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

Technology Trends in 2012 (From 2012)


Read Richard’s current thoughts about transhumanism and related fringe topics here.

(While these trends are United States-centric, most of them also apply to other developed countries, and will soon apply to developing countries as well.)

In 2012, nearly everyone will benefit from faster internet speeds, 1080p video will be everywhere, vast and flexible LCD displays will cover more marketing space, hardware will arrive to support the next step up in resolution and graphics (4K), and a new generation of robots will work side-by-side with human laborers.


Wider rollout of 50 to 100 mbps broadband, 200 mbps in some locations, 1 gbps in rare locations.

LTE 4G rollout accelerates, providing an average of 10 mpbs via smartphones and other cellular-connected devices.

Digital Media

Massive 1080p (8 to 12 mbps bit rates) digital downloads and streaming video rollout, with 720p downloads and streams being upgraded to 1080p. The first 3D digital download attempts. “HD” music formats as online music retailers seek to differentiate themselves. New gaming consoles will try to stave off the competition from smartphone platforms. The web is shaping up to become the primary TV, movie, music, games, and news platform. Cloud storage capacities (amount of room given to consumers to store their digital media) will increase rapidly.


Licensing of content for augmented reality applications (Disney, etc.) OTOY and OnLive branch out into virtual world hosting. Virtual worlds return to the news with new offerings from competitors to Second Life. Lifelogging popularized and mainstreamed by Facebook. Apple joins the mirror world fray with the first major competitor to Google Earth via iOS.


Finally we will see the first 4 TB hard drives widely available for sale to consumers, but SSD prices have been falling quickly and by the end of the year a 1 TB SSD should be around $800. Laptop SSDs will increasingly be 512 GB in size, with very expensive 1 TB options late in the year.

Intel’s Ivy Bridge arrives at the 22 nanometer node with tri-gate 3D transistors, lower power needs, and graphics support for 4K (4096 by 4096 pixels) display resolution. The first 4K computer and TV monitors for consumers will arrive, with a resolutions between 3840 x 2160 pixels and 4096 x 2304 and 105 and higher pixels per inch for displays up to 42-inches.

Dedicated graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD will also support 4K resolution as they switch to the 28 nanometer node.

Super computers will reach 20 Petaflops as the race to exoflop-class super computers heats up.

Apple’s iPad will continue to sell well, especially with a much higher-resolution display on the way in the spring. Amazon will see success with Kindle Fire and an in-house designed successor. Andoid tablet sales should also tick up, though Apple (at near 70%) and Amazon (most of the rest) will remain successful.

Laptops are getting much thinner and should see improved sales with the introduction of Apple Macbook Air competitors. These ultrabooks will define the industry going forward. All-in-ones like the Apple iMac will continue to be popular but the desktop is slowly dying out, replaced by tablets and ultrabooks on one end, and smart TVs at the other end. In fact, Apple’s anticipated iTV could very well be a 4KTV with Siri, gesture, and multi-touch interfaces.

Digital cameras have been in need of a shakeup and with Lytro and QuantumFilm, 2012 could finally be the year that this happens. Cameras in smartphones will benefit the most as they encroach on the 8 to 12 MegaPixel dedicated cameras.

Quad-core smartphones and tablets will be all the rage. Screen resolutions will rapidly transition to native support of 720p and 1080p video and pixels per inch exceeding 300.

Glasses will be in the news more often, but we are still a few years away from sunglasses-style heads up displays. The components are rapidly evolving though, and demonstrations of what is coming will become more frequent. The heavier form factors that exist today will gain support for 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) input resolution this year.

As for interfaces, multitouch remains in the lead, but voice, gesture, and Intelligent Agents are all rapidly improving and coming together in multimodal packages. An Apple iTV will likely demonstrate how these come together, while Microsoft will continue to improve Kinect, and bring the technology to desktops and laptops. The web itself is overdue for a face lift: watch as it becomes more dynamic and animated, especially as the ways we interact with it – multitouch, gestures, voice, and IA – improve and merge. Google will likely introduce a true Siri-competitor this year. If they don’t, then it will be clear that they completely missed this rather obvious trend, and will be hard at work on getting caught up.

Retail and marketers will rapidly deploy vast LCD screens in stores, on buildings, and as billboards during this year. Many of these will be multiple feet in reach, flexible and wrapping around various shapes and structures.


The first “torsobots” should arrive: robots that work side-by-side with humans in factories. The form factor is a platform for arms that can do many of the same tasks as humans, yet do so safely, without putting their human co-workers in physical danger. Robots are still very slowly making their way into homes and businesses, and we are still several years away from a mass consumer-level general robotics platform. Robots will continue to be single function.


The first $1000 genome sequencing machines will arrive, but the price will apply only when bought in bulk. Sequencing for individual genomes will still be around $5000 and not very popular with consumers, who will increasingly use SNP sequencing services like 23andMe. Next generation technologies to radically reduce the price will be in the works, but it is unlikely we will see much from them in 2012 as they finish up their development and testing.

Medical breakthroughs will continue, but so far the impact on individuals remains minimal. The media (and the mainstream consumer) will become more aware of the deficiency of our current processes as these breakthroughs languish while waiting for funding and government regulatory approvals.

Suspended animation technology is in human trials.

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