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Fun Stuff

Artwork: Chip Taylor
The 3D Internet
It started out as virtual-reality sci-fi, but Neal Stephenson's vision of The Metaverse is finally starting to become reality. Persistent virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com are growing more popular and useful by the day. And projects like Croquet are mapping out new ways for distributed computing and 3D rendering to combine to help create a more 3D, collaborative Internet. There's even a timetable: Developers and visionaries gathered this year for the first Metaverse Roadmap Summit, to map out the next ten years of development.

Console Wars 2012
Despite Sony's and Microsoft's protests that this year's game consoles will last longer than previous ones, game consoles have five-year life spans. So, in the December 2012 issue of PC World, we'll be reviewing the new PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 game consoles, which will have photorealistic 3D games and high-def movies streamed over the Internet.

Easier-to-Use, Smarter Remotes
Remote controls that can integrate into a home network (such as the OpenPeak Simple Remote) look promising: In addition to controlling consumer electronics devices, they connect to wireless networks and the Internet. This functionality opens up possibilities such as a remote that can show you a TV program guide or act as a VoIP handset. And while we're talking about remotes, we have to note that programming them to control devices is still a pain. We're looking forward to a remote that is easy to program and can control pretty much anything without a hassle.

The Smart Shirt
Jerry Bautista at Intel thinks that chips could one day be small enough to be sewn into fabric, so your shirt could play your MP3s or read your e-mail to you. Let's hope clothes don't get too smart and start criticizing your choice of shoes.

An Affordable Electronic Book
The Sony Reader is the first electronic book we've seen that is actually usable. But it's not perfect, and in a couple of years we hope to see an affordable electronic book that is as easy to read as a paper book.

Electronic Paper
Electronic paper is on the way: Several manufacturers have working prototypes of thin, flexible displays that can show high-contrast text that looks as good as the printed page. These displays retain the image when the power is off, making them suitable for electronic books. One day you'll be able to download PC World into your electronic newspaper and flick through the pages electronically.

DirectX 10 Games
The new version of DirectX that will come with Microsoft's Windows Vista will open up many possibilities for game programmers, allowing them to create realistic physics in games and more complex 3D environments. Such advances, however, will have to wait until Vista is finally released and has enough users to justify the games: We don't expect to see anything but a handful of enhanced titles until mid-2007. And these new games won't run on older versions of Windows: DirectX 10 will run on Vista only.

Smarter Games
The advent of multicore processors gives game programmers a lot more processing power to create smarter adversaries in games: For example, one core can be dealing with running the game, while the other is running an artificial intelligence (AI) routine that creates hordes of smart enemies. And your opponents won't just sit and wait for you, either--they'll hunt you down.

The Universal Translator
It's unlikely we'll ever see a device that works as well as the one from Star Trek, but useful voice-to-voice translation is already here. SRI has developed solutions to help U.S. troops communicate in Iraq, and Ectaco's SpeechGuard can perform similar functions in a variety of languages.

Robots, Part 1: Death to Allowances
Teenagers' options for earning money at home will shrink greatly as single-duty robots take over household chores. A 2004 United Nations report on World Robotics predicts that prices for grass-cutting, pool-cleaning, and window-washing robots will become affordable by 2007, and some 4 million robots will be in use by the end of that year.

Robots, Part 2: Hope It's Not the Terminator
While the world now has a robot that can run 4 miles per hour--Honda's ASIMO--Stephen Keeney, the ASIMO project leader, hopes that by 2017 folks will see the first application of a truly humanoid robot.

1000 Pages Printed per Minute
Thanks to a new printhead design dubbed JeTrix, in a couple of years you may never again have to hang out by the laser printer waiting for your document to finish. Instead of a small printhead that moves back and forth across a sheet of paper, JeTrix heads can be built as wide as the sheet, allowing for some truly amazing output speeds.

Video Games Get Physical
Nintendo's upcoming Wii console will lead the way later this fall with its motion-sensitive controller, but Sony has added motion sensitivity to its PlayStation 3 controller, too, and other companies--among them Xavix--are working on their own controllers that bring a physical dimension to game play.

Special Report: Tomorrow's Technology

The Future of Your PC The Future of Robots
The Future of Cell Phones The Future of Privacy
The Future of the Web The Future of Nanotech
The Future of OSs The Future of You
The Future of Fun 100 Fearless Forecasts
Incredible Tech: Lies Ahead A Look Back
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