The Technological Horizon

In a break from our normal style, our Technical Lead, Jon Hadley, drops the red pill and moves past VR, blockchain and drones to imagine how his role - and the technology of image capture and construction as a whole - might change in the next 50 years...


"What were the skies like when you were young?

They went on forever and they, when I, we lived in Arizona

And the skies always had little fluffy clouds

And they moved down, they were long and clear

And there were lots of stars at night"



"Yes Jon Boy Jnr IV?"


"What are you listening to?"

"'Little Fluffy Clouds' by The Orb (1990). It's so much more... organic... than those AI generated bleeps and bloops you listen to. There's nothing like some ambient electronica from the last millennium to accompany Lobster Vision generating artificial skylines."


"Why DO you generate those Grandad?"

"It's an important factor in improving the aesthetics of our images, to make them more 'scenic'. We try to aim for landscapes with a good balance of trees, undulating hills and water features. These have all been proven to contribute highly to the enjoyment of a landscape."



Contours. Trees. Water features. A very scenic image from our work with Network Rail. Who needs AI?!


"Green spaces are not, in and of themselves, scenic. To be so they need to involve contours and trees. This observation plays into an idea promulgated 30 years ago by Edward Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University. He suggested that the sorts of landscapes people prefer - and which they sculpt their parks and gardens to resemble - are those that echo the African savannahs in which Homo sapiens evolved. Gently undulating ground with a mixture of trees, shrubs and open spaces, in other words (though, ideally, without the accompanying dangerous wild animals)."

Excerpt from 'Admiring the scenery' - The Economist - July 20th 2017



"These generated skylines are an added service we offer to our clients when our imagery is used for PR and Marketing purposes. Of course, since the 'General Data Provenance Regulations' of 2055, we've had to declare that our imagery has been modified. We wouldn't want to be associated with the fake news driven techlash of 2030.

The view from this camera is particularly interesting, as it's monitoring work on Beijing, a folding city, so there are three different landscapes to capture each day. Which reminds me... Have you listened to the track 'Tiny Foldable Cities'?" (Orbital - 2018)"


Folding Cities

Folding Beijing (北京折叠) is a short Science Fiction story, by Hao Jingfang, a macroeconomics researcher, at the China Development Research Foundation. It tells the story of 'Lao Dao' a waste processing worker in the Beijing of the future, a city which has been divided into three, sharing the same earth surface, and rotating underground on a 48 hour cycle. The first city occupies the space for 24 hours from 6 am to 6 am, after which the earth's surface is rotated, to move the second and third cities up. 



"In 1991 there were 10 cities with a population of 10 million people or more. By 2050 there were 60; the vast majority of them in Asia. So we had to start building cities differently. Luckily the Chinese construction firms used ALICE, an AI construction management system, to plan their production schedules. It would have been a nightmare to manage with traditional methods."


Hao Jingfang appearing in an Audi marketing campaign inspired by 'Folding Beijing'


"We do a lot of our business in China now. In fact we're time lapse monitoring platform of choice for the Digital Built China scheme. The Chinese government was heavily influenced by the UK government's ground breaking Digital Built Britain scheme, which started at the turn of the century."


"Digital Built Britain is a partnership between the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Innovate UK to create a digital economy for infrastructure, buildings and services.

The programme is designed to transform how the UK construction industry and operations management professionals approach social and economic infrastructure through digital technology. This includes the way we plan, build, maintain and use that infrastructure, as well as the renewal, replacement and creation of new built assets.

All of this should help people to make better use of built assets, and provide better social outcomes to the challenges of urbanisation and an increasing population. It should also improve the UK’s productivity and support growth."

"Was that the Operations Manager on the hologram tele-presence machine this morning? Is he in China too? And were those shorts he had on!?"

"That's right. Our remote infrastructure and the sub-orbital spaceflight network means most of our workforce can now work remotely from anywhere in the world. He's not in China at the moment - he's anchored his 'Floating Seahorse' off Dubai for the duration of the British winter."


Floating Seahorse accomodation

Floating Seahorse accommodation - available now from Image permission kindly granted by The Heart of Europe


"Very nice! Can you play Centrifugal Bumble Puppy with me yet?"

"Almost. I just have to finish supervising the nanorobots cleaning the camera glass on Lobster Pot No.96566. I'd let Twiki the AI supervise, but even with all his qubits there are still special cases that only highly trained humans can perform."


"How many Nanobots does Lobster Pictures have?"

"Oh, good question, we need a few more. Lucky our 3D printer is now a rep-rap - it can print all the components required to build another version of itself. I think I'll just get it to clone itself a couple of times, then we can generate a much larger batch of nanorobot in one go.

The superhydrophobic nanocoating seems to have failed on this glass. Oddly enough the Digital Twin should have predicted this beforehand, but it seems to have missed it this time."


Digital Twins

Taking advantage of AI and machine learning, Digital Twins are exact digital replicas run alongside a physical process, product or service; continually updating to mirror the status, condition and interactions of the real life counterpart. This twin can then be used for monitoring and visualisation, or much more complex simulation of expected scenarios. In many cases, such as the modelling of Aircraft Engines, the twin is used to predict the lifetime and potential failure date of complex devices. Digital Twins have also found widespread applications in Internet of Things (IoT) devices, manufacturing, energy production, city design and even the fashion industry.


"We've certainly come a long way from detecting voltages with frog's legs!"


"Ewww, Granddad!"

"Haha... Come on... last one to the flying car is a smeg-head!"



We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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