Aug 172011
 

Recently, Varsha and I have been watching the Story of Us series about the history of America. It is really fascinating to see how the various inventions over time helped America develop into the world’s leading superpower. We highly recommend watching it – I’ve never cared about learning history but I truly love this series. To be honest, it has me thinking about what it would be like to be born in a different time period. OK, so maybe the colt revolver and the cotton gin are not my thing, but even the computer is now nearly 70 years old and has gone through a number of exciting innovations and developments.

As someone who likes to create new things, I can attest to the fact that is easy to get caught feeling like we’ve already missed out on some “gold rush” period of invention and discovery. All the good ideas and their corresponding website domains have been taken, right?

To make matter worse, there are a number of topic and trends we continuously hear about in the technology realm that quickly start to feel over-hyped. But perhaps… easy access to information has caused us to under-appreciate new advancements as they occur. I thought I’d take a few minutes to step back and consider the various trends. And the more I think about them, the more I realize that we are in the midst of a particularly significant age of innovation that will alter the world we live in. Here are eight topics and trends worth considering:

Mobile computing: Perhaps the most obvious. Ever stop and think about the impact of the cell phone? It has revolutionized the way we work, travel, and live. And it did this by simply giving us access to the phone system from our pockets. Well, we now have access to the entire Internet from our pockets through devices that have fairly significant computing power – the possibilities are endless. Oh, and let’s not forget about the war between Apple and Google (and Microsoft, sort of?) to dominate the mobile space. It’s going to be a good one.

New computing interfaces: With the advent of the iPhone and a host of other touchscreen devices, it is obvious that more and more devices are going to incorporate touch computing. Equally significant are gaming systems like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect. Together, these technologies are ushering in a new age of gesture-based input. Furthermore, I’m wondering if it won’t be long before we finally see voice-driven computing take off. The way we interact with devices and the world around us could change significantly in the relatively near future (think sci-fi movies).

Social: How can I not mention social? Some people might claim that Facebook and Twitter are a waste of time, but there is really no denying that social technologies are changing the world. There is something fundamentally significant about being connected. Whether it’s sharing with the people you know, broadcasting in real-time to an audience of followers, or upvoting articles on a community-driven news site, the more ways that information can flow freely, the better society will be for it. Social will continue to disrupt industries and enhance the way we communicate.

Entertainment: It is clear that technology has been trying to revolutionize the music and movie industries for the past several years. Although these industries have been resistant to change, we have already seen some pretty big advancements. We can now stream music from services like Pandora and Spotify, watch movies and tv shows on demand using Netflix and Hulu, and manage our digital content on Amazon and iCloud (well, coming soon). Equally as exciting as the technology is the transformation within business models.

Location: Another obvious topic you read about in every technology blog. Worth mentioning because I think it’s a nut yet to be cracked, and there are a lot of folks trying to figure it out. Whether it’s where we are, where we’ve been, or where we’re going, there is obviously a lot of value in processing information within the context of location.

Politics: Yes, politics. The 2008 election was a breakthrough year for politics in terms of technology. The way the Obama campaign’s utilized their website, online advertising, email campaigns, and the Internet as a whole was simply masterful. You can bet that other campaign strategists took notice and that 2012 is going to be an incredible, high-tech political year. The country has never been more engaged in politics and social media will most certainly be at the fore-front.

Local commerce: Whether or not you think the daily deal phenomenon is good for business, you have to admire what companies like Groupon have done to connect consumers with local businesses. Coupled with some aspects of location-based services such as Foursquare, local commerce is an extremely hot area to watch out for – particularly because there is an obvious business model baked in. I am sure there will be a lot more innovation around finding a sustainable win-win for both consumers and businesses.

Startup culture and celebrity geekdom: Largely thanks to blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable entering the mainstream, there has never been a more exciting time to be involved with startups. Heck, even CNN is now writing about every single Apple announcement and Facebook feature that comes out. It’s awesome to think that some of the biggest geeks in the world (ahem, Zuckerburg) have the same name-recognition as Hollywood stars. Ok, so Zuckerburg did have a movie made about him. But there are other geek celebs such as Michael Arrington, Kevin Rose, Robert Scoble, Melissa Mayer, Paul Graham, and Eric Ries that are well-known and have quite a following. Technological advancement is not just about the products but also about the people you impact – and it is wonderful to see people being recognized for it.

Are you as juiced as I am about the current innovation climate? What did I leave out? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Oh, and follow me on Twitter.

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