As parents, we all know the pressure our kids are going through these days, lugging heavy textbooks, notebooks, lunch boxes, snack boxes, and god knows what else the teacher wants on that particular day! No amount of media messages or personal messages from Dr Abdul Kalam seems to change this behaviour, and I am shocked at the load my son is carrying these days!
The morning rush hour at home, prior to the rush hour during commute hours has become a norm in most homes. One of such days, when I was distressed, and tired, and reached work a little late, I slipped into an early morning siesta, and had this wonderful dream:
The year 2020.
It is 7.15 AM and time for our son Karthik to get dressed up and go to school. As the morning scramble continues, I am searching for that heavy armour called backpack when my son walks out all smiles with a Tiffin box and a 12-inch ultra-thin slate! I scream, “Karthik, you forgot your books”. Karthik does not wait, and I just realized that I had once again forgotten that the Digital World has taken over our lives, this time for the better! A faint smile appeared on my lips.
The thin slate that Karthik is carrying is a custom built PDA, with a high-resolution camera, high-speed wireless connectivity, and large enough screen with touchpad capabilities that can receive high-quality video and play stereophonic quality audio. Equipped with a voice recognition system, it can identify most of my son’s cryptic syllables and has enough stuff to help his message and connect with friends. It is Smart enough to identify where he is and send that message to my PDA, and to our Home Security system.
I have just received an alert: “Karthik boarded”, and I am relieved. As I step into the shower, that is ready with the right level of temperature and optimal water flow, I am happy that I am saving on energy and water bills. For these have become quite expensive of late!
As I step out for work and open my car door, the car has tuned itself to my favourite FM 107.5 station. A nostalgic song is in the air, the weather is pleasant, and I am even more relaxed.
Halfway through my 30-minute drive, I receive a voice message through the car’s audio: “Karthik at school”. A flash of my son’s picture appears on the dashboard briefly. Good beginning to the day so far, I think.
As I step into my cubicle, the glass partitions turn a subtle grey, for they double up providing aesthetics outside, and privacy inside! I slip on my glasses, age is catching up, but these are no ordinary glasses. I see a 21 inch projected screen, crisp and clear, and a virtual keyboard that I can now touch type on with ease. As I get up and walk to get some water, still typing (in air), and I am sure I look like a completely crazy person, walking, talking, typing, and mumbling, all at the same time! But then, this is the age of Digital and Virtual Reality.
Good morning Ullas, my colleague is speaking, the screen fades out, I can clearly see her, my hands are still on the virtual keyboard and I pull that back slightly embarrassed, and return her greetings. Mornings …, how are you today, I smile and return her greetings. Doing good, she responds back and is on her way to her Digital and Virtual Work world.
Lunchtime is a song; I have already mumbled South Indian Meals to the tiny microphone, the restaurant staff has been alerted as I step out, and my hot meal is waiting to be picked up.
Cannot miss that short power nap after lunch, as I step back into my chair, and lean back, the Chair knows the Saigal song that I love listening to, and soothing music is flowing into my ears! Well I am glad that some things have still not changed!
Meanwhile, what is happening to my son Karthik?
As he steps out of the bus and walks into his classroom, his slate becomes a textbook and a notebook rolled into one; and magically disconnects from the public network and connects to the restricted network within the school, over a very high-speed 4G (or 6G) network.
The teacher has a video projection system via which the subject and lessons are taught. All of these appear at the same time on each of the kid’s slates, and they can message the teacher, for any questions. At the end of the class, an assignment is sent to the kid’s laptop at home, which can then be completed and send over the public network to the school’s server, for the teacher to correct and grade.
Wireless power is already here, so wherever the kid is, no more worry about the device running out of battery. The price point of the device is so low that there is no point in stealing it!
What else can this device do? Well, Karthik can send a voice message home on what he wants to eat for snack and dinner. If mom is home, and in good spirits, she could cook a custom meal. Else, she forwards the message to the smart appliances that can all get into action and can create a reasonably close menu that can match his wishes.
I am jolted from this early morning siesta by a loud voice that says “Where is your weekly status report?” Now you know who is beside my chair! Half asleep, I thought I had written a script to do that, but I guess the perfect age of Digital World is still not here, and I am jolted back to Year 2012!
Does all this sound utopian? Well, yes today, if viewed in its entirety. But if you take pieces of the puzzle above, they already are a reality. Not at the price point, we want, but that is when Moore’s law will kick in.
Welcome to the world of “Smart Systems”, “Telemetry”, “M2M”, “Internet of things”, “Cloud-based services”, and “Connected Homes”. Devices have become smarter and smarter, and connectivity is going to become dirt cheap soon. Which means that the scenario described may not have to wait till the Year 2020.
So what is it that a connected digital world cannot do, yet?
Well almost everything, except…
The poor kid still has to learn and internalize the lessons that are taught, and do his assignments. Until we come up with an even Smarter System that will wirelessly transmit lessons to targeted areas in the Child’s brain!!! But do we really want that?