Software, virtualisation & the Cloud
We've seen it quite recently with the sudden appearance of several large sensored cinematic cameras available at a fairly low cost. What's happened here is that much of the low-level heavy lifting has been done by the sensor manufacturers. The hard stuff to do with processing has to be written, but much of it is based on already-available software libraries and it runs on chips that include Field Programmable Gate Arrays, which are very fast processors whose internal connections (between logic gates) can be re-written at boot-up by software.
Operating systems don't have to be written from scratch anymore. Nor do electronic systems that include sensors, radio (WiFI, Cellular, Bluetooth etc) and screen drivers.
Our knowledge and our ability to "do" things moves upwards through levels. As we climb to each new level we find that by looking down, we can connect seemingly unrelated areas of technology. And as we do, something much bigger happens.
This brings us to one of the most powerful drivers of technology: Virtualisation.
With so much technology available off the shelf on a circuit board that is essentially the insides of a mobile phone, an incredible number of products can be made just by writing an app.
These days, you can buy an app that monitors your heart health, using the hardware of your mobile phone. As hardware gets more powerful and increasingly commoditised, apps will be able to do almost anything.
Finally (well, it's not finally, but in order to prevent this article from being infinitely long…) there's the Cloud. When I say "Cloud" here, I mean the fact that every computer on the internet is connected to every other computer. Which means that not only can they communicate with each other, but with suitably designed software, they can share processing and storage. This needs careful management, but it does mean that processing power and storage are now essentially limitless - and wireless and mobile technology means that we never have to be disconnected from this near-limitless power.
See the future?
In reality, progress is not smooth. The fact that it isn't is still more evidence for the way we have several small breakthroughs and then, occasionally, enormous ones.
The biggest one of all is when we build a computer as powerful as the brain (whatever that means!).
Meanwhile, what does this mean for the video industry?
Well, we are now so close to the point where the rate of progress is near vertical (some people call this the "singularity) that it is getting very hard to say what is going to happen next. 50 years ago you could fairly easily predict what was going to happen in ten years time.
But could you do that now? I certainly couldn't. My prediction is that in ten years time, we won't be talking about pixels.