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Thefuture

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment – Buddha.

It’s that time of year, time to predict what’s going to happen. For me, prediction is just talking about stuff I’m doing now that’s too out there to be interesting to more than a few people. Five and 10 year predictions are fun, but I’m going to stick to next year. The following is a list of things I think we’ll see more of in 2012. In the list, I cover: drones, wearables, the Internet of things, Arduino, Kinect, 3D printing, hackerspaces, and crowd funding. This is all meant to be a fun conversation starter. Post up your predictions and thoughts in the comments. In one year, we’ll check back and see how we did. :)

Drone journalism

Pt 353

In 2011, the “person of the year” was the protester. What’s 2012 going to have? More protests and ways to cover them. Low-cost, citizen made UAVs will make appearances. The operators will be first on the scene, to protests and to the natural disasters. Drone Journalism. To watch, stream, record, report, sense and to watch the watchers. The cellphone video cameras from the street will have wings.

Wearables

Wearables Make

From FitBits to JawBone UPs, the next great interface frontier is away from the ubiquitous touch screen on our phones, to our bodies. From things to help us track our sleep to electronic jewelry – electronics are small and cheap, skin real estate is going on the market. There will be a dozen “smart watches” that will try to live on your wrist. The gadget makers and fashion industry will start to employ many of the innovations and interesting technologies first starting in maker communities and hackerspaces.

Internet of things

Image Tweet Page112
The glue for devices to talk to each other is getting pretty sticky. Everything will have an IP addresses, everything will “talk.” Net-connected thermostats and Kickstarter products will do all the little things better, easier, and on the web. Your clothes dryer will finally text you when it’s done, and it will be cause you, yes you, easily put a few devices together to do this — and it just “worked.” An open-source Pachube might make an appearance.

Arduino hits 1 million units

Why Arduino Won
The “Internet of things” requires that glue I was talking about, and that’s Arduino, the little open source hardware platform that was made for designers, will hit 1 million units shipped by the end of 2012. If you have an idea like empowering your plants to call you when they need water, you’re going to use an Arduino to get started. Turns out, everyone has a million ideas to make things better. And now they can realize those ideas. It won, it’s here to stay.

World “Kinect’ed”

Pt 10508
Microsoft continues to build a giant business around the Kinect (hacks) – in November of 2012 it will be two years after the open source, robotics, art, and design communities innovated and created amazing examples of what can be done with an open-style Kinect. We’ll see a higher resolution version of the Kinect that will change gaming, desktop interactions, and the hackers and makers will lead the way again with cool projects.

3D printing

Pt 355
Speaking of 3D printing, MakerBot got $10m in 2011 and Shapeways is opening up a facility in NYC. This will make New York the world capital of 3D printing. We’ll also see more acquisitions of 3D printing companies as they all move towards low-cost printers for everyone. We’ll start to see more and more of them, and this, of course, will cause some good problems. I think Autodesk is going to buy or build a low-cost 3D printer company in 2012. MakerBot, Shopbot, Techshop, companies that end in a ‘bot sound.

More libraries become Hackerspaces

Is It Time To Retool-1
In 2012 we’ll see and hear about dozens of libraries specifically moving towards “hackerspaces.” Community areas with lots of space and eager makers will come together after a few successful pilot programs work out. The cranky people who didn’t think computers belonged in the library will sound like the next round of cranky people who do not think 3D printers belong in libraries either.

Crowd funding

Pt 356
The first stop on the next big idea will be sites like Kickstarter. One of the top projects this year was Printrbot, a DIY-style 3D printer – it received $830,827 in funding. As makers turn pro, VC (venture funding) will seem less attractive than getting their biggest fans to support them directly. Even the government is making it easier to raise money crowd-funding style.

“Merit badges” for modern skills

Pt 357
The world is changing so fast that new skills are required faster than traditional education facilities can create and deliver curriculum. In 2012, we’ll see many efforts to reward and celebrate quickly-learned modern skills. The Girl Scouts are adding new badges such as “Money Manager, Budgeting, Financing My Future, and Good Credit” and there’s more… “For Job Hunters, Digital Merit Badges” – Digital Badges May Highlight Job Seekers’ Skills @ NYTimes.com

Now the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is putting millions of dollars into a competition to spur interest in a new type of badge — one that people can display not on their clothing but on a Web site, blog, or Facebook page while they are looking for a job.

When kids play Xbox, they strive to be on the leader boards for high scores. In 2012, we’ll see learning skills earned as a scoring system, too.


