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Microsoft - 'Minority Report' tech only 3 years away

Microsoft's Craig Mundie says desktop computers could soon become obsolete

Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie
Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie

Major advances in computer technology will soon see humans interacting with avatars and controlling computers with gestures similar to the ones seen in the film 'Minority Report', Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie told Arabian Business."The gains that are now going to come, starting in about 2012, may be potentially as much as a factor of 50 to 100... That begs the question, what are you going to do with it?" Mundie, who is second in charge of the company, said."Everyone who looks at (the technology in action) says ‘wow, this is like Minority Report.' But theirs was fake and this thing is more or less real. We do have technology that will do these things, not just camera stunts that will make it look like it. These things are really going to happen. This 50 or 100 times performance gain gives us for the first time enough compute capability to do these human sensory type of interactions, multiple at a time, and therefore leave behind in many cases the need to use mice and keyboards," he said.

He added all devices containing a chip would be improved following a breakthrough in processors that would allow home users to have access to technology previously only used in super-computers designed for important scientific research. Mundie described the changes as "revolutionary."

He added that soon desktop computers could become obsolete:

"My view is that the successor to the desktop computer is the Room. So you'll be in the computer. It will observe you. The surfaces will basically be active, they will be displays, touch sensitive, the whole surface of walls will become active displays. And so the context of the room will adjust as a function of what you are trying to do...

"So for example, I have a desk that has all my papers on it, but they are all there electronically, but I can sign them and move them around. I have a high resolution display on the wall in front of me, and the table I am standing at has another high resolution display. The application on the wall is coupled to the presentation on the desk. When I want to adjust the model - if I was an architect, for example - I could adjust design models just by using these slider controls that appear on your desktop. If I want to change the display on my wall, I just make a gesture."

He added that avatars could also soon be commonplace in the offices of the near future.

"in the demo, I have an avatar who is my digital assistant. He shows up on the wall. He talks to me. He makes suggestions about helping with my next appointment. He says: "I got the data you asked me to get. Where do you want me to put it? On the website, or give it to you?" He notices the next thing I am supposed to do is have a telepresence video call with one of the team members and so he asks "should I start the call for you?" He does many of the things an executive assistant would do."

Mundie added the technology to allow computers to think for themselves was still far off, but predicted the next major breakthrough in computing would be the building of a quantum computer.

Such a computer, he said, would "compute based on on the properties of quantum mechanics down at molecular level" and present humanity with massive opportunities in fields such as synthetic biology, new material and nanotechnology.

"It would mostly obviate everything we know about computers," he said.