Edge of Innovation

Microsoft’s bold tech predictions imagine the world of 2026

 

What will the future look like? We’re never short of people making bold tech predictions and Microsoft is the latest company to gaze into a crystal ball. Talking to its researchers and engineers, it’s come up with 16 predictions for 2016, ranging from advanced natural language processing to AI digital assistants.

More interestingly, Microsoft also asked its leading thinkers what the technology landscape in 2026 might look like. Flying cars? Robot butlers? Nano-submarines diving through our blood vessels? Not quite. These guesses are much more realistic.

For example, Chris Bishop, Managing Director of Microsoft Research in the UK, believes that “we will have ubiquitous, human-quality translation among all European languages, thereby eliminating the language barrier throughout Europe.” The Microsoft-owned Skype Translator software is already well on the way to achieving this goal.

Microsoft Skype Translator
Microsoft’s Skype Translator already allows you to hold conversations in several European languages.

Lili Cheng, Distinguished Engineer & General Manager, Microsoft Research NExT, suggests that “every kid who goes to school will learn to code” by 2026, while her colleague, Li Deng predicts that “deep learning will advance to match or exceed human-level AI competence in several major areas of speech and vision.”

Jasmin Fisher, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research in the UK looks forward to a world ten years from now when “cancer will be a solved problem.”

How will we get there? Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow & Managing Director, Microsoft Research Redmond Lab, says that “intelligent systems will supercharge scientific discovery and enable major scientific breakthroughs in such areas as energy, biology and medicine.”

HoloLens Minecraft
Augmented Reality (AR) hardware like HoloLens will transform everyday activities such as shopping and gaming.

There are other bold tech predictions, ranging from cloud quantum computing to the ability for scientists to program living cells. If some of Microsoft’s guesses come true, we’ll be living in an age when living cells can be programmed, our environment is closely monitored and HoloLens-style augmented reality enhances everything from gaming to shopping.

But perhaps the biggest hope for the future is far simpler, albeit significantly harder to realise. It’s this: “Things will just work,” hopes Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research. “They will work together seamlessly and transparently, and in so doing, there will be a significant decrease in complexity, increase in value and a liberation that enables people to focus on what is most important: realising their human potential to the fullest.”

You can read the full list of Microsoft predictions for 2016 (and 2026) here. But it’s the last one here that’s most appealing — give us a world where everything just works and most of us will be happy. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)

Main image credit: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

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