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Thought Leaders: Brian David Johnson

By Stu Horvath

Here at DIG, we’re interested in innovation in all its forms. Within the gaming space, innovation often begins with insight and inspiration from a single person, be they a game developer, an engineer, a sociologist or anything else within the industry. That’s why we’re tracking down these thought leaders to give you a sneak peek of the digital arts future through their eyes.

In this installment, we sat down with Brian David Johnson, technology writer and futurist for Intel. (Disclosure: Intel is the sponsor of this website.) Johnson gave us a glimpse of his vision of the future of the industry and told us what he thinks is on the horizon, in both the long and short term.

DIG: Can you tell me a bit about what you do and your history in the industry?

Brian David Johnson: I have a joint background in engineering and design. I’ve designed new products for nearly 20 years.


I’m a futurist. It’s my job to develop an actionable vision for computing in the year 2021. Now this might sound like science fiction, but it’s actually quite pragmatic. You see, Intel makes the microprocessors that go in your laptops, TVs and many other devices. To design, manufacture and deploy these chips takes about 10 years. So we need to have an understanding today of what people will want to do with computational devices in 2021.

DIG: Has your work given you any unique insights into the industry?

B.D.J.: My work gives me unique insights nearly every day! Over the past five years or so, I’ve come to see that our industry -- the high-tech industry -- will be increasingly tied to all other industries.

As computational power gets smaller, faster and less expensive, it will find its way deeper into people’s lives and can substantially make people’s lives better. To do this, we’ll need to work closely with all industries -- from Hollywood to health care, from finance to the military. This global approach is a key component to my future casting process.

DIG: What current trends do you see impacting the future of the industry?

B.D.J.: The future is all about screens, screens, screens. As we future cast out to 2015, 2021 and beyond, we are seeing that the old way of thinking about computing is changing.

Now, when I say computing is changing, I mean in the eyes of consumers. All of the work that I do starts with social science. We have teams of anthropologists and ethnographers who are constantly traveling around the world and getting a deep understanding of human behavior. I use this as the basis of all of the future casting work that I do.

For consumers, the old lines between computational devices are blurring. People don’t think about the PC or the TV or the smartphone -- they think about the experience that they will have, and that experience spreads across all these devices.

Take entertainment as an example. People are enjoying entertainment across all their devices these days, and our research shows that this will only increase. But people don’t just go to their TV to get entertainment. They expect that if it has a screen, they should be able to get the entertainment they love and connect to the people they love as well.

It’s because of this that I think the future is really about screens; not just one screen, but many screens. For consumers, it’s not about one device to rule them all, but whatever device they have handy at the time.

DIG: Where do you think gaming and technology at large will be in the near future? How about the far future?

B.D.J.: When we talk about the future of technology, gaming sits right at the center of that. Gaming has always been important to technology, but recently we have seen that, for many consumers, gaming has become as important as watching TV. The two are actually blended together, so that when you ask people what they are doing, they will typically say “Watching TV,” regardless if they are watching TV or playing a game. This is important because gaming has entered the mainstream -- everything from console games, to games on smartphones, to social games are key drivers of innovation and technology.

In the far future, I’m excited about gaming when you have a 3D environment that doesn’t require glasses and you can interact via gesture. Imagine the types of games you could play then!

Copyright (c) 2011 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.

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