Report predicts what new tech will be mainstream in ten years (and beyond)

When will biometrics, 3D printing, or computer-brain interfaces be in widespread use by designers, engineers, and consumers alike? A new report by Gartner predicts what emerging tech will become mainstream, and when.

What software or equipment will designers and engineers be using, or designing, in the next five years? The next ten years? Will 3D printing become an everyday practice? Will mobile robots be used often and in many types of consumer and commercial contexts? Some clues lie in a new report from Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company.

A sculpture scanned and copied using a 3D printer

Gartner's newly released 2011 Hype Cycle Special Report looks at 1,900 technologies and predicts whether they have already reached their "Peak of Inflated Expectations" (such as Internet TV, the report states) or whether these technologies will have widespread influence across a number of industries in coming years. The report uses Gartner's concept of "Hype Cycles," which Gartner has been creating since 1995. Gartner plots new technologies on a wave-like curve, identifying whether they are in early stages of development or are headed toward widespread usage, both real and expected, based on Gartner analysts' research. You can find the latest Hype Cycle graph that illustrates the predictions in Gartner's new report online.

Peering into the crystal ball of Gartner's new Hype Cycle of emerging technologies, featured in the report, the following tech will likely become mainstream:

  • In 2-5 years: cloud computing, gesture recognition, and biometric authentication methods
  • In 5-10 years: 3D printing, gamification, and augmented reality
  • In more than 10 years: human augmentation, computer-brain interface, and 3D bio-printing

The range of emerging technologies covered in Gartner's new hype cycle is of course much broader, and yet also much more information-technology focused. My edited list, above, features the types of technologies that would likely be of interest to industrial, interface, and product designers as well as innovation strategists. (For more information, it's worth noting that Gartner is also offering a free webinar, "The Gartner Hype Cycle Special Report: What's Hot for 2011" on August 25 at 9 a.m. Eastern and 12 p.m. Eastern.)

While the Gartner analysis might help identify hot technologies and plot them on a timeline, it can't predict how inventive companies and design firms will use them in fields as diverse as, say, healthcare, entertainment, or education. But this sense of possibility and suspense, triggered by the report's forecasts, is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of looking at Gartner's latest Hype Cycle.

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