But the fact is there some technologies available today will become mass-market in the next few years. Of course, people like me also chase those technologies and adopt them from an early perspective. But those people on the bleeding edge will often tell you that the points of failure are much higher than the points of success. Still, as we think about the evolution of technology, it will be amazing. I think the next big evolution in technology is lying right there on the horizon now.

I'll end simply with this, 3D printers have gone from expensive to affordable. More and more people are buying and using 3D printers. The brain-computer interface world is expanding and growing rapidly. What is machine learning continues to expand further and further into everything we do. The machines around us are getting smarter, and a benefit to society could be significant. As I started as a futurist, I looked to the horizon of today and beyond the horizon, sometimes seeing what I think will be big. I still believe 3D printers are going to explode. More and more people will have one, and more and more 3D printers exist now and continue to exist and expand in the quality of what they can do. I will end by considering that a 3d printer may partially print the next house you buy!

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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