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Watch Royal Institution Christmas Lectures online: Episode 2 Hi-tech Trek - The Quest for the Ultimate Computer: Chips With Everything

Computers now outnumber people throughout the world. But less than one per cent of these machines take the form of desktop or laptop computers. As microchips get smaller and faster, they are being built into a huge range of objects and devices, including such everyday items as washing machines, toys and even clothing. People interact with dozens if not hundreds of computers on a daily basis, often without even realising it. But very few of these have mice and keyboards. As computers become more widespread, new ways of communicating with them are needed. In this lecture, Professor Bishop reveals state-of the-art advancements in computer interaction, including new touch-screen technology. Surface computing allows people to manipulate documents just as they would pieces of paper on a table. Users are able to perform a host of functions, including organising and resizing photos, poring over maps and making selections from takeaway menus. The interface is capable of processing the requests of multiple users. Professor Bishop also demonstrates 3-D displays and flexible screens that can be rolled up when they are not being used. However, it is not just displays that are being revolutionised. As the number of computers grows, their power will be further exploited via networking both with each other and the internet. In the future, the traditional shopping list looks set to become a thing of the past as microchips may be included in the packaging of consumables. When a pint of milk expires or pantry supplies are running low, a shopper will receive a text message or email informing them that they need to top up on certain items.

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