I mentioned a while back that I purchased a 3D printer (PrintrBot). After many hours of assembly and calibration, I actually produced some parts that look close to the models (chip bag holder and a cube calibration model).
Making my printer work made me even more impressed when the story broke about a 3D printed tracheal implant saved a baby's life. Essentially, they were able to print a splint to keep the baby’s air passage open, using a material that can be absorbed over time once it is no longer needed – this is another example of the intersection of 3D printing and medicine.
I was talking last evening with a product developer at a large food manufacturer who met with his tooling supplier yesterday. The supplier is producing production tooling direct from models using 3D printing and food grade plastic. You can expect to see some really interesting approaches to seasonal cookies/snacks in the future. These techniques are definitely entering larger volume mainstream manufacturing as well.
Recently the Atlantic had an article where they took a McKinsey report on disruptive technologies and turned it upside down to say which ones were the most overhyped. The Atlantic reporter based their analysis on economic impact vs. number of relevant articles.
The technologies were (in order of least impact to most):
- Renewable energy
- Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery
- Advanced materials
- 3D printing
- Energy storage
- Next-generation genomics
- Autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles
- Advanced robotics
- Internet of Things
- Automation of knowledge work
- Mobile Internet
This approach by the Atlantic may be a novel way to look at technologies but not all that accurate or effective from a strategic perspective, especially since I doubt that was the intent of the McKinsey article.
I was also a bit surprised by some of the technologies left out of the McKinsey report. Technologies like User Interface Advances were not really mentioned, and the interplay between technologies was just touched on.
The best example of interplay magnifying impact is the intersection of the mobile internet, the internet of things and automation of knowledge work. Where these intersect, the role of employees change – human augmented automation. An approach that takes advantage of the fact that people are not fungible, as opposed to how many business may look at employees.
A visioning document based on the interplay of technologies is likely worth its own report -- aiding IT leaders in thinking about enabling their business in whole new ways. In any case, the McKinsey report is worth the read.
After I got my Slate7 last week (which I have been very happy with by the way), I now see a whole new set of tablet-based platforms being discussed in the press. The Split x2 (for Windows 8) and the SlateBook x2 a serious tablet/laptop for Android.
It is clear there is a great deal of innovation and anticipation taking place in this space. When I think about how you use a tablet (e.g., less than an arm’s length away but a relatively fixed distance) it seems to by crying out for glasses free 3D – if you could only spare the power.
Recently, it was reported that HP has agreed a deal with Leap Motion to embed the motion-control technology company's 3D gesture technology within HP PCs. This gesture enabling technology can detect the movement of 10 fingers at once, using two cameras with three infrared LEDs in the controller to track hand movements (without even touching the screen). Leap Motion is even talking about having an app store called Airspace that is set to launch in May.
User interface disruptions like this should significantly shift how applications are written and used, allowing new ways to work with all the data and computing capabilities. Making the interface simpler (dispensing with the need for specialized gloves) and more intuitive is one way to improve productivity. Although this approach may now focus on PCs, I’m sure there will be efforts in the mobile space soon as well.
I wonder if someone will hack together a 3D scanner interface too, much like folks have done with Microsoft Kinects that Microsoft is now incorporating into the product SDK.
I wrote a post about what a technologists can do to be relevant a while back and at the time I thought that a list like this would be relatively transient. It turns out that unlike buzzwords, the underlying technologies are usually here for the long haul -- just ask a COBOL programmer. The half-life of the experience is likely much longer than I thought.
I was in a discussion today where we talked about a list of experiences a technologist needs to have in order to talk with some degree of authority about the next big thing in an enterprise context. Naturally, a person can’t know everything to the same level of depth, but there is a basic, useful level for every strategic technologist to have.
Some of the obvious ones I’ve mentioned before were:
- Install a public cloud-based virtual machine and use it for something
- Write an application for a mobile device and get the app listed in the app store
- Take an on-line class (or maybe a couple every year) through a tool like coursera
A couple of those items would have been as applicable 2-3 years ago as they are today. Some have changed quite radically in their capability in that timeframe. I’ve done each of them at least twice for one reason or another and each time I learned something new.
If I were to add a new one that I haven’t touched in a very long time, it would likely be something to do analytics. There is a bit of a problem with this one though, since having enough data to do something useful and interesting may be tough.
I mentioned I was going to experiment with 3D printing. I now need to find something in the Internet-of-Things space as well.
I’ve probably looked at all these things enough to understand what their good for, but actually tackling a project brings that perspective to a whole other level. The hands-on experience doesn’t need to be production ready quality, since the goal is as much generating the exposure to the issues and ideas as it is solving a particular problem.
What other areas should a technologist tackle? And how? I haven’t even mentioned anything in the networking space. Anyone who has looked under the covers of Software Defined Networks probably knows the depth of impact changes in this space will have for the future.
The book Outliers talked about spending 10,000 hours on an area to become great. I wonder how tackling 400 technology domain experiences allows you to be successful - that’s 10 a year for 40 years.