3D printing is not directly connected with the development of AI, or conscious machines. But it is probably one of the wake-up technologies for people outside the bubble that takes an active interest in AGI. These are the innovations that may alert people to the fact that technology in general is moving increasingly fast, and is going to change our lives dramatically. The other obvious ones are wearable computing and augmented reality (Google Glass), driverless cars, automation by task-specific AI, and increasingly smart robots in military, industrial and domestic settings.
The respected IT research outfit Gartner has just issued a report on sub-$100,000 3D printers. As TechCrunch notes, this in itself is something of a rite of passage for a relatively new technology.
Gartner reckons sales of these printers will grow by 50% this year, to reach a total of 56,500 units. Next year it predicts growth of 75%, with sales of just under 100,000 units.
“The 3D printer market has reached its inflection point,” said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner. “While still a nascent market, with hype outpacing the technical realities … in the next 18 months, we foresee consumers moving from being curious about the technology to finding reasons to justify purchases as price points, applications and functionality become more attractive.”
Cheaper, consumer 3D printers are already available, but Gartner expects businesses to continue out-spending consumers by four to one for a while yet. But Gartner reckons that businesses (or hobbyists) will soon create a 3D printing ‘killer app’ that will spark an explosion in consumer purchases. ”We expect that a compelling consumer application – something that can only be created at home on a 3D printer – will hit the scene by 2016.”
When 3D printers become as common as SUVs, the impact on consumer goods manufacturers (including those in China), distributors and retailers will be immense. Will that be the moment when the balloon goes up?
(The best thing about 3D printing is it gives me the excuse to post a picture of this beautiful 3D-printed car:)