Five years ago I wrote a set of predictions about 2020. In some ways I think I was too unambitious for the progress of technology: browser technology has probably already reached the levels I had expected for a decade later. Some of them look like they might be off-target, like the increase in storage capacity of mobile devices. We still have another five years to see how they all pan out.

I thought I’d take another swing at a set of predictions. This time I’m looking out towards 2025.


3D printing is the next major transformative technology wave. In 2025 we’ll be seeing 3D printers in the homes of at least a quarter of North Americans. Home 3D printer quality in 2025 will be amazing. A consumer will be able to print in multiple colors and plastic/rubber-like materials, with a final print quality that will often rival that of mold-formed products.

There will be multiple marketplaces for things to print: some open-source ones that will contain basic shapes and designs, and a number of licensed repositories for printing designer items like toys and kitchenware from well-known names. There will also be a healthy 3D piracy community.

When you look around a room in 2014, a lot of what you see will be printed in the home or a rapid-manufacturing facility in 2025. 3D printing will eat the manufacturing lifecycle from the bottom up. Products where the first 100 might be built with rapid prototyping today will have the first 100,000 produced on-demand. Companies like IKEA will choose to print and cut their designs on-demand in warehouses rather than stocking parts built elsewhere.

Local distribution centers will replace overseas manufacturing almost completely. North America will import processed materials from China, India and Africa for use in the new local centers: plastics and rubbers, and metals with binder. The local manufacturing centers will use a combination of 3D printer, laser/plasma cutting and generic robot assembly to build everything from one-off orders to runs of thousands as needed.

To support rapid manufacturing at these levels, generic robotics will replace the manufacturing line of today. A generic robot will be able to be taught to do a task like a human does and will coordinate with other generic robots to build a product like a fixed line would do today. Generic robotics will also find itself at home in other fields currently employing humans doing repetitive tasks like food preparation, laundry and cleaning.

Amusingly 3D printers will be displacing regular document printers which will have mostly died out at that point. Paper will take much longer than 2025 to replace, but the majority of financial, legal and educational work will be entirely electronic. Electronic signatures will be commonplace and some form of e-signature using mobile devices and biometrics will likely be used to validate documents. Paper in the home will be well on its way out and even children will be coloring on electronic devices with a stylus rather than coloring books.


In 2025 we’ll have maxed out our technologies for 2D display and audio. Screens on cheap devices will have the same effective DPI as paper and the pixel will be something very few people will see. Virtual reality won’t be pervasive yet, but it’ll be in a significant number of homes for entertainment purposes. There will be devices small enough for portable use.

The convergence of devices will continue, and will consume a number of devices for entertainment at home. The cable box and dedicated game consoles will be almost dead, replaced with streaming from personal devices Chromecast-style. TV will still be going strong and there will be advancements in display technology that will allow basic 3D technology without glasses using light-field manipulation.


Vehicles will be radically transformed by advances in self-driving technology. While we still won’t have pervasive self-driving vehicles, there will be a large number of autonomous vehicles on the road. These will mainly replace long-haul trucking and transport, but some higher-end vehicles will be autonomous enough to allow individuals to safely commute to work or run errands hands-free.

Car ownership will be dramatically declining by 2025. With the ability to summon transport from an autonomous or human-driven vehicle at the tip of everyone’s fingertips, it won’t make sense for most people to own vehicles. High-end cars will continue to be a status symbol, but the low-end market will be decimated in the transition.

Electric vehicles will have captured around half of the market of vehicles sold, including everything from passenger cars to transport trucks. Fossil fuels and hydrogen will be included as “backup” options on some models, used only to increase range if needed by charging the batteries.


With solar getting cheaper and more efficient year-by-year, we’ll see some changes in the way that energy is supplied to home. Neighborhood grids will replace nation-wide grids for home use. Dozens of houses will pool their solar power into a cooperative with battery storage that they’ll use for electricity, heating and charging of vehicles.

More nuclear power will come online in the 2020’s, mainly driven by new reactor designs that produce very little waste and advances in fail-safe technology. Thorium-based reactors will be just starting to appear and safe designs like the CANDU plant will become significantly more popular.

Much of the new power brought online will be fueling desalinization and water-reclamation facilities to stabilize the fresh water supply. Fresh water will dominate the news cycle as energy does today.


With all of the changes described above, North America will see a significant effect on the number of low-end jobs. Manufacturing, food and transport industries will be radically changed, jobs moving from many low-skilled positions to a few high-end positions.

This will require thought on how we can re-architect the economy. I think we’ll see concepts like minimum guaranteed income replacing welfare and minimum wage. This is much more difficult to predict than the pace of technology, but we’ll have to do something to ensure that everyone is able to live in the new world we’re building.

Read full post

This is a fun little project I’ve been working on: a port of the Colossal Cave Adventure to the web. The monitor itself is nearly 100% CSS (with the exception of one image for the masking tape/signature and the diffuse reflection of the background).

The interpreter is all Java and compiled to JS via GWT. It can save its state to localStorage right now when you save in-game (although I’d like to automatically persist the state of the engine continuously before I release it).

And, FWIW, the Colossal Cave Adventure is a surprisingly hard game. 

UPDATE: Source is on github and you can play it here.

Read full post

This is a follow-up to my week with a ChromeOS netbook post.

The Google Chromebook is an interesting product to watch. I’ve been a fan of and using them since the early Cr-48 days. In fact, two Chromebook laptops were in service in our household until just a few weeks ago when the Samsung Chromebook broke (although I hope to repair it soon).

