Nahum Kovalski

Does Microsoft’s Crystal Ball Work?

On a number of occasions in the past, I have had the opportunity to lecture various groups on the status of medical technology. To do this properly, it is critical to be as up to date as possible on recent trends. Every day, I spend at least a couple of hours reading about the latest trends in medical tech, as well as about predictions for the short term and long term future. And despite how long I have been in the field, I am still regularly amazed at what already exists and what is coming.

Microsoft, despite being a lot less flashy than Apple, distributes a video every few years which is its personal (very flashy) view into the future. These videos are definitely entertaining, but of greater significance, generally come true. Often, in fact, I have to update my lectures to change various slides to be speaking of existing technologies versus those that are still only planned. As I do so, I literally am watching the future unfold.

In the last video that Microsoft published, they showed a runner who was having her vital signs being checked in real time, and more so being saved online for later review [in the case of the video, by her doctor]. One needs to appreciate that at the time Microsoft published this video, this monitoring and sharing tech did not exist. One only needs to look at the products presented at the most recent CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and MWC (Mobile World Congress) in order to appreciate how standard such vital sign monitoring has become.

Admittedly, there are those who question the accuracy of some of these vital sign monitors, and there are others who complain about the packaging of the sensors in various shaped wearable devices and watches. Interestingly, Apple is about to publicly announce the beginning of the consumer availability of the Apple smart watch. And literally, the world is expecting a great many changes to happen, just as they did after the introduction of the iPhone.

In the older “futuristic” video of Microsoft’s, they showed how a mobile phone could be charged on a surface without actually being plugged in. Then, they showed how the activity on the phone could be displayed on a large screen in the user’s living room. Just the other day, I was watching a movie on my mobile phone, but then transferred the image to my large screen TV in my den. And it did strike me at that moment how I was emulating the events I had seen, years before.

Microsoft has now publicized a new such futuristic video which again seems to be more science fiction than fact. But given Microsoft’s recent presentation of its holographic technology, it is actually quite clear that the “leap of imagination” in the video, is very much within our reach. if you have not yet seen this latest video, I would ask you to take a couple of minutes and view it. I definitely cannot express in words what the video presents to one’s eyes.

I think it is fair to say that one of the key themes in this video is the fluid flow of information amongst various devices, even to the extent that the devices change their form.

About three minutes into the video, we are shown a wrist-wearable device that is initially two separate digital bracelets. But these bracelets have a magnetic edge and can join together to create a wider and more easily readable interface. Later in the video, the user removes this bracelet which then becomes totally straight and assumes the role of a type of remote control for a large table-based viewing interface.

Later on in the video, dynamic “blackboards” and holographic communications make it possible for remote teams to easily confer. The application to medicine is clear. In fact, despite the amazing advances in electronic medical records and the sharing of medical information, there still is not a seamless solution for having a meeting of minds amongst specialists from all around the world. After watching this video, it seems pretty clear to me that such technology will be standard, probably within the next five years, but definitely within 10.

I imagine that somewhere in the world right now, there is a child imagining a fictional world where all types of scientific wonders exist. But in this day and age, it is very likely that someone, somewhere else in the world has already submitted a patent on exactly the “wonder” that the child just imagined. The gap between imagination and reality is shrinking every day. As I’ve said perhaps too many times before, anyone from even 30 years ago would consider this a magical time. Despite all the horrors we read about in the newspaper on a daily basis, I really do have hope that we will end tragedies with silicon and graphene.

As we leave the holiday of Purim behind and look forward now to the holiday of Passover, we are reminded that miracles are a very real part of our history. My tremendous excitement lies in the fact that miracles are very real part of our future.

Thanks for listening

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About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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