Got predictions? Are mine completely bonkers for 2012? I’d like to close out with one more quote…

Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future – Steve Jobs

Post up in the comments!

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


Related

Comments

  1. johngineer says:

    I predict a further increase in the number of people moving away from consumerism and towards fabricationism as a lifestyle choice.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Prediction #1. Yeah, the drones will last exactly until they become a annoyance or worse, a threat, to the government. Then those drones will be gone. There’s just no way Uncle Sugar will allow that challenge to go unchecked.

    Prediction #2. Government licensing and/or permits to buy/operate 3D printers and home CNC after their output becomes lethal in the form of a DIY gun or knife or? Granted this maybe dependent on stronger materials than currently available now but its only a matter of time. And, knowing human nature as we all do you just know that, as this is
    being written, some nefarious sociopath is opening up a 3D drafting
    program with malice. Besides there’s always the taxable revenue stream from licenses the politicians can glom onto.

    1. Jeffrey McGrew says:

      Honestly, I really doubt that home CNC machines or 3D printers will need any sort of licence anytime soon because of weapon production.

      Having a 3D printer or CNC machine doesn’t suddenly make you able to make incredibly lethal devices that one couldn’t make before. They aren’t Star Trek Replicators, and they won’t be within our lifetimes.

      For example, there isn’t anything lethal my Shopbot could make that I don’t already have in my kitchen (knives and other pointy bits).

      There isn’t anything I could print on a 3D printer that’s more lethal than what I could make with a single visit to the hardware store.

      Finally there are already lethal weapons that are easy to produce. Things like ‘zip-guns’ and AK-47′s are a great example of this. Part of the point of the design is that they are easy to make. It’s possible to produce them in mass with a few simple machine shop tools anyone can buy from Harbor Freight. Yet we don’t find ourselves knee-deep in zip-guns and badly made AK-47′s…

      Now Copyright issues, that’s another story altogether. When your kid can produce his own Darth Vader action figure that’s better then the one he can buy, well, that’s when things get really interesting!

      1. Anonymous says:

        I’d pay to see you forge, bore and rifle a barrel for an AK with anything bought from Harbor Freight…

        1. Anonymous says:

          some tribal areas in the developing world construct their own AK47′s today, and they don’t even have a harbor freight! Given the want and need people can be quite resourceful.

        2. Jeffrey McGrew says:

          A friend of my Dad’s in Arizona makes fully-functional reproduction Japanese WWII machine gun barrels. He does this with a small machine shop, by himself, with just a few used tools he bought at auctions in Phoenix (and at Harbor Freight). He taught himself how to do it by reading publicly available books because he’s a big collector and really into WWII machine guns.

          He didn’t need a licence for the lathe, the steel stock, ammo, reloading supplies, or for the books. Sure he’s got a special firearms licence to have the machine guns at all, but again, that’s because he’s a collector of WWII stuff in general and he wanted to legally have them (and, it being Arizona, you can do that sort of thing…).

          Now that’s something vastly more lethal than anything my Shopbot could make, or any 3D printer I’ve ever seen or worked with could make. And they are made with zero CNC involvement, hand-machined by a self-taught WWII buff.

          Point is: you’re certainly living up to your username and have yet to put forth a valid argument here. ;-)

      2. I think any attempt to limit access to 3D printers and distributed manufacturing technologies will be due to the commercial threat involved, not the actual lethality of any product made on the technology. So the argument that “You can’t make anything more dangerous with a 3d printer than you can already make by X,Y or Z process.” is moot. The maker community needs be aware that limiting access to technology is rarely done because of the danger involved but often because of the perceived threat to existing power structures.

    2. johngineer says:

      “you just know that, as this is being written, some nefarious sociopath is opening up a 3D drafting program with malice.”

      So, does this mean that I have to get a background check and wait 7 days before I can buy SolidWorks?

      1. Anonymous says:

        Good points John!

  3. Zack M. says:

    Great post Phillip! I too feel that Open Hardware, the internet of things, and Crowd-funding are going to be the distinct traits of innovation and creativity in 2012. And I think the intersection of these trends will be particularly important. 

    Consider the “Twine” project from Supermechanical on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/supermechanical/twine-listen-to-your-world-talk-to-the-internet

    This is plug-and-play web-of-things, which is key in making sure that web-of-things hacking is possible for the average consumer, not just energetic arduino-lovers!  

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great post and predictions Phil! I think your spot on with these, though I don’t know enough to say about some of them. I’ve seen for myself how fast crowdsoursing is growing, and the Arduino is already up there with duct-tape and super-glue as things I need to have around!

