Can children predict the future of computer technology? Recent research says yes.

Last year, Latitude, an international research and consulting firm asked 201 children from across the globe a simple question: “What would you like your computer or the Internet to do that it can’t do right now?” The children were asked to draw a picture in response. The study was aimed at targeting the first generation of “digital natives” and discovering their desires and expectations when it comes to technology. Despite the fact that the children ranged in age (from 5-12) and location (from South Africa to Chile and many countries in between) many of them echoed similar desires.

  • 77% illustrated a tech idea that called for more dynamic, human-level responsiveness (often anthropomorphized as robots or virtual companions)
  • One-third of kids invented technologies that would empower users by fostering knowledge or otherwise “adult” skills, such as speaking a different language or learning how to cook
  • Nearly 1/3 of all children went beyond simple creations, envisioning entire platforms for creating games, Web sites, action figures, and so on
  • 20% explicitly requested verbal/auditory controls
  • 15% wanted touchscreen interfaces

This is only a sampling of the data collected. The feedback ranged from ideas for integration of robotics, tools that could teach children real world skills (like playing an instrument) and networking between online applications and offline objects. Even more exciting? Some children even predicted recent technological advances. A 12-year-old girl from India said, “I want an interface where we can search, not by text, but by drawing — and get image results with that particular shape or pattern.” Google image search has been working on an update that will do exactly this.

In a way it makes sense that children should be tech-clairvoyants. After all, isn’t innovation just a grown-up word for imagination? This is just another reason why Spark supports projects that meld creativity and technology.

View the full presentation in this Latitude Report (.pdf).