Gartner analyst Steve Prentice told the BBC that the device, which has become so familiar to right hands the world over in the 40 years since its invention, may become obsolete in as little as three years. Its replacement: high-tech gestural devices like facial recognition technology and touch screens.
It’s a classic case of life echoing sci-fi. Such developments were previously imagined in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, a film based in a near future where data is manipulated around giant screens by the movement of the user’s hands. Now developments in gaming are inspiring companies to develop similar systems for general use. Take the Nintendo Wii, which uses bodily movement to control games, and Apple’s iPhone, which has touch screen technology and reacts to its own movement. Panasonic, Sony and Canon are all developing technology that uses face recognition – so the computer can identify the user, react to their movements and even see when they are smiling. There have even been developments in PCs controlled by thought.
There are of course drawbacks. With computers able to read users’ thoughts, how will your PC react to the realisation you’re about to react to your latest loss of data by grabbing the keyboard and smashing the c**p out of the monitor with it?
Many bosses will be happy if other Minority Report developments come in soon too. In the film, Tom Cruise’s policeman has been genetically engineered to predict and deal with crimes before they’ve happened. Get a few of those on the books, and it will soon be a lot easier to clamp down on Post-it theft and late invoices.