    I would add that I think GPS and RFID usage are both going to explode in growth in 2012. With the cost of small GPS units now available, and the lower-power consuming ones, we’ll see more and more GPS-enabled “stuff” around. I also think RFID is going start appearing in everything – the latest super-popular Video game is called Skylanders – and it uses RFID chips with little reader “portals” that let you bring characters into the game by putting a figuring with the RFID chip in it, on the portal/platform. Lots of other examples, but those would be my two predictions for 2012. :)

  5. Francisco Dias says:

    I would love to see all of those predictions come true!
    But, in addition to them, I would also like to see a rise of personal robots in form of mobile computers, like this project in which I have been working on: 
    http://vimeo.com/33389503  

  6. Jack says:

    I wonder what will happen when the maker movement starts to threaten some established corporate interests.  Makers trying to commercialize a product can’t afford to defend themselves against even the most trivial corporate IP suits or even trolls.  Will the white knights who have a cache of patents used to defend the open source software movement come to the rescue of hardware hackers?  I hope that 2012 doesn’t see the start of something nasty.  Let’s hope Apple and MS stay out of 3D printing!

    On a more positive note, I hope 2012 sees the rise of genuine low cost open computing – both Beagle and RaspberryPi are showing great promise.  If engineers and makers can develop similarly low cost peripherals (perhaps based on recycled stuff from the Big end), and some light-weight practical apps, even the most impoverished communities will be able to tap into the power of computing.

    Of course the great hope is in energy – we will need sustainable, low cost storage if everyone is to move forward together.

    1. Chris Holden says:

      “Makers trying to commercialise a product” is exactly what causes patent problems – but if the open source movement is about sharing ideas and enabling others, there’s no problem. But in a patent application (which is later published in the public domain) you need to explain exactly how your idea/product works – so anyone wanting to make your product has pretty much all the information they need! They just can’t use the same information to create a commercial product. Whether or not a product is protected by a patent, there’s nothing to stop you making the same thing *for yourself* once you understand how it works – however you come by the information! 
      In a similar vein, you can’t apply a patent to something which is already in the public domain – there are loads of site explaining how to make 3d printers and the like. As long as the open source movement remains open (and there aren’t too many people trying to make money from it) there shouldn’t be an issue!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m not really big into making predictions but there are several technology forces all coming together that will lead to significant changes in our society in the next few years.

    1. Robotics – Take Apple’s Siri and Honda’s Asimo and you could have a really useful robot assistant around the house or office. You will talk to it in very natural language and it will respond in very natural movements. In five years (say about 2017) it will not be unheard of to know someone with a robot assistant in their house. The time is right for an energetic individual to introduce robots to the common citizen. It is like 1978 for the microcomputer market. Most people can’t imagine what it is all about and it sounds ridiculous. However, all the individual components and technologies are available, they just need to be brought together in a satisfying way and showed to solve some real problems.

    2. Virtual Reality Work Force – Take the budget crises and the need for businesses to save even more money and it makes sense for them to reduce their office space and have even more workers work from home. We are now just in the beginning of virtual working, the interfaces are crude, the keyboard, the mouse, the 2D display are all tools from the previous generation that are being used for the next 3D generation. The new tools are on the way. We will have 3D virtual technology that we cannot or at least barely distinguish from the real thing. Technology has caught up with our senses and will be able to trick them anytime we want. I say in five years (2017) it will be more common to work from home or other remote location not owned by the business than going to work in a company owned office environment. What will this do to the auto industry? Could your family live with just one car?

    3. Virtual Reality Classrooms – All the same forces are working here. Budgets are being cut, schools have difficultly keeping the kids safe, the best teachers are not always available in the cities where they need to be. The forces are quickly moving to virtual classrooms. Students will log in from home or a remote class location and join their friends and teachers in a virtual classroom. Teaching tools will be unbelievable by todays standards. There are lots of security, safety and social issues that will become apparent, but they won’t matter, the lack of dollars will drive public and private schools into the virtual worlds by 2017. This also applies to colleges and universities too. In the not to distant past it was a poor choice to have a degree from an on-line college, today it is very acceptable, in the near future it will be the norm. The best universities in the world are already moving in this direction.

