7 Cool Consumer Technologies Coming Soon to a Cubicle Near You

Move over, tablets and phones. Here are seven user technologies heading for the enterprise.

Thu, May 23, 2013

Computerworld — Ask CIOs what comes to mind when they hear the term "consumerization of IT" and most likely you'll hear tales of users carrying personal smartphones and tablets into the workplace, demanding access to corporate email and other applications.

But mobile devices aren't the only consumer-based technologies pushing their way into the enterprise. Computerworld spoke with visionaries and practitioners on the cutting edge of emerging technologies to get their take on what's coming into the office next. The verdict? Some technologies will be brought to the business directly by consumers -- virtual assistant, anyone? But in the case of technologies like smartphone servers, innovations from the consumer market are being adapted for enterprise use.

Here are seven consumer tech trends coming soon to a cubicle near you.

Natural user interfaces

A move to natural, more intuitive user interfaces, such as 3D gesture-, voice-, emotion- and even brainwave-recognition, will begin to change the way users interact with technology. "IT is shifting from something you constantly have to drive to becoming an intelligent assistant, and it will start to become invisible," says Steve Clayton, who, as Microsoft's storyteller, works with research and product teams across Microsoft to spot trends.

[ The Future of Human Computer Interfaces ]

One such trend: "Technology will start to create an environment where language translation will more naturally occur," Clayton predicts.

In a recent demonstration, Microsoft researcher Rick Rashid spoke in English to an audience in China, which heard him speaking Mandarin. That translation occurred in real time. "It wasn't just a robotic voice taking his words and speaking them back. The prototype [software] understood Rick's voice and turned it into Mandarin," says Clayton. "It sounded just like he was speaking Mandarin."

In another area, gesture technology, now widely used on 2D tablets, may soon move into three dimensions. Leap Motion, a maker of motion-control systems, is preparing to offer a controller capable of fine-grained gesture recognition. "Think about something that can track the tip of your finger in space," says Dave Evans, chief futurist at Cisco Systems. Using this new tool, he says, "you will be able to literally design an object in space, push and pull and shape it like virtual clay, and then drag and drop in pre-engineered pieces."

Products developed for the consumer gaming market, such as Kinect, the gesture-based controller for Microsoft's Xbox, and KinectFusion, which adds multiple cameras to build a 3D representation of the world, could become popular as an interface for applications in areas ranging from healthcare to manufacturing.

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