New Technologies are constantly emerging in computing, and often these hold the possibility of changing the way that we use computers, or change the way that computers affect the world we live in. The current iGCSE specification specifically mentions a number of emerging technologies and these are discussed below.
Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans. The term was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (so it has been an emerging technology for a long time.
Examples of areas that make use of Artificial intelligence includes the following:
Currently, no computers exhibit full artificial intelligence (that is, are able to simulate human behavior). The greatest advances have occurred in the field of games playing. The best computer chess programs are now capable of beating humans. In May, 1997, an IBM super-computer called Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in a chess match.
Biometrics is the science and technology of measuring and analyzing biological data. In information technology, biometrics refers to technologies that measure and analyze human body characteristics, such as DNA, fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns and hand measurements, for authentication purposes (to make sure somebody is who they claim to be).
Authentication by biometric verification is becoming increasingly common in corporate and public security systems, consumer electronics (the finger print lock on an i-phone) and point of sale (POS) applications (school canteens that use fingerprints to buy lunch).
Biometric devices, such as finger print scanners, consist of:
To prevent identity theft, biometric data is usually encrypted when it's gathered.
Computer technologies are being used to enhance vision for people. This might be of benefit to partially sighted people or to enhance vision in particular situations, for example at night. The Raspberry Magnify system developed at St. Mary's College is an example of a vision enhancement system which uses a computer and camera to capture images and video and display it at a larger size to benefit people who are partially sighted.
Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing.
These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition. Robots have been successfully landed on Mars and are helping us to understand the geology and conditions to be found on the planet. Other uses of robots includes car manufacturing, bomb disposal, deep sea exploration, etc.
Robots can be created and programmed to perform any task that can be broken down into a clear set of instructions, but will usually be created to perform a very specific task.
Cryptography is the science of creating encoded messages and information to prevent it from being read or altered by eavesdroppers. It is one of the main tools used in computer security. Traditional cryptography uses mathematics to encipher (convert a message to code) and decipher (convert a coded message into plain text) messages. Quantum cryptography uses the properties of light to encipher and decipher messages and is much more secure than traditional mathematical techniques. Currently the signals are limited to around 90 miles although work is being undertaken to extend this.
Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) is the use of computers to assist in the translation of one or more natural languages into another or others, and vice versa. They make use of software that may incorporate features such as pop-up glossaries for specific areas of expertise, the automatic matching of text already translated, and so on. Also called computer-aided translation. A good example for you to think of would be the use of Google Translate to help you with your French homework, although there are much better CAT tools that are available. The important thing to note is that, at the moment, the computer is not left alone to do the translation but is working to help human translators in their work.
The creation of 3D prints, images and movies is accomplished by capturing the scene at two different angles corresponding to the distance between a person's left and right eyes (roughly 64mm). When the left image is directed to the left eye and the right image to the right eye, the brain perceives the illusion of greater depth. The stereo (left and right) frames are separated in one of a number of ways and a corresponding pair of 3D eyeglasses directs the images to the appropriate eye. 3D imaging is becoming popular for entertainment purposes with many films being offered in a 3D format, but also offers greater possibilities in medical and educational imaging.
Holographic imaging tries to produce a similar effect to 3D imaging but in a very different way. The images produced by holographic imaging are known as holograms. Lasers are used to capture light from the subject and create the image, although computer technology has been used to produce holographic images that might never have existed. Holographic images tend to be of still objects, although work is being undertaken to create moving holographic images which could be used in films, games, etc. The major difference from our point of view is that holographic images do not need us to wear special glasses to 'see' the 3D image. Bank notes contain holograms as they are very difficult to copy, you can also see them on credit cards and discs that contain computer software to prove they are authentic.
Virtual Reality (VR) is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user, usually with the help of other pieces of technology (headphones and VR headsets) in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. At the moment, virtual reality is primarily experienced through two of the five senses: sight and sound.
The simplest form of virtual reality is a 3-D image that can be explored interactively at a personal computer, usually by manipulating keys or the mouse so that the content of the image moves in some direction or zooms in or out. Google cardboard and Occulus Rift are 2 examples of VR headsets that have been created to view VR content. More sophisticated efforts involve such approaches as wrap-around display screens, actual rooms augmented with wearable computers, and haptics devices that let you feel the display images.
Typically a VR system will include headphones (or speakers), a screen placed close to the eyes (usually included within a VR headset), joystick/s for interacting with the virtual world and sensors to measure how a person is moving their head and hands, etc. More modern systems might include tactile gloves which give more control to the user, allowing them to 'pick up' items in the virtual world.
The use of Virtual Reality can be divided into: