Flying Forward With Future Tech

Imagine yourself all alone, sitting in the cramped cockpit of a tiny aircraft. There’s no windshield to see what’s ahead of you, and the small side windows offer no points of reference amid the stifling fog. Chugging along somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean, your only means of navigation are a map, a handful of simple instruments, and a compass.

When Charles Lindberg made his incredible transatlantic flight in May of 1927, he did so with the crudest of technology. In the 33.5 hours spent aloft between New York and Paris, he found his way primarily on dead reckoning—plotting his course on the map based on simple calculations of speed and time—much like Christopher Columbus had done centuries before. In spite of this primitiveness, he piloted the Spirit of St. Louis with miraculous accuracy, only deviating a few miles from his planned route. 

It’s easy to marvel at the achievements of modern technology, especially when we reflect upon the kinds of tools of our forebears used to accomplish so much. Ninety-two years on from Lindbergh’s intrepid odyssey, we have indeed come a tremendous way. Hundreds of planes carry thousands of passengers across the Atlantic every day, steered along by way of conversations between computers and satellites. On the ground, we navigate the challenges of life with electronic devices that people in the 1920s would barely begin to comprehend.

But here’s the crazy thing: as technology continues to accelerate, the developments of the coming years will transform our lives to perhaps a greater degree than anything of the preceding decades. Sensors will be embedded in everything, and these devices will generate prodigious amounts of intelligence. The zettabytes of raw data that are presently just sitting around will be organized by AI into useful, readily accessible information. And we’ll devise fantastic new ways of wielding this data, like augmented reality-enabled contact lenses that overlay our vision of the world with all manner of insights. Someday, we will look back on 2019 and wonder how we flew so blind. 

In AV Technology, we explore some of the innovations that are starting us down this exciting path, from an examination of ways that AI and AR are enriching education—such as enabling medical students to see organs and diseases in three dimensions—to a look at microphones that are enhancing our ability to communicate with one another across the globe, to new VR technology that enables users to see things with the clarity of the naked eye. The world is changing fast, and the AV industry is an important agent of this extraordinary revolution. 

So, although we can’t see what lies before us, onward nevertheless we shall fly. One thing is for sure: it’s going to be a hell of a journey. 

Matt Pruznick

Matt Pruznick is the former editor of AV Technology, and senior editor for Systems Contractor News and Residential Systems. He is based in New York.