Computers and computer systems
Computers and computer systems

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Computers and computer systems

6 A look to the future

So what will computers do for you next? Perhaps they will be the key to solving transport problems. Driverless cars, controlled by computers, are under development. If these ever come to fruition perhaps they could help to reduce the number of road traffic accidents by automatically reducing their speed when they come too close to another car. Or perhaps journeys could be made faster and less frustrating because cars will use communicating computers to analyse traffic density and move along the road system without meeting traffic jams.

There is currently a system called the CIVIS bus that is being used in several European cities. It is not a driverless system, but the driver only controls the braking and not the steering for the bus. The bus uses an optical guidance system that follows a line on the road to keep the bus in a dedicated lane. The main advantage of this system over a conventional bus is the speed with which it can pull into and out of its bus stops. It is still far from the goal of a driverless system, but shows the progress being made.

You might find it attractive to buy a central-heating controller that could be accessed by a mobile phone to switch the heating on and off. Systems like this are becoming a reality, and the ‘communicating house’ or ‘smart home’ is predicted to be one of the great developments of the future. Perhaps in your home of the future the fridge will detect what food it contains and order items it knows (or believes) you are likely to need; sensors will detect levels of light and control the lighting and shut and open the curtains; and the heating will be controlled taking account of the number of people in the room.

It is obvious that as time goes on you are going to be surrounded by more and more systems that use computers. Even art is embracing this technology.The document below describes a work of art that uses a camera and a processor to angle small reflective squares; as the squares tilt the effects generated change, making it a ‘living’ work.

Activity 10 (Exploratory)

Click on 'View document' link below to read an article about Daniel Rozin's art installation Wooden Mirror.

View document [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Don't worry if, as is likely, you don't understand all the technical detail in the article. What you have learnt from studying the unit so far should allow you to form some basic answers to the questions below.

  • What is the input device for this computer?

  • What effect do the actions of the output devices create?

  • A tile can take up to one of 255 positions to form the various shades of grey in the image. How many bits are needed for the 255 items of data needed to represent each position?

Discussion

  • The input device is a video camera that is located in the Wooden Mirror's centre.

  • The output devices tilt the reflective tiles. The angle the tiles are tilted to causes a representation of the image seen by the video camera to be shown on the ‘mirror’.

  • Eight bits are needed as they can represent up to 256 different data items. Note that this ties in with a statement made in the article about how the computer reduces the camera image to an ‘8-bit grayscale’.

In the four video clips below Daniel Rozin talk about his Wooden Mirror, and more generally about computers and art.

Download this video clip.Video player: t224_1_001v.mp4
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this video clip.Video player: t224_1_002v.mp4
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this video clip.Video player: t224_1_003v.mp4
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this video clip.Video player: t224_1_004v.mp4
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
T224_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus