January 2010 Theme:
2010 Computing Outlook
Guest Editors' Introduction by Vinton G. Cerf and Munindar P. Singh

In Computing Now this month, we take a broad look at prospects for computing in 2010, focusing on technology, policy, and applications. We’ve included several essays from the “Internet Predictions” issue of IEEE Internet Computing (Jan/Feb 2010), in which invited experts share their thoughts about the prospects for the Internet in the coming decade. We’ve also included a couple of articles from recent issues of other IEEE Computer Society publications.

Internet Predictions

As our lives and society in general become increasingly dependent on information and its automatic processing, we find ourselves storing more and more information online. We often worry that the information will be revealed inappropriately or misused. But we also face the opposite problem: the information simply becomes inaccessible and unusable because the hardware technologies and formats have changed. After all, who doesn’t have old music, pictures, and movies that they have a tough time using? In “Future Imperfect,” (.pdf) Vint Cerf addresses the challenges of preserving information in a meaningful way.

Over the coming decades, we’ll increasingly call upon computers in general and the Internet in particular to take on large-scale systemic problems facing our society and our biosphere. In “The Growing Interdependence of the Internet and Climate Change,” (login required for full text) Larry Smarr discusses the ways in which we can use computers to ameliorate the negative effects of modern life on the planet, especially with regard to climate change.

Computers have had and will continue to have a substantial influence on society. Naturally, society should have a lot of say in how technology policies are set. In “Fighting over the Future of the Internet,” (login required for full text) David Clark addresses one aspect of this back and forth, namely, how social forces””governments, corporations, people, and cultures””seek to control the Internet’s direction and growth. He ends with a word of caution against government’s potential to use computing technologies to control the populace, which he terms a data-driven bureaucracy.

Viviane Reding addresses similar concerns in her essay “Back to the Future of Internet.” (login required for full text) She sees a lot of potential for what the Internet can help society accomplish, but she sees in it technological and political challenges. She argues that we must ensure the openness of the Internet as a key mechanism for facilitating innovation and empowering users.

People have long been saying that modern computing and communications technologies are making the world smaller. But today’s technologies merely connect people at the lowest level and don’t do much else to bring people together. People can see popular TV channels around the world, and you can pick up the phone (traditional or voice over IP) and talk to anyone who understands your language. In “Intercultural Collaboration Using Machine Translation,” (login required for full text) Toru Ishida predicts enhancements in machine translation technology that will facilitate cross-cultural communication and help make the world truly smaller.

Other Growing Trends

Immersive interaction is a fast-growing research field. As the Internet evolves the capability to support such interactions, 3D user interfaces could begin to support applications in practically all settings in which networking is applied. In “Building on Realism and Magic for Designing 3D Interaction Techniques,” (login required for full text) Alexander Kulik surveys the field of 3D user interfaces. These interfaces enable users to apply their imaginations as they manipulate graphical objects in a virtual environment and navigate and maneuver through virtual spaces. This article is an interesting read about the shape of futuristic user interfaces that are already seeing some use.

We’ve long been intrigued by robots, and for years, many have felt that robots would soon become commonplace. We won’t be surprised if, in the coming decade, the wait is finally over and advances in mechatronic hardware and networking yield personal robots. In “Where’s My Personal Robot?” (login required for full text) Mark Ingebretsen discusses the prospects for the expansion of robots and talks about some projects for designing robots that would be more personal and more personable.

We hope that these articles will stimulate new ideas and new perspectives in our readers and that dialog will ensue, illuminating the path forward into the future of information technology in the Internet age.

Guest Editors

Vinton G. Cerf is vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google. His research interests include computer networking, space communications, inter-cloud communications, and security. Cerf has a PhD in computer science from the University of California, Los Angeles. Contact him at vint at google dot com.

Munindar P. Singh is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University. His research interests include multiagent systems and service-oriented computing. Singh has a PhD in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin. Contact him at singh at ncsu dot edu.