2020: The future of technology revealed

What the next 10 years holds for us all

Desktop factory

One day you might order a new coffee pot, or even a new laptop, and not have to wait for delivery. Instead, you'll use a printer-size factory to download and build it.

Already, 3D inkjet printers build prototypes for industry. And BASF is developing inks that enable ordinary printers to spit out circuit boards. For $2,400 (about £1,200), you can buy a Fab@home desktop fabricator that lets you build objects out of acrylic; the company hopes to produce units that can build with multiple materials in the future.

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology predicts these devices will be in operation by 2020, and could have a huge effect on the economy.

Philips HomeLab

Perhaps one of the more realistic visions of the future is that offered by Philips' HomeLab at its research and development headquarters in Eindhoven, Holland.

Here, a dedicated apartment block has been set up specifically to look at how consumers interact with their environment and the technology around them. The emphasis is on the 'home' part of the setup rather than the 'lab', although Big Brother-style cameras monitor volunteer inmates and their day-to-day habits for up to a month.

Volunteers find themselves in an ambient environment that reacts to them. When the day dawns, residents awaken naturally as lighting gradually increases in intensity.

Similarly, there's soft illumination in the bathroom, while sensors pick up on which person has entered the room and adjusts the temperature for their personal comfort.

The bathroom mirror brings up health-related information, such as updates on the resident's weight, core temperature and current heart rate, along with details of where they are in their cycle if there's a hope of impending pregnancy.

The PC isn't at the centre of this vision, but much of the innovation on display here wouldn't be possible without it.

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