Siri, book me on the next flight to New York and drive me to the airport…

I’m 45 years old. Over the years I’ve seen some amazing advances in technology. If I could have told you way back in 1976, that today I would be typing an article on a glass slate. That the slate has a touch sensitive keyboard, no moving parts and a high resolution colour display. That it is connected to a thing called an Internet, without wires. That this Internet thing is a massive interconnected web of computers and my article could potentially be read by hundreds of millions of people, worldwide (well, I did say potentially!).

Not only would you have thought that I was crazy, but you would have been unlikely to have even been able to visualise what I was talking about.

Back then we had dial telephones, not because they were retro and cool, but because that was the state of the art. Computers were unknown outside of the lab. TV came with 3 channels.

The changes I’ve seen over the last 35 years must have happened at the fastest rate ever witnessed by the generations that have come before, and I wonder how much faster it will go. The only thing that is certain – it will change.

‘I will ignore all ideas for new works on engines of war, the invention of which has reached its limits and for whose improvements I see no further hope.’

– Julius Sextus Frontinus, prominent Roman engineer (c. 40-103 AD)

Today three recent advances were demonstrated that gave me a glimpse of what might be coming next, a world where technology starts to become a seamless part of our lives, rather than the accessories that they feel today.

They are, in no particular order:

Apple’s Siri. What may be the first real world implementation of a practical computerised assistant. It’s only as good as its data sources, and a lot of those are currently locked up inside the companies that own them. That will change of course, once they work out who is going to pay for it – will Siri always get its data for free?

Google’s self driving car. It works, well. They have even made it slightly aggressive so that it is able to make its own way across an intersection – without that it would be too cautious and never go anywhere.

How Google’s self driving car works

Computers are beginning to see. We saw that revolution start with the Kinect system and lately two more very interesting demos have been aired:

Marco Tempest performs magic using iPhones (and some neat software). His TED Video:

…and how he did it:


This is another related video that you must see, Researchers create a touch screen on any surface


On their own they are cool things, but together, packaged for the masses, they are game changers. That’s where we came in:

Me: Siri, book me on the next flight to New York and drive me to the airport…

Siri: Ok Steve, setting destination for Bristol Spaceport, eta New York 4 hours. Would you like me to book dinner at your favourite restaurant?