The Consumer Electronics Show is our annual reminder that the future is always now. If George Jetson or Marty McFly flew to Las Vegas and took a look at the 1-million square feet of the latest cutting-edge tech that the show provides, they would have an existential crisis. But not us. We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

Here are five tech dreams-come-true that can impact your business and likely the world in general.

1. Hologram Interfaces

Remember how cool Tom Cruise looked in Minority Report whenever he interacted with his 3-D hologram computer? Well, it looks like we’ll all have a chance to interact like that, thanks to Intel’s “RealSense” technology.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich gave a demonstration of RealSense’s wide-ranging potential, such as gesture controls, facial-recognition security, collision-avoiding drones and even a jacket that can help the visually impaired sense what’s around them.

But back to being an action star navigating a hologram computer. One of many demonstrations at the show included an engineer playing a piano by tapping on a floating holographic display of a keyboard. Maybe not as exciting as tracking down criminals, but imagine how this technology will evolve. In the not-too-distant future, the workplace interface will be much more interactive and engaging than ever before. The fluidity and ability to multitask will be unparalleled compared to our current analog typing and mouse-clicking. In fact, the device you use to read this article will soon seem as quaint as an ink-and-ribbon typewriter.

2. Wearables

Another Intel-designed product is Curie, a button-sized computer designed for wearable technology. Wearables like Google Glass, Fitbit and Jawbone are just the beginning. So far, fitness- and health-related wearables have dominated the market, but expect a radical influx of wearable tech to become a part of our daily lives within a few short years.

Consider how the applications of a more advanced version of Google Glass could impact workflow. Any job in which workers are out in the field, need their hands free but also need constant, immediate information can be made more efficient with wearable technology.

For example, warehouse workers can use smart glasses to get an image of what they’re looking for, as well as directions on where to find it. From Day 1, a new hire can almost be as productive as an experienced one. And just think of the healthcare implications, with surgeons being able to absorb patient diagnostic data throughout complicated operations in previously unimaginable ways.

Wearables are just in their infancy, and eventually, fashion and high-tech functionality will merge in ways that make Dick Tracy’s watch seem about as cutting-edge as a walkie-talkie.

3. 3-D Printing

Printing in just two dimensions is so 20th century. We live in a world where NASA was able to design a 3-D-printable wrench and transmit that design file from Earth to the astronaut’s printer in outer space. The December 2014 transmission took four hours, which, when you think about it, is pretty remarkable. So how does this affect businesses here on planet Earth?

For now, 3-D printing companies are aiming their products at small businesses rather than consumers. The industry is moving toward a vision of “service bureaus” (modeled after places like Home Depot and office-supply stores), serving the 3-D printing needs of consumers, as opposed to placing a 3-D printer on every desk.

As applications for the technology expand and prices drop, the big-picture implication is that more goods will be manufactured at or close to their point of purchase or consumption. This will likely eliminate a good amount of shipping costs and can help decrease overhead. Other than manufacturing, 3-D printing also has major implications in medicine, where the 3-D printing of prosthetic limbs and even organs for transplants is in its infancy; one couple has even successfully used the technology to self-diagnose a tumor. The medical applications seem endless.

It’s not too farfetched to imagine a future in which we are all Six Million Dollar Men and Women, complete with a “slow-motion jumping through the air” option.

4. The Internet of Things

The purpose of the Internet of Things is gathering data that can be turned into actionable insights that are used to streamline and automate business processes. This can refer to a wide variety of devices, such as heart-monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, automobiles with built-in sensors, or devices that assist firefighters in rescue operations. Current examples in today’s market include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize Wi-Fi for remote monitoring. To put it into perspective, Time Magazine named Honeywell’s Lyric smart thermostat as consumers’ favorite gadget at CES this year.

But the potential of the Internet of Things goes far beyond tweaking your home’s A/C from miles away. Intelligent systems will enable rapid manufacturing of new products, dynamic responses to product demands and real-time optimization of the manufacturing process. The phrase “supply-chain network” will become literal by virtue of networking machines, sensors and control systems working together like never before.

The Internet of Things can drastically change our carbon footprint by optimizing our energy consumption through integrated sensing and actuation systems. In other words, all forms of energy-consuming devices—such as switches, power outlets, bulbs, televisions, etc.—will communicate with utility supply companies to efficiently balance power generation and supply. And this is still just the tip of the integrated iceberg.

5. Teleconference Robotics

In what could be regarded as another step closer to the inevitable robot apocalypse, iRobot has created a virtual collaboration device called Ava 500 that puts you in a machine. The robot is ideal when “freedom of movement and physical presence are needed to achieve an even more personal degree of collaboration within a dispersed workforce.” In other words, you can attend a meeting or conference and have full mobility without actually being there. Sounds like a dream-come-true, right?

But Ava 500 is more than just Skype-on-wheels. Remote users simply specify a destination, and the robot automatically navigates to the desired location without any human intervention. With advanced mapping technology and a real-time view of the environment, Ava 500 can smoothly navigate to the desired destination from anywhere in the world. The robot will never touch or bump into anything when it’s traveling on its own, thanks to integrated 3-D, sonar and laser sensors.

After the meeting, the robot automatically returns to its charging station to recharge for the next user. When needed, users can manually control and operate the robot using a trackpad interface on an iPad or iPhone. 

Staying connected to your business has never been more convenient, but let’s all hope the Ava 500s don’t become self-aware and plot global domination any time soon.

The Future of Small Business Is Here

These are just a few of the cutting-edge, mind-blowing products displayed at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. If this is what’s here today, imagine what game-changing innovations will be unveiled by this time next year. Even so, the future continues to be now, and now is a pretty exciting place to be.

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