These laptops sit next to our couch in a stack as a set of floater laptops we use for random surfing. If any of us are just looking for a quick bite of information, we generally pull out the Chromebook rather than walking over to the Macbook that sits on our kitchen counter. The Chromebook is also great for our son to use when building LEGO from PDF instructions.

Browsing is far better on the Chromebook than it is on any Android or iOS device I’ve used, hands down. I find the browsing experience to be frustrating on an iPad or my Galaxy 10”, while the Chromebook experience is flawless. The device is basically ready-to-use for browsing as soon as you lift the lid, in contrast to the fair amount of time it takes to get logged into the Macbook (especially if another user has a few applications open in their session).

The hardware itself in the early models was slightly underpowered, but that doesn’t really seem to matter much unless you’re playing a particularly intensive Flash video or HTML5 game. Scrolling is fairly slow on complex sites like Google+ as well, but it’s never been a showstopper. The touchpads have also been hit-and-miss in the early models. For what we use it for, the hardware is pretty decent. I imagine that the next generations will gradually improve on these shortcomings.

What makes these devices a hard sell is the price point. The cheapest Chromebook experience you can get today is the Acer (@ $300). Considering the fact that you are buying a piece of hardware that effectively does less than a laptop, I would find it hard to justify spending that amount if I were looking at hardware today. Even though I prefer to use the Chromebook when surfing over the tablets or the full laptop, I feel like the cost is just too much for a single-purpose device like this.

For Chromebooks to really take off in the home market, I think that a device with the equivalent power to the Samsung Chromebook 5 needs to be on the market at a $199 price point. I could see myself buying them without a second thought at that price. Alternatively, if we saw some sort of Android hybrid integration with the Chromebook, I think that this could radically change the equation and add significant perceived value to the device.

I don’t see the Chromebox being popular in households ever - I believe that we’ll see the decline of the non-portable computer going forward at home. Now, if I were running a business where a large subset of employees could get by with just web access, I would definitely consider rolling these out. The Chromebox looks like it could be a real game changer for business IT costs.

Read full post

I’ve been snooping around the Google+ code a bit and found some more upcoming features.

Hashtags are getting a bit of a boost with auto-completion. When you type the hash character, you’ll see a list of potential auto-completions (this doesn’t appear to be hooked up to any data). When you hit space, it turns into a blue block containing the hashtag, which acts like the blue blocks that contain + mentions:

Circle management looks like it might be dropping the circle visual metaphor. The new interface lists your circles on the left, although this wasn’t working very well, so it’s difficult to say what the final result will look like:

The new interface contains two menus: one replaces the existing Relevance drop-down, while the other contains some interesting new menu items. Increase and decrease circle size appear to change the size of the circles on the circle management page. Might be an internal option for the user experience team to eyeball the correct sizing:

There’s a new “more” dropdown on a profile page that doesn’t seem to do anything, and games may appear in the right sidebar:

Photos are getting some tweaks. The photo previews are appearing larger in the photos tab, and there’s a new “Link to this photo” option:

There’s a new “Recommendations” link on the left side of your home screen that links to a page that doesn’t exist yet. Clicking on the Recommendations link takes you to a 404 page at

You can now control who can post on your public posts. This might be useful for celebrities, although I’m not really sure who it’s targeted at:

Individual posts are now getting a “Hangout” button. Discuss a post in real-time with others that have seen it!

You can now mute a person in addition to a single post, and the post sharing dropdown is getting a bit of a makeover with item icons:

I’m not sure if this welcome page was already there, but I haven’t seen this screen before:

Read full post

Today I had a chance to play with the Canadian equivalent of the Kindle Fire, the Kobo Vox. It’s an Android 2.3 device, which means that it effectively has access to the entire ecosystem of Android apps. What it lacks, unfortunately, is the official Google Market application. It did appear to have access to the Gmail app, which makes the lack of Google’s Android market surprising.

The Vox is a bit lackluster in the graphics department. Full-screen animations like zooms and fades are choppy: 5-10 frames per second. The same animations in the Kobo application on my Galaxy Tab 10 are fluid and smooth. This makes the Kobo Vox feel like a really cheap bit of hardware. It’s not a big deal while reading books in the Kobo application: paging is lightning fast, although it doesn’t have any sort of animation to indicate page flips.

One thing you get with the Vox that you won’t get with the plain Kobo application on other devices is the “Kobo Voice” social reading experience. You can annotate passages in books and share them with other readers. I don’t find this to be a big loss. The Vox also offers a way to lay out books in two-page landscape mode, which would be amazing on the Galaxy Tab 10, but feels a bit cramped on the smaller Vox screen.

The Kobo Vox does have a nice screen. The Dell Streak 7” tablet has issues with narrow viewing angles in portrait mode. From what I could tell, the Vox was beautiful in portrait and landscape orientation. The quality of the display feels pretty good.

Based on the five minutes I played with it, I don’t think it’s worth me buying. I’m tempted to look at the Kindle Fire for use in Canada, but I suspect that Amazon’s less-than-perfect support for Amazon services in Canada will make it less of an interesting piece of hardware. If you don’t already have a tablet, however, this might not be a bad device to purchase.

Comparable devices:

  • Kindle Fire: $200
  • Kobo Vox: $200
  • Dell Streak 7”: $399 (terrible for reading in portrait!)
  • Galaxy Tab 8.9: $400-600 (couldn’t find it for sale in Canada)
  • Galaxy Tab 10.1: $649
Read full post