Technology never stands still…It’s always changing, adapting and progressing, and oftentimes things that seemed improbable (or even impossible) one year can quickly start becoming possible only a few short years afterwards.
A diverse range of breakthrough technologies, including “artificial leaves” that turn CO2 into fuel, and a technique that harvests water from air, could soon be playing a role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges.
Here’s a list of 10 most interesting technologies that we’ll most probably be seeing in the near future:
Liquid biopsies mark a step forward in the fight against cancer. First, they are an alternative where traditional tissue-based biopsies are not possible. Second, they provide a full spectrum of information compared to tissue samples, which only reflect the information available in the sample. Lastly, by homing in on circulating-tumor DNA (ctDNA), genetic material that routinely finds its way from cancer cells into the bloodstream, disease progression or resistance to treatment can be spotted much faster than otherwise relying on symptoms or imaging.
Bionic Hand controlled by brain signals. It does allow people without fingers to have fully functional hands that can pick up and handle delicate objects. It is completely controlled by the brain and requires no surgery. Touch Bionics, the company the produces the Pro Digits hand, is able to install the hand complete with “living skin,” a plastic covering resembling human skin, for under $50,000. A small price to pay for a new hand I think.
Affordable catalysts for green vehicles
Progress is being made on a promising zero-emission technology, the hydrogen-fed fuel cell. Progress to date has been stymied by the high price of catalysts which contain platinum. However, much progress has been made reducing reliance on this rare and expensive metal, and the latest developments involve catalysts that include no platinum, or in some cases no metal at all.
Vaccines based on genes are superior to more conventional ones in a number of ways. They are faster to manufacture for one thing, which is crucial at times of a violent outbreak. Compared to manufacturing proteins in cell cultures or eggs, producing genetic material should also be simpler and less expensive. A genomics-based approach to vaccines also enables more rapid adaptation in the event of a pathogen mutating, and finally allows scientists to identify people who are resistant to a pathogen, isolate the antibodies that provide that protection, and design a gene sequence that will induce a person’s cells to produce those antibodies.
Leap Motion presents an entirely new way to interact with your computers. Put simply, Leap Motion is more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen. For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimensions with your natural hand and finger movements.
In 2012, Microsoft demonstrated impressive speech-to-speech translation and now, real-time multi-language conference calls may finally become a commercial reality in 2018. IBM has also mentioned that it will open its Watson supercomputing platform to third-party developers. This will allow natural language processing features to be built into apps. Imagine discussing important matters across the globe with just a tap, in multiple languages without the aid of a translator or a mediator.
Air to Fuel
A British firm based on Teesside says it’s designed revolutionary new technology that can produce petrol using air and water. Air Fuel Synthesis in Stockton-on-Tees has produced five litres of petrol since August, but hopes to be in production by 2015 making synthetic fuel targeted at the motor sports sector. The company believes the technique could help solve energy supply problems and curb global warming.
Autonomous driving cars along with electric vehicles will have a huge impact on the car industry that we know today. Autonomous vehicles will eliminate the need for car ownership for the masses, and electric vehicles will change the game on fossil fuel consumption.
Super Maglev Train
Chinese researchers have recently been looking into the next phase of train transportation, beyond even Maglev technology. China and Japan already have very fast Maglev trains that are capable of reaching over 260 miles per hour, but the new next-generation Maglev technology, dubbed super Maglev, will apparently be even faster.
Super Maglev is built on the same Maglev technology, but it encapsulates the train in a vacuum tube, further reducing air resistance, allowing for higher, mind-boggling speeds. Researchers claim that such enclosed-tube Maglev systems could see trains reaching speeds of up to 1800 miles per hour.
Of course, there are doubts about the feasability of constructing long vacuum tubes and keeping them pressurised, but if scientists and engineers can figure that out, we may one day be able to cross large distances quicker and more safer than we’ve ever imagined possible.
Harvesting clean water from air
The ability to extract clean water from air is not new, however existing techniques require high moisture levels and a lot of electricity. This is changing. A team from MIT and University of California, Berkeley has successfully tested a process using porous crystals that convert the water using no energy at all. Another approach, by a start-up called Zero Mass Water from Arizona is able to produce 2-5 litres of water a day based on an off-grid solar system.
3D Printed Food
3D printing has taken the world by storm, and slowly but surely people are being won over by the idea that it’s for more than just gadgets. Food is also something that can be feasily 3D printed.
German company, Biozoon, is harnessing the power of 3D printing to create seneoPro, a range of 3D-printable powder mixtures that solidifies when printed but also very quickly melts when eaten. The main target for this new 3D-printable food are elderly patients who suffer from dysphagia, or the inability to swallow.
Such a technology would definitely reduce the risk of choking, and the 3D-printed nature of seneoPro means that caregivers and family members can very easily mix and match the powders to create all types of dishes. And you can also add coloring agents and texturizers to make the food even more appealing.
The future of mobile technology closely revolves around two words: “augmented reality” (AR). AR in simple terms means an advanced and unseen version of what we can see with our naked eyes. A regular sight when perceived through our smartphone infused with the AR technology will be enhanced through the use of computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics and GPS data.
Deep learning for visual tasks
Computers are beginning to recognize images better than humans. Thanks to deep learning, an emerging field of artificial intelligence, computer-vision technologies are increasingly being used in applications as diverse as driving autonomous vehicles, medical diagnostics, damage assessment for insurance claims and monitoring of water levels and crop yield.
The Human Cell Atlas
An international collaboration aimed at deciphering the human body, called the Human Cell Atlas, was launched in October 2016. The project, backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative aims to identify every cell type in every tissue; learn exactly which genes, proteins and other molecules are active in each type and the processes which control that activity; determine where the cells are located exactly; how the cells normally interact with one another, and what happens to the body’s functioning when genetic or other aspects of a cell undergo change, among other things. The end product will be an invaluable tool for improving and personalizing health care.
StoreDot Fast Charging Battery
StoreDot, a ground-breaking nanotechnology company, recently unveiled a prototype for a next-generation battery that harnesses all their knowledge of nanotechnology and energy storage technologies. StoreDot uses bio-organic “nanodots” that have increased electrode capacitance and electrolyte performance.
The science is a bit complex, but the outcome is simple: as a result of these nanodots, the battery can be fully charged in only 30 seconds.
The rise of “function-as-a-service” platforms such as AWS Lambda or Azure Functions will bring the cost of DevOps to its bare minimum in the following years. Building your apps within such a framework helps to develop, deliver and scale services seamlessly for a fraction of the cost. The platforms are not there yet for massive adoption, but the trend is growing every day.
Cave2 is a hybrid reality environment that lets artists, scientists and engineers become fully immersed in their research. The Cave2 is a 360° wraparound structure consisting of 72 LCD panels, a 20-speaker surround sound system and a 10-camera optical motion tracking system.
With 3D glasses, scientists and engineers will actually be able to virtually experience and move through anything of their choosing, whether it’s the human body or planets in the solar system. The Cave2 holds an immense amount of potential, especially for situations involving large amounts of data requiring visualization.