The Industrial Revolution is universally accepted as one of the most significant technological milestones in the history of the human species. The impact of steam-power upon the design, manufacture and distribution of products was profound; a precursor to the consumer-age that, today, we take completely for granted.
Although some, such as the Art & Crafts Movement, initially rejected the uniformity of mechanically-produced products, harking back to the already bygone era of craftsmanship and individuality, the benefits that this new technology brought far outweighed any drawbacks.
In short: there’s simply no fighting a watershed technological development that has the power to change the lives of millions.
Although further developments such as the jet-engine and atom-bomb had a significant impact on the geopolitical stage, their affect upon the everyday lives of consumers is arguably minimal. Thankfully. Indeed, the public would have to wait almost a century until the next all-encompassing development that would change their world irrevocably: the Internet.
The printing-press put the power of free-speech into the hands of the masses; the Internet put it into overdrive
Since the 80’s, but particularly in this last decade, the Internet and social-media has quite simply up-ended and re-written the ways in which we live our lives. Every aspect of them. Some nations have embraced this change with open arms. Others have been literally torn apart by its powers, with a select few leaning on Pandora’s Box with unimaginable force.
The impact of the Internet on gaming has been seismic. Social-media backed, global multi-player experiences are a commonplace affair for most of us on a daily basis; it’s only when you stop and pause to reflect, that the magical wonder of it all comes back into focus. As we rapidly approach the next generation of consoles, connectivity is only set to become even more embedded in the experience, with Microsoft apparently proposing an always-on approach – despite protests to suggest that gamers would wish otherwise.
All well and good, but will we have to wait yet another century for such a development to profoundly change the ways in which we game?
No sir – the good old folk at Manchester University just went and invented a wonder material with profoundly far-reaching ramifications: graphene.
A substance composed of pure carbon, a single atom thick; this remarkable material offers a number of truly exciting possibilities for the world of gaming – both in its original form and its tubular form: carbon nanotubes. The two most significant areas upon which it is widely predicted to impact are transistors and batteries; or in other words: the engine and the fuel of our beloved hobby.
So talk a walk with us, Voxelites, as we don our white lab coats, grab our gamepads and stare longingly at the future technology of gaming.
Being the most electrically conductive material thus far discovered, not to mention the strongest, graphene transistors could potentially be hundreds or thousands of times faster than their silicon counterparts, not to mention significantly smaller. Like, a few nanometres small. Whilst I’m no scientist, the ramifications seem to be pretty clear: processors that operate at speeds far beyond that which conventional silicon-based technology can muster. The possibilities are extremely exciting.
Much work is to be done, however, and early attempts are simplistic at best. With silicon-based chips predicted to soon reach their miniaturisation limits, however, and with the Internet Of Things just around the corner, you can bet your bottom dollar that billions will be pumped into R&D in this field – and provide results. Pretty soon we’ll have chips embedded in a whole range of products from fridges to spectacles, shoes, cars and jewellery that pack more of a punch than a modern smartphone.
Now this really is cool.
A group of scientists at UCLA recently figured out how to make graphene superconductors using nothing more than a standard DVD burner and a sheet of graphite-oxide. In plain English: using cheap, off-the-shelf materials that either you or I could acquire, they produced a flexible battery that blows existing battery technologies out of the water. Fancy charging your iPhone in five seconds, your laptop in thirty or you car in five minutes? No problem – just slap in a graphene battery. Miniaturisation is another bonus, with the possibility of coupling this with graphene transistors to produce super-light, super-powerful, flexible, miniature power-houses.
And the best bit? Graphene batteries are bio-degradable – compostable even. A stark contrast to our present love-affair with nasty chemicals that simply end-up in land-fill, wouldn’t you say?
And so what does all of this mean for gaming?
Some of the positive are immediately apparent, but that’s only if you apply this new thinking to our present framework. What if you could fundamentally change the framework?
Consider full-HD screens embedded into your gamepad that won’t drain the battery quickly; gamepads that could be recharged in seconds – perhaps even by wireless electricity? Consider a range of wearable peripherals that could communicate and share data, each one with enough raw power and fuel in the tank to rival that laptop you’re sat at. Consider flexible devices that could accompany you in your day-to-day lives, recording data that could then be transferred to your virtual lives as these self-same devices fold and bend into gaming peripherals or overlays to larger displays. Consider displays larger and thinner than anything before, so large they could wrap around your room and fold away when not required. Or consider a battery-powered console that could simply be picked-up and taken to another room along with your collapsible, flexible screen without having to worry about a power source for either one for days.
Consider that these are just the off-the-cuff ramblings of a passionate consumer; imagine what the real experts could do with this technology.
Before you get too excited, though, it’s worth remembering that graphene is in its infancy. Current production methods are prohibitively expensive and complex and it may be decades before we see fundamental shifts in the consumer market.
In our lifetime, though – and that’s a reassuringly exciting thought, to say the least.