Gartner Symposium: Keynote Panel: A Look Into the Labs with IBM, Intel, and Microsoft

I have seen the future. There has been a lot of talk about theories and processes and ways of doing business in the future in the sessions at Symposium. But this session showed videos of real stuff that Microsoft, IBM, and Intel are working on right now and we will see on the store shelves in the not too distant future. It was very, very cool and mind boggling. The pace at which science fiction is turning into science is startling.

Microsoft showed some killer user interface and environment awareness applications. Remember how the computer worked in the film “Minority Report?” Tom Cruise’s character put on these gloves and was able to manipulate these videos–resize, play, rewind, pan, zoom, rotate… using his hands on a large glass display. Imagine this exact thing, but without the gloves! They showcased, placing a document on a pane of glass. The image was scanned and then displayed instantly on the glass. Then the user could move, rotate, and enlarge the document with their hands. They showed the same kind of thing but with two users manipulating the same workspace but from different locations. It was cool. They showed two people each with a piece of paper and a pen and each drawing and even moving their paper, but the software was seamlessly integrating the two physical documents.

Intel showed off their roadmap for multi-core processors. They have already developed an 80 core processor running at 62 watts. One of the applications showed was software that analyzed a soccer video. It was able to track the ball and the players and analyze the audio tract all simultaneously and in real time. They also showed 3D graphics rendering that used real physical laws for gravity and how light interacts with physical objects. They showed light interacting with moving reflective objects and transparent glass. They showed a ball dropped in water and a glass filled with water all acting exactly like they would in the real world. Light, shadows, reflections, refraction through glass, water effects, gravity, physical interactions… it was a scary move toward being able to exactly duplicate the physical world virtually–in real time–a move toward the Matrix. To ratchet up the fear factor here, the Intel VP for research mentioned in passing another real world application: artificial intelligence. These new chips will move us one step closer to where computers can learn and think like a human being. So it is nearly assured that the robot revolution of 2025 will be running on Intel processors (probability 0.8).

What IBM revealed was technologies that are CRM oriented. It started off rather boring but then turned very scary. IBM was basically looking at technologies that try to predict the future behavior of customers or users based on their historic behavior. Essentially the application tracks variables of the user’s behavior and detects patterns in order to predict their future behavior. The admin defines zones and users and relationships and automates the collection of data and routes communications. The application that was showcased was a doctor moving in and around a hospital and updating his availability based on his location. For instance, if the doctor was with a patient, calls would be routed to voice mail. If he was in his office, phone calls would be routed to the phone at his desk, for instance. If he was in the cafeteria, calls would be routed to his mobile. Certain relationships would never be able to directly reach the user, they’d be routed to a secretary or voice mail. Other relationships would have elevated priority. IBM’s presentation, like other technologies showcased, fed right into a surveillance society. Personally, I don’t like the idea of a computer tracking my movements and behaviors and trying to predict my behaviors or evaluating my future behavior. People get a bit bent out of shape about racial profiling at airports, this technology could be used for profiling ALL behavior–not just terrorists, but any sort of crime, for insurance companies, employers, etc. For instance, if an employer used this to calculate my value to the company, compared me to other employees, predicted my productivity… Imagine if an employer did this to applicants, before they even started working. A prospective employer could select employees based on a profile of a person’s entire life up to that point before. The government could determine your likelihood of committing a crime and single you out for additional scrutiny. The whole idea is frightening. In the movies, they’d try and convict you of a crime you hadn’t even committed, but were merely likely to commit based on your pattern of behavior (probability 0.6).

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