I often read articles detailing consumers’ struggle with change, but I disagree. I think consumers are exceptionally comfortable accepting new technology. Just five years ago it would have been hard to imagine that more than half of North Americans would share cars, housing, work spaces and more with a simple tap or click on their mobile phone or computer.

Technologies that transform our lives and disrupt businesses are constantly being developed. So what are the current and emerging technologies that will have a transformative impact on our world in the coming year? Here’s my list:

Virtual & Augmented Reality

As a whole, virtual reality reduces barriers between our digital and physical worlds. Gaming is an obvious virtual reality application, but there are a multitude of other uses.

Take healthcare for example. The Army is currently using virtual reality to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Researchers create a virtual environment where they expose patients to previously feared situations to get them comfortable and eventually overcome their fear. In fact, their studies have shown that repeated exposure to these realistic simulations reduces symptoms of PTSD and other anxiety disorders.

Applications like this are just the tip of the iceberg. In the future, virtual reality will lead us to true holographic experiences enabled by haptic holography. We’ll be able to totally immerse ourselves in a world that is indistinguishable from reality.

Augmented reality allows users to interact with virtual content in the real world by superimposing a digital image on a user’s view of the real world.

It’s now possible to mix augmented reality with recognition and tracking technologies to transform how people work. It could be extremely powerful by using various device sensors to identify a worker’s surrounding and showing them where or how to make a repair in a hazardous environment with low visibility. The business potential for augmented reality will only increase as we experience improvements in location services and image recognition.

In the future, I believe both virtual and augmented reality will be increasingly used by businesses for all manner of commercial reasons, from training to field-service to data visualization.

Robotics

Robotics is a not a new technology. We’re all familiar with how they work in factories – relatively simple machines that are capable of manufacturing tasks – but I’m intrigued by the next wave of robotics. Robots infused with artificial intelligence and those that are capable of performing more general-purpose tasks will truly transform our future.

At the DARPA Challenge last month, 24 teams and their humanoid robots completed pre-determined tasks to demonstrate how effectively they deal with disasters. The winning team, Team KAIST, had an especially unique robot that could handle a higher workload, was equipped with air-cooling, and could transform from a standing position to a kneeling pose where it used wheels for faster movement.

Innovations like these continue to propel robotics to the next level. In the future, if durable robots like KAIST are infused with emotion, we’ll experience a “user-friendly” technology that has a wide variety of applications from caring for the elderly to helping our kids with their homework.

3D Transformation

3D printing has already ushered in a new era of manufacturing. It has allowed goods to become infinitely more customizable by enabling people to produce objects of any size, shape and color on-demand.

At HP, we see a great opportunity to contribute to 3D printing. We’re bringing our vision of the future of 3D printing to life with Multi Jet Fusion. This revolutionary technology is engineered to resolve critical gaps in the combination of speed, quality and cost, and deliver on the potential of 3D printing.

3D transformation is the enabler of the next industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution centered on the factory, the second introduced the assembly line, and now we want to create a world where if you can imagine it, you can build it. Creative freedom will expand thanks to dramatic reductions in the total lifecycle time from design to output. In the future, entirely new ecosystems will be created that will transform how things are designed, manufactured and distributed.

And the world isn’t stopping there. Already, we are seeing the emergence of 4D printing technologies, using smart materials with active properties that are able to change over time. Imagine an airplane wing whose curvature can dynamically change over time to optimize fuel and flight efficiencies based on atmospheric pressure or other external conditions ­– what we’re seeing today is just the beginning.

Internet of All Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating a quantifiable world where people and businesses can mange their resources and make decisions in more informed ways. This “connectivity” is becoming commonplace around us, leading to a connected home, workplace, city and world. In 2008, there were more “things” connected to the Internet than people. And as time progresses, everything from our cars to our coffee cups will be connected and online.

However, IoT is so much more than connected devices. If we move beyond standalone platforms and closed ecosystems in the future, we can reach the full potential of IoT. When everything is connected and more importantly, interoperable, we can more fully leverage all the technology around us so it can work seamlessly for us – automating the mundane, enhancing our capabilities and creating new, richer experiences for us.

In the end, our physical and digital worlds are on a collision course to form what we at HP call Blended Reality – a world in which these technologies allow us to fully integrate and fuse our physical and digital worlds in a way that creates better experiences for everyone, everywhere.

What technologies do you think will transform our lives in the future?

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