Technology. Dictionaries tend to define it as ‘the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes’, manmade innovations for the betterment of existence. From the alphabet and printing press, currency and the compass, antibiotics and the telegraph, they all changed life in some way. And the advancements never stopped. Eurostat’s analysis of statistics related to economic data found that 2014 saw 46,000 enterprises in high-tech manufacturing established in the EU, their products representing 17.0% of the value of exports. The big picture of technological evolution is impressive, but so is the gradual reformation it brought about of established fields, businesses, products and even concepts.
When once communication was dependent on postal services crossing distances great and small to deliver messages from one person to another, now it can all be done with a few taps of a keyboard and the click of a button. Even before Ray Tomlinson chose the @ sign in 1972 to denote sending messages between computers after the invention of time-sharing, various file directory systems were used in the 1960s, like Mailbox and SNDMSG, to exchange messages between terminals of a single mainframe. Since then, emailing has developed into a prime method of casual and professional interaction. Yet Christmas and birthday cards still find their way onto their lofty perches.
Monopoly, the maker and breaker of friends and family, has been around since the early 20th century, originally titled The Landlord’s Game when developed by Lizzie Magie in 1903. Undergoing transformation upon rebranding, it has now been upgraded further with the help of technology. In Monopoly: Ultimate Banking, Mashable explains, paper money and the banker have been replaced by scannable ATM cards to be used with a handheld device that carries out all transactions. It is doubtful, however, that this handy enhancement will do much to avert the upending of tables.
Similarly, iGaming has rapidly been taking over the casino industry, grossing a total of $37.91 billion in revenue in 2015 and forecasted to reach $59.79 billion by 2020. Several games have been taken from their physical forms and repurposed for the online market. Featured on Mr Smith Casino, for instance, is Live Roulette, which engages the player with elements such as high quality video graphics, multiple camera views and a live dealer to create an environment that is thrilling and virtually realistic, simulating the atmosphere of casinos with added elements from cinema. The formation of a worldwide community of players has also been made possible by online connectivity.
Technology’s growing ability to simulate the real world – or illustrate new ones – has culminated into the present resurgence of VR devices. Since Charles Wheatstone’s 1838 research into how the brain processes two different two-dimensional pictures into a single three-dimensional image, the practical evolution of virtual reality branched out into various fields, but it was not until 1987 that the official term was coined by Jaron Lanier, co-developer of devices like the Dataglove and Eyephone head mounted display. 21st century sales by device figures show Samsung Gear VR having sold 5 million units with Oculus Rift not too far behind with 3.6 million. Escapism is being taken to a whole new level and the receptive public is enjoying the ride.
Is there any point in speculating on the future of technology? Clearly the possibilities are as limited as the human imagination – so virtually unlimited!