    4. Personal Manufacturing – The technology is moving very fast here. Today you can buy a 3D printer than can create objects to display or use around your home and office. These objects can be very complex in shape and be printed in any color you can imagine. The home furnishings industry is about to be overwhelmed. An artist or designer can design the item in a 3D environment on their computer. That file can then be sent via email, website or any other way electronic documents can be transferred. The person on the end will just open the file and select print, just like an email today. The end result is a printed object that can be used anywhere. But this is just the beginning, all manufacturing will be done like this soon. The concept of large production runs to reduce costs will be a thing of the past. By 2017, just five years from now it will be common for anything you want to be created locally at a local print shop. Look for them to start showing up in your retail areas soon. Even better, you will be able to design your own items on-line, get the size, the look, the color, the feel of exactly what you want and send it to the printer. 

    5. There will be a huge spike in demand for artists and creative people. The first phase of technology is created by the engineers. These are people that can solve the problems, but they have very little creative style, taste or design. The rise of the creative types is quickly approaching. Apple has already proven that old engineering based designs are not what the consumers are looking for. These online virtual worlds will need to be human friendly, we will need nice environments to live in, to work in, to play in. We will all spend time with our coworkers, friends and families on-line, we will want to hang out in the prettiest most beautiful places on earth, or any other world for that matter. The 3D objects will need to be designed, the old school companies will not want to share their designs, just like the movie studios are trying to keep their old business model alive by getting new laws passed. The opportunities for open on-line markets for beautiful digital items will be huge and very profitable with the right business model.

    Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Who can imagine today what it will be like, but the forces are all in action right now. There is very little stopping it. Be prepared, the tools you are using today will be changing. The days of sitting at an office desk are on the way out. The social impact alone will be a huge blow to anyone over 10 years old. Your children’s education and work environments will not be like yours. That I guarantee.

    Doug

    1. Sophi Kravitz says:

      Excellent post Doug, thank you! 
      Some of us engineers have a good design sense! ;)

      1. Anonymous says:

        No insult intended. It’s hard to cover all the disclaimers in a short post. :) I do think it is very exciting to see where all of this could go. Much faster than I ever expected just a year ago. I’ve worked in the tech industry since the late 80′s and up to now it has all been in the computer, now it is moving out into the real world and I think we will see a bigger impact to society in general than the PC has made in the last 30 years.

  8. noonv says:

    robotics (and ROS)

  9. My personal predictions for 2012:
    1 – SOPA will be stopped
    2 – The Euro has just 12 month left before collapse
    3 – Journals and Newspapers will further disintegrate
    4 – Apple will come up with a watch with integrated Siri / AI
    5 – The first 8 bit cellular computer will appear

  10. kentkb says:

    Excellent post PT, thank you! BTW, where is my flying car?

  11. Anonymous says:

    On 4/20/2012 at 4:20 pm millions of people will come together and smile and be happy. Hope you can join us.

  12. DeadlyDad says:

    Hmmm… Given how inexpensive GPS/accelerometer/gyroscope units are becoming, and the recent explosion in structure-from-motion apps like Areoscan, Photofly, and My3DScanner, I predict a dramatic increase in real-world objects and locations being digitized and shared.  (GAG units aid in determining camera position, direction, inclination, and rotation, which saves a *LOT* of calculation time.)

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  14. JBarton says:

    geyservilleprunepicker: Aug. 28, 2012
    I predict that the usurper & his Constitution shredders are not going to get a 2nd term, not matter how many people try to help him win. It make take a war but I go on record to predict that with, or without a war, he & all of his Constitution shredders will not get a 2nd term.
    The hand of God is cleaning it up. 911 is coming full circle & being avenged. The Muslims came her to make us be muslims, but Muslims are becoming Christians by the hundreds every day.
    When the president’s seal fell off of the podium while he was speaking, I knew that was a warning to Obama. He gave the rest of the talk without the blessing of the seal. Then, the magnetic seal blew off of the limo that he was riding in & they couldn’t find it until the next day. He finishe the ride without the blessing of the seal. That was another warning & he didn’t take it. When the prime minister of Israel gave him a copy of the Book of Esther that was another warning. He was being warned about Haman & the gallows that Haman had built to hang Mordecai was going to be his fate; perhaps in Camp Feema, Or Jesus coming to throw them into outer darkness where they would be weeping & gnashing their teeth. Either way they will soon wish that they had heeded the warnings.
    There have been several other warning signs & he is getting more & more beligerant.
    I believe that, despite all the bullets he is having Social Security, & other non military departments purchase, they will be of no help to him.
    I won’t be surprised if he gets defeated with very little, or no, war.
    We will soon have a government that is in control of Godly Constitution Protectors.

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