2020: The future of technology revealed

What the next 10 years holds for us all

Body language

Gesture-based interfaces are catching on fast. The Nintendo Wii's gesture-based controller is one example. And the iPhone's touchscreen responds differently to finger taps and swipes - Apple uses similar technology in its MacBook Air's touchpad. GestureTek uses the input from cameraphones to deliver gesture control.

Freed from the keyboard, you'll be able to talk or gesture to your PC from virtually any display in your home. Or you may carry your pocket-sized PC with you and beam the image to a nanocomputer embedded in the nearest wall-sized screen.

Paper-thin displays are inching closer to reality too. Late last year, Sony released its 11in XEL-1 organic LED high-definition TVs (Oled HDTVs) and, at January's Consumer Electronics Show, the company presented a prototype 27in model.

Meanwhile, what you see onscreen will look a lot more like real life than in present-day 3D virtual worlds, Halal predicts. "When you want to buy a book, instead of going to Amazon's home page, you'll be greeted by a virtual salesperson," Halal says. "The avatar will find the book you're looking for and conduct the transaction, just as you would experience with a real person."

Michael Liebhold, senior researcher at California's Institute for the Future, says your PC may project a holograph so you can manipulate files and objects with your hands.

For many people, the PC of the future will be a dumb terminal, with storage, software and processing power distributed across an internet 'cloud'. Amazon, Dell and IBM have introduced cloud services for businesses, and Google and Zoho now serve up web applications to consumers.

In years to come you'll enjoy ubiquitous internet access, perhaps using part of today's TV spectrum. Such access will deliver your 'desktop' from a portable device or internet terminal. Instead of a password, you'll provide a fingerprint, voice or retinal scan.

"Your identity becomes your access point to your files and apps," says Patrick Tucker of the World Future Society. "Your digital life will follow you around like a shadow."

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