They’re the ex­perts who know that the smart­phone will be ob­so­lete and you’ll wear all the tech­nol­ogy you need in a sin­gle con­tact lens within 20 years. Mike Peake meets the fu­tur­ol­o­gists

Friday - - Profile -

The ar­rival of Google Glass, the in­ter­net gi­ant’s re­cent foray into the bur­geon­ing wear­able tech mar­ket, has been hailed as some­thing of a dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion – as well as be­ing roundly crit­i­cised as an out­ra­geous in­va­sion of pri­vacy.

It is bril­liant… but wrong. It is ground­break­ing… but seems like it shouldn’t be le­gal.

The de­trac­tors, how­ever, are shout­ing halt at a juggernaut; the prover­bial horse has al­ready bolted, and this par­tic­u­lar beast is be­ing pow­ered by rocket fuel. Be­cause what Google’s pla­s­ticky eye­wear re­ally rep­re­sents is merely the tee­ni­est, tini­est tip of the ice­berg; the start of a trend that will gather mo­men­tum at an ex­po­nen­tial rate. Alarmists point out that wear­ers of Google Glass can make use of an ap­pli­ca­tion that lets them take a can­did photo sim­ply by wink­ing. The hor­ror!

What they prob­a­bly don’t know – and what they will def­i­nitely be un­able to stop – is that within 20 years, Google Glass will have mor­phed into a con­tact lens no one will even know you are wear­ing, which will be able to record ul­tra-HD video all day long. And – less wor­ry­ingly – that will show you what deals are cur­rently on of­fer as you’re pass­ing a store, or tell you ex­actly how many seconds you have left un­til the next train ar­rives when de­scend­ing into the Un­der­ground.

It will change your life in a far more dra­matic fash­ion than the in­ter­net has done over the past two decades.

The peo­ple who re­ally un­der­stand what Google Glass her­alds are a small band of men and women known as

‘See­ing a restau­rant in the real world, you’ll be able to read its menu and its daily spe­cials’

fu­tur­ists, or fu­tur­ol­o­gists, and by join­ing up the dots of what we know to­day with what they think we’ll know in the future, they are able to pre­dict just where tech­nol­ogy is go­ing with a re­ported ac­cu­racy of around 80 per cent.

They fore­saw the iPhone, they knew drones would steadily re­place ground strikes, and they cer­tainly know that in the not-too-dis­tant future, you won’t have to wear a set of Google-branded gog­gles if you want to take se­cret pho­tos. From per­sonal tech­nol­ogy to fuel; from outer space to ed­u­ca­tion, th­ese guys know where it’s at.

Two of the world’s most re­spected fu­tur­ists are Ray Ham­mond, ar­guably Europe’s most widely pub­lished fu­tur­ist who was hon­oured by Mikhail Gor­bachev with a UN gold medal for ser­vices to fu­tur­ol­ogy, and Dr Ian Pear­son, founder of the com­pany Fu­tur­i­zon and au­thor of mul­ti­ple books.

They take us on a whis­tle-stop tour of to­mor­row…

Mo­bile phones

“One prob­lem we have is that we don’t yet have the lan­guage of the future,” says Ray. “In much the same way ‘the horse­less car­riage’ didn’t do a very good job of de­scrib­ing what the car would be­come, the term ‘mo­bile phone’ is very mis­lead­ing.”

Within a decade or so, Ray reck­ons mo­bile phones as we know them will be no more, their func­tions having mor­phed into all man­ner of wear­able pieces of tech­nol­ogy that we have with us at all times.

“Think of as­sorted lit­tle items around the body,” says Ray. “On our wrists, in our ears, on our belts and mi­cro­phones on our col­lars. They be­come a body net­work, and will look af­ter ev­ery­thing, from our health to our fi­nances, and all of our com­mu­ni­ca­tions.”

Go­ing for­ward a lit­tle – 20-25 years – reti­nal-pro­jec­tion con­tact lenses will be at the heart of this por­ta­ble kit. They will be sev­eral gi­ant leaps ahead of where Google Glass is to­day, and, says Ian, “will show how the mo­bile phone was just a pass­ing tech­nol­ogy”. All the pro­cess­ing power you’ll need, he says, will fit into some­thing as minute as an ear stud, and we’ll be able to look out and see data over­laid on what­ever we’re look­ing at.

“To­day, we call it aug­mented re­al­ity,” he says, “and what’s go­ing to hap­pen, for ex­am­ple, is that when you see a restau­rant in the real world you’ll be able to see its menu, its daily spe­cials, and re­views from your friends.”

The con­tact lenses would also serve as TV and cinema screens, adds Ray, mak­ing ‘home en­ter­tain­ment’ as we know it ut­terly re­dun­dant. “Your en­ter­tain­ment goes wher­ever you are.”

We’ll see th­ese lenses in just a few years, pro­to­types at first, used for mea­sur­ing blood sugar lev­els and with other med­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions.


Chanel and Louis Vuit­ton might be look­ing two or three sea­sons ahead, but our fu­tur­ists think they know what we’ll be wear­ing decades from now, and the an­swer is ‘what­ever you want peo­ple to think you’re wear­ing’.

Dr Ian Pear­son ex­plains, “As aug­mented re­al­ity comes into play, you’ll soon be able to start mak­ing your ap­pear­ance more and more vir­tual.”

He says we’ll each have a ‘dig­i­tal aura’, so passers-by who are wear­ing reti­nal-pro­jec­tion con­tact lenses will not so much see you but the avatar you’ve cre­ated for your­self. “It’s a dig­i­tal bub­ble, show­ing your Face­book pro­file, what you’re into, whether you’re sin­gle – what­ever you like.”

He also ar­gues that one of the big­gest bat­tles in tech in the com­ing decades will be the one over who gets to con­trol what you see through th­ese reti­nal-pro­jec­tion lenses. Will it be pos­si­ble to walk down a high street and see just di­rec­tions – or will the bom­bard­ment from ad­ver­tis­ers be part of the deal that we will sim­ply have to ac­cept?


Hous­ing is a ba­sic hu­man need, and as such Ray Ham­mond sees lit­tle change in the ac­tual struc­ture of our homes. 3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy – imag­ine a gi­ant 3D printer on a gantry, fed by con­crete – will start to creep into con­struc­tion, but be­yond that the styles of hous­ing aren’t likely to change much, though in­su­la­tion (and, in re­turn less en­ergy waste) will be­come ever more im­por­tant.

“The big­gest change,” says Ray, “is that your home be­comes in­tel­li­gent. So the pipes know if the taps are about to de­velop a leak and en­sure pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance can be car­ried out.”

We’re al­ready wit­ness­ing the ‘braini­fi­ca­tion’ of our homes. But far more than a fridge that knows when you’ve run out of but­ter or the milk is near its sell-by date, your whole house will soon be “an in­tel­li­gent shell com­mu­ni­cat­ing with com­po­nents all the time for our ben­e­fit and safety”.

Ray Ham­mond, left, and Dr Ian Pear­son don’t need a crys­tal ball to pre­dict the future

For­get touch­screens; con­tact lenses will serve as TV and movie screens

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