Best way to predict the future is to invent it!

I had Darren Devine from the Western Mail on phone just now for an article about killer gadgets for 2005, wanting my opinion on whether certain predictions were likely to come true. While I agreed with some of the ideas – 3G mobile phones are a safe bet, for example – I suggested that DV video cameras under ??100, and mobile phones with high quality digital cameras, which are coming onto the market, are more desirable because users can see the use. Video phones will take a few years to really sink in. However, my best bet for killer tech is the Robosapien V2, Mark Tilden’s update on the remarkably successful toy of 2004. This time, it goes much further beyond the “robot toys” that look nice, but AREN’T robots. Prices are expected to be ??200 or so. I am pre-ordering one now!

The BBC coverage of its debut

A magazine preview

A slightly better review of capabilities

The parent company web site with only v1 covered sadly.

I was quite flattered to be contacted by the media to discuss this debate. I think that this opens up a whole new relationship with the media for CASE and the University as future pundits! And the nice thing about preducting the future is that by the time it comes, few will remember the howlers and we will remind people of the successes!

The old aphorism still stands: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it”—Alan Kay

So, here goes:

“Do Lecturers dream of Electric Sheep”

The School of Technology has a research group interested in biological fuel cells, but they are heavy and do not produce enough power to drive a robot. However, they can charge batteries, and robots could be designed to dock with a fuel cell for charging. It is also possible to run fuel cells from grass cuttings. So, here’s the big prediction that will hopefully come true, because we will invent it:

Have autonomus robots – “electric sheep” – gather grass cuttings (no more mowing the lawn!) shove them into the fuel cell, then recharge off the last crop. The robots themselves need not be complex. There could be hundreds of little bots, which only have to carry a load of grass and home in on the fuel cell “mother”. They might not even have to do that. They could just keep mowing until their charge ran out, and along would come the gardener, pick them up and plonk them on the fuel cell to drop their load and be recharged. This is the way the iRoomba vaccuum cleaner works, by the way; didn’t the School of Electronics have a robot vacuum cleaner a few years ago…

However, our robots would be powered by what they picked up! So, any venture capitalists out there who want to help us make electric sheep?

Related links:

Home of the Roomba Robot Vacuum Cleaner

An academic look at gastrobots!

The environmental impact of grass as an energy crop

Evaluating grasses as a long term energy source

Fuel Cell Vehicles

Media coverage:

Grass in the gas tank 2004

Microbe-powered fuel cell most efficient yet 2003

Bioethanol-powered Cars? 2002

Simply Electrifying 2000 including A short history of the fuel cell

Enzymes may turn paper, grass into fuel 1996


    Robert Andrews

    January 11, 2005

    They only announced it last night, but Apple’s new “iPod
    Shuffle”: can’t be a
    bad bet for 2005 at only ??69 a pop.

    Will handheld gaming be to 2005 what portable music was
    to 2004? “Nintendo DS”:
    systemsds to wow Big-N lovers with its wi-fi and two
    screens and picto-chat – but ulitmately lose out to “Sony’s

    DAB digital radio to break out. Multi-megapixel
    cameraphones. The Hiptop to get some UK success,
    sparking a wave of innovative new PDA-phones from the
    likes of “Motorola”:

    Farting entertainobots like Robosapien to go the way of
    virtual reality.

    Mike Reddy

    January 11, 2005

    iPod Shuffle = Non-Product!!! (a la Mac Cube a few years ago)

    “MacMini”: is much more
    likely. I have images of Minime (from Austin Powers) using it.

    Robosapien V2 does not fart. Much more capable than the first

    We did discuss the Sony PSP in the interview. Anything Sony will
    do well… But will they get the games! Xbox v2 more likely to
    succeed in that way.

    Mike Reddy

    January 11, 2005

    Oh, some discussion that led to the original idea for the Western
    Mail article. The following links are related to the Consumer
    Electronics Show where the pundits were predicting the killer
    gadget for 2005:




    January 11, 2005

    “DVD Wars”:

    The battle between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD could be be set to replicate the VHS/Betamax wars, where VHS the cheaper inferior technology won though better marketing.

    Today???s latest disk technology is tomorrows coffee coaster.


    January 11, 2005

    your web page sucks!


    January 11, 2005

    The whole discrminative thing are not seems to accomplished but still you should have to try.

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