Holograms, VR and telepresence: Experts herald the coming Gigabit Age

Still no flying cars – but all the streaming video you can shake a smartwatch at.

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The widespread availability of Gigabit Internet connectivity by 2025 will open a brave new world of killer apps, according to the more than 1,400 experts who contributed to the Pew Research Center’s latest study.

“Killer Apps in the Gigabit Age ,” released this morning, asserts that the biggest changes will center on augmented reality and telepresence – instantaneous “face-to-face” communication from anywhere in the world could become widespread, and localized augmented reality environments will change some of the most basic ways people interact.

University of California – Berkeley professor Marti Hearst said that it’s the future’s surplus of bandwidth that will make the difference.

“These ideas aren't new, but they will finally work well enough if given high enough bandwidth,” she said. “More interaction will be done with others remotely. For example, your golf lesson could be done with a coach remotely, in real time, while he or she watches your swing at the tee and has you make corrections and adjust your grip.”

The researchers said that the Internet of things will become a reality in a much more concrete way by 2025, according to many of the experts they consulted. Google’s own chief economist, Hal Varian said that IoT-enabled devices will commonplace in 10 years’ time.

“Internet-enabled devices that interact with the physical world will be the norm,” he said. “They will learn on their own, with some verbal instruction by their users.”

Even things like telemedicine, long a much-hyped possibility for the future, could finally be ready for use by 2025, albeit within limits, according to RTI International senior clinical informatacist Robert Furberg.

“The development of home digital appliances/diagnostics that allow a doctor to diagnose and virtually ‘see’ a patient should take care of most non-emergency medical situations,” he told Pew’s researchers.

There are a lot of expansive predictions of what 2025 technology will enable humans to do contained in the report – but it was William Schrader, the co-founder of the first commercial ISP, who highlighted that the precise nature of those transformational changes is generally unknown.

“The fact that no one had imagined the other killer apps prior to seeing them grow rapidly implies that no one can imagine these new ones – including me,” he said. “But I am confident they will come.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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