The future of news ...

The slimline iPad Air - one step away from flexible?
The slimline iPad Air - one step away from flexible?

WILL newspapers be around in 160 years? It’s highly unlikely. That said, there will always be news, so there will have to be a way of delivering it to readers. But what will this delivery system look like? Digital Editor JON PEAKE gazes into his crystal ball to find out...

Films usually get the future pretty wrong. Think flying cars, self-drying clothes and hoverboards in Back To The Future.

The future foreseen in BTTF is just over a year away now, and at last glance my motor still bobbles over bumpy roads, my clothes stay wet when they get wet, and the closest thing to a hoverboard I’ve seen is, well, a skateboard, which hasn’t changed in almost 70 years.

Obviously artistic ‘Hollywood’ license comes into it, but absolutely nothing in BTTF is remotely accurate – great film though it is.

Occasionally, though, a movie hits the nail on the head.

Take the Tom Cruise blockbuster Minority Report, made in 2002 and set in the year 2054.

In it, Cruise is seen reading USA Today on a paper-thin LCD flexible display with changing images and constantly updating stories.

A newspaper, without the paper. The internet, without the computer.

So, a kind of hybrid.

Going back to when the film was released, there were no iPads, Kindles or any other tablets for that matter.

There were newspapers and there was the internet. Even smartphones were pretty basic.

So it was a bold prediction – this news delivery system of the future.

But when you consider the advancement of today’s tablets and smartphones, and then add in the fact that electronic paper is already in development, they’ve got it pretty close.

Just last month, Apple unveiled it’s lightest iPad yet, the iPad Air – 20 per cent thinner than the original iPad and weighing just 1lb.

The technology for e-paper is already there, it’s just about bringing down the cost to consumers and fine tuning.

I believe people will be walking around with such ‘papers’ in less than 20 years – but what about 160 years?

How will the Wigan Observer look then?

The best place to start is to look at the products in development now, such as the electronic paper.

Which leads me to two words – Google Glass.

Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can communicate with the internet via voice commands.

In a pair of stylish glasses, images are less than half a centimetre from your eye, and words are fed into your ear through the built-in earpiece.

The next natural step forward from ‘smart glasses’ would be contact lenses with built-in internet. Again, already in development.

160 years on, however, I believe news will be available in a multitude of formats.

Homes will be full of ultra-thin, voice-controlled, touchscreen glass panels and surfaces capable of displaying the internet, as well as controlling essential functions around the house – lights, temperature, security.

Cars, too, fully automated, will have similar displays, so commuters can get their news fix on the way to work.

Commuters who travel by train or on foot will have super-thin headsets or contact lenses similar to today’s Google Glass, but much more advanced.

News will be instant – delivered in milliseconds and tailored to a reader’s needs by voice command.

Imagine uttering the command: “What’s the latest Wigan Warriors news?” Or “What happened in Wigan town centre last night?” before being provided instantly with the exact, very latest information in ultra-high definition with three-dimensional, rotating imagery and video.

This is what the future will look like.

Interactive, intelligent ‘newspapers’ that are as much a part of your daily life as your clothes.

And the odd ‘dinosaur’ walking around with an e-paper paper sticking out of his pocket!

Then again, I might be wrong...

This article was printed in the Wigan Observer’s 160 years anniversary supplement.

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