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Future Tech: 

2020 vision: New tech that could be mainstream in 5 years


“That’s it, just look into the magic box to reveal the future.”

Predicting the distant future isn’t easy. If Hollywood’s predictions were to be believed then we should already be time-traveling clones with hoverboard commutes, but – and we’re sad to admit this – movies don’t have all the answers.

If you are going to guess the future, it’s best to look far enough ahead that you’ll be gone when the backlash begins, or close enough that the answers are partially in front of you already. Five years time, then, makes an excellent starting point, and a fascinating theme for a TED event in San Diego this coming weekend.

Among the speakers this Saturday will be ESET’s Stephen Cobb, who will deliver a talk about our reliance on the internet and its implications for public safety. Before that, though, we’ve been thinking about the new and imminent tech of today that could be mainstream by 2020.

New tech that could be mainstream by 2020:

1. Virtual reality

For those old enough to remember the shonky virtual reality of the 1980s, a mainstream VR headset has been a long time coming. Thankfully, the technology has moved on a lot since Mattel’s Power Glove, and when Oculus Rift is finally released it should be an instant hit with gamers.

First unveiled back in 2012, even the Rift feels like it’s been in our lives for a lifetime, but the consumer version will at last land in stores early next year. Already there are lots of titles to be excited about  – from a terrifyingly real Paranormal Activity game, to the immersive space adventure Adr1ft. Not to mention experiences that blend the virtual with the physical, such as The Void (watch the video above).

What of VR in 2020, then? With the technology soon to be established in the gaming world, we can expect to see virtual reality spread into other areas. So, expect to see VR Headsets used for everything from TV and movies, to architecture, treatments for phobias and ‘virtual tourism’. When reality becomes virtual, the possibilities are almost endless.

2. 5G


Nobody knows exactly when 5G will be ready, but – with some estimates falling as early as 2018 – we’d say there’s a decent chance of a mainstream rollout by 2020.

Whenever it’s released, the super fast network is set to make 4G look like a paltry dial-up connection – possibly even 250 times quicker than its predecessor. Early reports suggest that a movie which currently takes 6 minutes to download could be ready in just 6 seconds, and that’s just scratching the surface of its potential.

As you’d expect, then, the race for 5G is already well underway. In Britain, the Mayor of London has promised to deliver 5G to the masses by 2020, but the smart money may be on South Korea. Not only was the country first to receive 4G, but it hosts the 2018 Olympics and may push to have it ready in time. Failing that, Japan hosts the Winter Olympics in 2020, and we’d be surprised not to see it in action by then.

3. Printable body parts


Whether it’s a bionic ear or a new foot for Buttercup the duck – printable prosthetics have already begun to change lives. By 2020, though, this kind of surgery will not only be commonplace, but could include other crucial parts and – beyond that – even organs.

3D-printers have already seen rapid development in recent years, going from plastic miniatures to printed food, housing and even circuitboards. The next step? Tissue, which means surgeons would need to be able to print with live cells. Needless to say, the implication of that development could be massive.

Before we get your hopes up, 3d-printed hearts aren’t going to be available any time soon, but some scientists believe cartilage and bone – for instance – may be just five years away from FDA approval.

4. 4K everything

4K displays could hardly still be considered a technology for the future, but they’re rarely given the chance to show what they’re capable of. The next step, then, is to bring content up to speed.

So, as well as sports, box sets and premium subscriptions services, you’ll soon be able to watch regular broadcasting, streaming services and cable programs in their full 4K glory. According to a recent global survey from Intelsat, around 63% of media executives believe 4K will be properly mainstream within five years. Or, in other words, the future is likely to look about four times as crisp.

5. Self-driving cars

Sometimes we forget that self-driving cars aren’t just another one of our sci-fi dreams, but something that is actually happening – and a lot sooner than you might think.

As we reported last week, autonomous taxis are set for trial in Japan next year, and – unless it ends in disaster – that’s just the beginning. Right now the technology is already in place, so it’s really just about testing, more testing and obtaining the relevant permissions.

So, self-driving cars by 2020? Google seems to think so, and the likes of Tesla, Volvo, Nissan and Mercedes are all working on alternatives too. With the whole weight of the auto industry behind it, we’d bet your new autonomous ride will arrive right on time.

TEDxSanDiego begins on Saturday, and will be streaming live in its entirety. Head over to the Livestream website to watch it unfold.

Additionally, follow @ESET on Twitter for more details on Stephen Cobb’s talk and periodic periscoping live from the event. 

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