Consumer Electronics: The Next Frontier
IEEE Experts Comment on Space Technology Advancements’ Impact on the Future of Consumer Electronics
3 June 2013 – Distinguished members of IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization, have found that advances made in wireless power, remote sensing and voice activation for space travel and exploration will play an increasingly significant role in the advancement of consumer electronics products used by the average human being here on earth.
“Ever since the Apollo program of the 1970s, civilians have been benefiting from space technologies, like cordless tools and appliances, smoke detectors, quartz timing crystals used in watches, tempur foam and a lot more… not to mention the now ubiquitous GPS,” said Edward Tunstel, IEEE Fellow and Senior Roboticist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “The technological advances made by space travel and exploration will continue to have a dynamic influence on the design of new consumer products.”
Wireless Power Cuts the Cord
Consumer electronics companies are constantly challenged with finding alternate and more resourceful ways to power devices. Space travel also requires a considerable amount of energy for a mission and it is important for to have all electronics – both hardware and plugged in devices – consume energy as efficiently as possible. Space research is working on developing a type of power transmission that transmits solar power from space to an energy network on Earth for distribution. The ability to transmit power to electronic devices over wireless networks is being developed, which could further rid us of the need to plug devices into power sources using physical wires.
“Wireless power has already been transmitted over a wireless network to emit a charge. Whether a separate network will be developed to just transmit power or we will utilize existing wireless networks to wirelessly charge devices in space or in the home is still being determined. Either way, power might be transmitted from a box looking similar to a wireless router over a similar open medium. This could conceivably power your blender, television set and your washing machine, eliminating the need to plug them in,” said Tunstel.
Remote Sensing Enables Humanlike Reaction
Remote sensing and computational capabilities of rovers, as well as robotic vehicles that explore astronomical surfaces, are essential to the future of creating more realistic and natural applications of sensing equipment for everyday use. “With rovers like Curiosity being controlled millions of miles away from earth, it has magnified the need for precision when moving them around,” said Richard Garriot, IEEE member and chairman of Space Adventures, Ltd., a private space exploration company. “Practical uses of remote sensing technology have already allowed us to create artificial limbs for humans, which can now sense the real limbs that they are attached to and function like a genuine appendage.”
Voice Control Changes Product Design
The main barrier to mass space travel has always been cost. And the weight of material on a spacecraft contributes to the majority of the cost of space travel. Voice control has been described as a barrier-breaking technology that will help reduce the high cost of weight in space flight, but is also seen as a game changer for the way consumer electronics are designed for the user.
“The advanced voice control being developed for space will have an enormous impact on how other consumer electronics, like mobile devices, will be developed. Systems will finally become user friendly and size for a control device will no longer be a factor,” said Norm Augustine, IEEE Fellow and chairman of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee. “With the significant reduction of weight and voice-controlled technologies, it will help to dramatically reduce the cost, which in turn will make space travel an ordinary event by 2050. However, consumers will not have to wait nearly as long to benefit from all of the technological advancements, like voice control, that will eventually become a reality for commercial space travel."