Feb 01 2024

Some Future Tech Possibilities

It’s difficult to pick winners and losers in the future tech game. In reality you just have to see what happens when you try out a new technology in the real world with actual people. Many technologies that look good on paper run into logistical problems, difficulty scaling, fall victim to economics, or discover that people just don’t like using the tech. Meanwhile, surprises hits become indispensable or can transform the way we live our lives.

Here are a few technologies from recent news that may or may not be part of our future.

Recharging Roads

Imaging recharging your electric vehicle wirelessly just by driving over a road. Sounds great, but is it practical and scalable? Detroit is running an experiment to help find out. On a 400 meter stretch of downtown road they installed inducting cables under the ground and connected them to the city grid. EVs that have the $1,000 device attached to their battery can charge up while driving over this stretch of road.

The technology itself is proven, and is already common for recharging smartphones. It’s inductive charging, using a magnetic field to induce a current which recharges a battery. Is this a practical approach to range anxiety? Right now this technology costs $2 million per mile. Having any significant infrastructure of these roads would be incredibly costly, and it’s not clear the benefit is worth it. How much are they going to charge the EV? What is the efficiency? Will drivers fork out $1000 for minimal benefit?

I think this approach has a low probability of working. Where I think there might be a role, however, is in long stretches of interstate highway. This will still be an expensive option, but a 100 mile stretch of highway, for example, fit with these coils would cost $200 million. Hopefully with mass production and advances the cost will come down, so maybe it will be only $100 million. That is not a bank breaker for a Federal infrastructure project. This could significantly extend the rage of EVs on long trips along such highways. Busy corridors, like I95, could potentially benefit. You could also put the coils under parking spaces at rest stations.

Will this be better and more efficient than just plugging in? Probably not. I give this a low probability, but it’s possible there may be some limited applications.


The Virtual Office

I like VR, and still use it for occasional gaming. I don’t use an app because it’s VR, but some VR games and apps are great. The technology, however, is not yet fully mature. Companies have tried to promote a virtual office in the past. Again it looks good on paper. Imagine having your office be a virtual space that you can configure anyway you want with everything you need to do right in front of you.

But these efforts all failed, because people simply don’t like wearing heavy goggles on their face for hours at a time. I get this – I can only play VR games for so long at once, then I need to stop. It can be exhausting (that is actually a feature for me, not a bug, to get off my chair, and at least stand up and move around). But for an 8 hour work day – no way.

Ideas that look good on paper often don’t die completely, they keep coming back. In this case, I think we will need to keep taking a look at this technology as it evolves. A recent spate of companies are doing just that, trying again for the virtual office. Now they are calling it “extended reality” or XR, which involves a combination of augmented reality and virtual reality. There are some real advantages – training is more effective in XR (than either in person or online). It also is cost effective to have remote, rather than in person meetings. It allows people to work more effectively from home, which also has potential huge efficiency gains.

Still I think this is essentially a hardware problem. The goggles are still bulky and tiring. The experience is still limited by motion sickness. At some point, however, we will get to a critical point where the hardware is good enough for regular extended use, and then adoption may explode.

Apple is coming out with their long awaited entry – the Vision Pro is being released tomorrow, Feb 2. It still looks pretty bulky, but does look like a solid incremental advance. I would like the opportunity to test it out. If this does not turn out to be the killer tech, I think it’s inevitable that we will get there eventually.


AI Generated News Anchors

We have been talking about this for years now – when will AI generated characters get good enough to replace actors completely? Now we are starting to see AI generated news anchors. That makes sense, and is likely much easier than an AI character in a dramatic role in a movie. A TV anchor is often just a talking head (while on camera – I’m not saying they are not also sometimes serious journalists). But this way you completely separate the journalism from the good looking talking head part of TV news. The journalism is all done behind the scenes, and the attractive anchor is AI generated.

All they have to do is read the text, with a fairly narrow range of emotional expression. It’s actually perfect, if you think about it. I predict this will rapidly become a thing. Probably the biggest limiting factor is going to be protests, contracts, and other legal stuff. But the tech itself is ready, and perhaps perfectly suited to this application.


Those are just a few things in tech news that caught my attention this week. This will be a fun post to look back on in a few years to see how I did.

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