The flying car exists and is being exhibited at the New York International Auto Show, and other predictions about a radically different future have happened. Televisions, computers and phones are smarter, and the digital divide has narrowed significantly. Neil Parmar reports
Gesture-based computing, smarter televisions sets and flying cars are just some of the technology trends forecast for the future.
While many predictions never pan out, that has not stopped executives at tech companies from sharing their visions about what the digital road ahead might hold.
DY Kim, the new president of LG Electronics in the Gulf, says the electronics manufacturer is pursuing smarter technology that will "follow your lifestyle" from the moment you wake up.
"In the morning, the TV will be set, automatically be turned on and search for your favourite channel," Mr Kim envisions.
But can consumers expect to see a more dramatic-looking future, with skyways full of soaring sedans such as in The Jetsons?
Carol Watson, the director of the University of Georgia's law library, released a presentation last month called Technology Trends and Predictions: Is a Flying Car in Our Future? She argued, for a number of reasons, that "we might not see the flying car in our lifetime".
Yet just last week, at the New York International Auto Show, a company called Terrafugia displayed a prototype of a "street-legal aeroplane". It performed a test flight of eight minutes at an altitude of 1,397 feet, but the vehicle costs US$279,000 (Dh1 million).
Over at the global networking and communications company Cisco, Howard Charney, a senior vice president, tries to keep his fingers on the pulse oftech trends while he contributes to the company's overall strategic vision. Mr Charney speaks about the changing ways in which we use devices, and what the future may hold for them.
What will everyday consumer electronic devices look like in five to 10 years?
What it looks like is different than today, because there will probably be an explosion of end-user devices that are so different that they are probably beyond our ability to comprehend now. I also tell people, "you think it's so neat that in order to open your iPhone, you swipe it? Then to launch an app you press a key? You think that's neat? What if you could think it? What if there is no more swiping? What if your thoughts make the thing work?"
Laptops, smartphones, tablets. In five to 10 years, which of these devices do you think will be the leading player in the market?
Consumer devices are changing. I still use a laptop. The reason I use it [is] because I can type on it more easily. Other people don't necessarily use laptops, but if you look at the projections … [desktop] units and laptops go down; smartphones and tablets go up over the next five to seven years.
You argue that the so-called digital divide between the rich and the poor is not really a theory that holds true anymore. How so?
It's becoming more and more fiction. I was in Los Angeles, which has some very rich people and very poor people. I was talking to the university president, and he was telling me there aren't any kids - even kids from poor, disadvantaged backgrounds - who come to the campus and don't have smartphones and tablets.
You know the Kindle Fire [tablet] is only $200 - much more accessible. The iPad is a premium device, but if the Indians are going to create a $28 pad - whatever it is - then basically we have made it so that you get to pick and choose.
Still, a divide exists. How do you not see this as a problem?
The reason I say it's not a problem is not because I'm cavalier and insensitive. I know there are people who are poor, and I know there are people who are rich. But the best research on the subject now is there are the "haves" and the "have laters" - which is a different thing.
It's not digital. It's time. What appears to be going on is that even people who don't have any money get the technology; they just get it a little bit later.
You have also said that countries can boost economic growth by increasing internet broadband penetration. How much of an impact does this really have?
[In] 2009 the World Bank [found] that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration increases economic growth something like 1.2 per cent in developed countries and 1.3 per cent in the undeveloped world. But you'd expect that in the undeveloped world: as we give people more access to more information you increase the productivity of their lives that much more.
How significant is that increase?
That's a very big number, because when I tell the minister of finance of some African country that the data indicates you can make the GDP go up by over 1 point, they go, "over a point"? They know they're only to grow, what, 2 to 4 per cent, but this is huge.
How do social networking sites, such as Facebook, as well as micro-blogging sites like Twitter play into boosting a country's productivity?
Social networking is a key economic driver that has recently been understood to be at the core in the way that people interact. I don't think the connection's actually been made between GDP growth or productivity increases. We do know social networking is a major force in not just political change but also economically.