Posts Tagged ‘futures’

Forecasting innnovation

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

QR codes are only one example of consumer-targeted technological innovation.

For those not familiar with the Gartner Group, the Peak of Inflated Expectation and the Slope of Enlightenment might sound like locations from ‘The Lord of the Rings’.  After all, didn’t they need to throw the Ring into the Trough of Disillusionment?

For the consulting group, and those with an eye on the horizon, the Gartner Hype Cycle can be a useful tool, especially if you can compare the (sometimes rapid) movement of technology on its’ spectrum.  Of even greater interest are those ideas which simple become obsolete before becoming viable (compare the differences between a 2010 and 2011 graph, for example).

The Gartner Hype Cycle charts a technological innovation from the environmental trigger as it evolves through defined stages of development.  Researchers will try to predict how long until the idea is mainstreamed, and often this figure will be revised as the idea or technological application moves through the stages of development.

The beauty of presenting this information pictorially is that you can glimpse where each technology is in relation to others, and also group technology (essentially) by risk.  If you want to try for a high-risk, or under-developed idea, then the Technology Trigger and Peak of Inflated Expectations is for you.

Those with a mind for challenge would be drawn to the Trough of Disillusionment.  What factors make these technologies less attractive or simply unusable to a large, mainstream audience?  Perhaps all that is missing here is a re-evaluation of purpose (however, some are simply not feasible or cost-effective).

Whilst the earlier stages are certainly attractive and represent the ‘new space’, I find the Slope of Enlightenment and Plateau of Productivity to be particularly exciting.  These have ‘proof of concept’ ideas and have started to have a level of public awareness which leads to traction and ultimately wide-spread use.

Take the QR Codes for example.  Gartner lists them (as of July 2011) as being ‘2 to 5 years to mainstream adoption’.  However, they are becoming more recognisable each day as companies seek a competitive advantage in delivery additional value-adding content to consumers.  Standing in line with my bread and milk at the supermarket last weekend, my eye wandered to the DVD racks and lo! there was a QR code on the front of The Adjustment Bureau’.  If I‘d access to an iPhone, I could have watched the trailer in the aisle (as it was, I had to wait until I saw it on the AppleTrailers site at home, and simply wish I’d bought it at the time).

Upon arriving home, I thumbed through the printed Bunnings catalogue with QR codes leading me to associated content.  On the page advertising paints, I could use the QR code to view a video tutorial on preparing a surface for painting (and many other topics).

The point here is that a lot of the technology which has communication, educational or even military applications is increasingly consumerised which will assist in mainstreaming.  Whilst it is true that many commercial entities will use emerging technology superficially, I think that we need to look to business for possible strategies to not only maintain an edge in higher education, but also to reach our intended audience.

Whilst the users’ educational needs should always dictate the implementation of new technology, we should all take some time out for a little future gazing with a dash of imagination.

This is the way the future is built.


Adrian Stagg – Learning Technologist (Co-Pilot)

Image credit: QR Code generated by Kawaya QR Code Generator.


Intel from the future

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
Intel building

‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’ - Arthur C Clarke

As Intel announced ‘The Tomorrow Project’, and hired sci-fi authors to imagine the future of technology, Arthur C. Clarke’s quote sprang to my mind.  Intel’s argument is a simple one – that the only barriers to science and technology at this point in history are the constraints of the human imagination. As a fan of two futuristic genres – science fiction and cyberpunk – I took some time to reflect on what makes them different; and more importantly, what this teaches us about educational technology.

Science fiction has always been the shining, gleaming, hopeful vision of the future.  We never doubted that a tyrannical dictatorial regime would be overthrown by a small group of rebels in Star Wars; and the utopian capitalist- and currency-free Federation of Star Trek seems idyllic.  The aim was to project a future wherein technology had enabled humanity to rise above conflict and oppression and embrace higher ideals.

Since William Gibson’s Neuromancer, however, cyberpunk authors have postulated an opposing and dystopian argument.  As corporations gather enough power to force governments into obsolescence, and invasive technological consumerism becomes the accepted norm, we are confronted by a future which shows that humanity continues to follow baser instincts – but enabled by newer, sleeker technology.

So what does this have to do with educational technology?

Whenever we hear about a new device or software program, we’re faced with these two worlds.  Do we harness the technology to do something new, to challenge prevailing ideas and improve the overall experience for students?  Or do we simply continue doing what we’ve always done – just with newer, sleeker devices?

How many times have we seen an interactive whiteboard used to simply display static PowerPoint slides, or student response devices employed to only poll lecture attendance?  The challenge, therefore, is to not only put the end user first and match teaching and technology, but to broadly imagine new possibilities.

This may mean embracing new methods of teaching and assessment, but the message from Intel seems to be clear – why simply maintain the status quo, when something richer, more powerful and imaginative could be possible?

Adrian Stagg – Learning Technologist (Co-Pilot)

Image credit: LordFerguson The geometry three, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence