Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Horizon Report: Technologies to Watch

In my last blog entry, I wrote about the trends described in The Horizon Report (2010 Edition) that are driving the technology adoptions that are anticipated to rapidly increase over the next five years.  In this post, I'd like to share a few thoughts about the six emerging technologies that, according to the report, will be entering the mainstream in that timeframe.

The report places the six technologies along three adoption horizons:  near-term horizon (within one year), second-adoption horizon (within two to three years), and far-term horizon (within four to five years).

Technologies to Watch over the Next Year

Mobile Computing - Oh, those smart phones!  The masses can now connect to the internet wirelessly from virtually anywhere.  They are cheaper and easier to carry around than laptops.   These portable devices have tremendous implications for workplace learning.   I know people have been talking about them for a few years now, but I truly believe the report is on the money by predicting this is the year we will start to see mobile learning move beyond a handful of trendsetters and into common usage by training departments.  And of course, within a few days we will start to see people who don't mind shelling out $500 toting around the new heavily hyped iPad.

Open Content - I would think this trend has probably made many college administrators very nervous.  Why enroll in an expensive university program when information is everywhere for the taking?  But since many prestigious institutions are fostering this trend, they must know what they are doing.  The Horizon Report lists this as one of its less-than-one-year-to-adoption technologies, but I don't think it will impact the workplace so quickly.   I think it will take corporate learning departments a little bit longer to figure out how to harness and repackage of all the free content that is out there in ways that will make sense for their workers.

Technologies to Watch over the Next Two to Three Years

Electronic Books How about these things? I'm a train commuter. I used to love to read over people's shoulders. Books and newspapers articles always seem more interesting when someone else is reading them. But every day more of the train crowd is switching to Kindle readers and the like.  It's just not the same.  You have to be at just the right angle to see the screen.  So, there goes one of my hobbies! But seriously, what a great tool for workers to use to carry around reference material, policy information and anything else they might need for just-in-time performance support.

Simple Augmented Reality - Simple, huh?   A few years ago, I had a training vendor come in to demonstrate their capabilities with augmented reality.  They had done a lot of work creating training programs for the Navy to help people learn various functions on nuclear submarines.  Very impressive stuff!  I was thinking we could use the same approach to create virtual models of our products to train our service department on installation and equipment repair.  It seemed pretty advanced for its time.  Since the Horizon Report lists mainstream use of augmented reality as two to three years away, I guess it was.

Technologies to Watch over the Next Four to Five Years

Gesture-based Computing - Imagine what version 7.0 of the Nintendo Wii will be like.  Imagine us doing away with keyboards and mouses (mice?) as input devices for our computers.   Interfacing with our personal computers will probably be very much like Tom Cruise's experiences in Steven Spielberg's film Minority Report.  The computers will respond to our natural movements and facial expressions.   It gives whole new meaning to the idea of a workplace training simulation.

Visual Data Analysis - According to the Horizon Report, visual data analysis is characterized by "its focus on making use of pattern matching skills that seem to be hard-wired into the human brain" and by the way in which it "facilitates the work of teams working in concert to tease out meaning from complex sets of information."    And,  "it allows for the interactive manipulation of variables in real time."  - Nuff said.  Call me in five years on this one!

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