When Steve Wozniak first saw Atari’s game Pong, he experienced a creative spark that went on to define the future of computing.
Speaking at the recent World Business Forum in Sydney in interview with Brendon Riley, Telstra’s Group Executive, Global Enterprise and Services, Mr Wozniak offered his take on the next big innovations that will shape our professional and personal lives.
1. Self-driving vehicles
Topping the list are smart, self-driving or autonomous cars with advanced navigation technologies. Familiar on the roads of Silicon Valley courtesy of Google, Mr Wozniak said self-driving vehicles will soon be a “big thing”.
“I think after some period of time every manufacturer in the world will have self-driving cars,” he said. “The accidents will be so low there will be some laws against humans driving their own cars.”
Google believes its self-driving car will be ready by 2020, and is already in talks with vehicle manufacturers about mass-production. Google also reports its self-driven cars have already driven nearly 1 million miles.
2. Delivery drones
Drones are firmly part of the modern lexicon, with hobbyists and artists among the first adopters of consumer-grade drones.
Wozniak hopes some of the technical and legislative issues they present will be resolved so they can be used commercially. “I would love to order from Amazon.com and have it delivered to my home in 15 minutes,” he said.
3. Virtual reality
Virtual reality, or augmented-reality technologies, are taking off in computer gaming. Among the most intriguing, Wozniak said, is the Rift, a wearable virtual reality head-mounted display being developed by Oculus VR.
He said this type of technology will transform not just computer games, but will also augment other interactions with the real world, enhancing experiences like shopping and travelling.
Wozniak drew a comparison to the way he felt when spinning the navigation wheel of an iPod – it was a good user experience – and such compelling emotions will underpin emerging virtual-reality technologies.
4. Artificial intelligence
We are getting to a stage where it’s possible computers will begin teaching themselves, Wozniak said, noting this area of innovation is gaining considerable international attention. Yet he hopes computers will only ever reach the level of human intelligence to prevent the sort of downsides we typically see in movies and TV shows.
5. Computer hardware innovation
Wozniak expects further innovation in computer hardware, particularly storage devices, networks and the switching equipment that connects us to the internet.
He notes that it’s easy to overlook the role of hardware in a mobile and cloud-based world, but hidden away in server rooms are “huge, fast hard disks and solid-state disks doing all the work and telling computers what to do”.
Future developments will increase internet speeds, video downloads and make it easier to conduct online research.