News and commentary about the Great Frontiers

ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) --- This view of Earth's horizon as the sunsets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. Credit: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Image Credit: ISS007-E-10807 (21 July 2003) – Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center

Your Wildest Desires, Captured on Video


Ever since consumers got their hands on personal camcorders they have been making movies, but production values have kept wide the chasm between amateur and professional video. In the past few years many of the tools professionals use have dropped significantly in price. New consumer electronics have brought more and more capabilities to customers each year. The latest consumer “toy” is a $3700 camcorder from Sony with high-definition capabilities. It can store 63 minutes of video on $18 HD videotapes. Sony also plans to release a digital still camera with better video capabilities, including up to an hour of video on bigger capacity memory cards.

While cameras and camcorders are themselves improving rapidly, their capabilities are being built into cell phones, some of which are well beyond the capabilities of the first digital cameras that began capturing attention in the 1990s.

Thus, we find ourselves in 2004 able to store high definition video and thousands of still images on affordable devices with enormous storage capacities ranging in sizes from small cell phones to reasonably-sized camcorders. At the same time, Apple, Adobe, and other software makers have begun releasing reasonably-priced products to help create movies with professional looking special effects and excellent audio, all creatable on your laptop or desktop computer.

Interestingly enough, the cutting-edge devices of 2004 will be the cheap throwaway devices of 2009, with many such devices combined into a single and smaller form factor. It is very likely that a cell phone in 2009 will include all the above capabilities. Storage will of course be practically bottomless; the necessary electronics will have shrunk down to allow such tiny form factors; cell phone processors will have roughly the same capabilities as today’s desktop computers; and displays will be flat, flexible, and brilliantly HD.

This look forward, however, only taking into account what is today coming out of the world’s laboratories. It does not in any way take into account research over the next five years, let alone breakthroughs and new ideas about how images, video and other data can be captured and displayed. That means that in just five more years, consumer electronics will greatly surpass your wildest desires at this moment. Of course, in five more years, your wildest desires will have also progressed on an exponential growth curve.

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