Every year there seems to be a new innovation, something that makes life easier for some and more complicated for the less technologically inclined. For this installment, we’re looking to the future of technology at ten anticipated concepts that could actually do us some good – or, at the very least, sound really cool to talk about.
James Cameron’s explosive theatrical film of blue aliens may not have been too far off from a possible future. In 2012, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency released details on a program that would allow soldiers to fight without being put in harms way. These Avatars would be humanoid, bipedal robots rather than a race of extraterrestrials, but the concept is pretty similar. In 2011, a lifelike bipedal robot, PETMAN, was showcased by Boston Dynamics, who had designed the robot for the US Department of Defense. PETMAN wasn’t designed for combat, but rather was meant to test chemical-protection clothing for the Army. The robot showed off a range of motion similar to normal human movement, which is vital to the Avatar program. It makes you wonder, how far off are we from creating entire armies of robots?
It’s a well-known fact that, while there is generally a greater fear of flying, the true danger comes from the ride to the airport. Due to the human factor that comes with driving, it can be terrifying being on the roads today, but BMW is trying to make it so there is nothing to fear. A 360° collision avoidance system is being developed at BMW’s Research and Innovation Center, a leap in innovation that could change the way we drive – and the way we feel about driving – completely. If every manufacturer is able to utilize this technology once perfected, cars could be on the verge of self-driving and insurance companies could be facing a very grim future. There are already sensors on many vehicles that alert of unsafe distances to other objects, so we’re already on our way. However, this technology may already be obsolete, as many companies, such Google, and even regular citizens have create a self-driving car concept that may become an everyday reality within the next 10 years.
The introduction of 3D Printing has put the world into a tailspin, but we also may be overlooking a far more impressive technology that could be on the horizon. Nanofactories are thought to be a low cost, high quality manufacturing system that, from a molecular level, is believed to be able to build just about anything. Where the materials used limit 3D printing, nanofactories, or molecular assemblers, recreate materials and products at the atomic level, meaning we’ll likely be able to create anything regardless of the material. Though 3D printing is quick to become a household technology, nanofactories are a ways off from being personal. The larger question that stems from every household owning a nanofactory is what it would eventually do to the current suppliers that provide us with products we could virtually make ourselves.
Permanent Artificial Organs
Artificial organs have always been a means of prolonging an individual’s life as they wait for a replacement, but they were never meant to be a permanent solution. Current artificial organs may be able to temporarily mimic the functionality of the original, organic organ, but they don’t carry the sustainability needed to endure a lifetime of use. Enter Carmat, a French-based company co-founded by heart transplant specialist Alain Carpentier. In December of 2013, Carmat presented an artificial heart that is meant to be a permanent solution. The early model weighed 3-times that of a human heart, but worked off of sophisticated sensors to work independently. While both of Carmat’s heart transplant patients died – one within 74 days of the operation, the other in less than a year –it’s obvious the right steps are being taken in artificial limb advancement, yet we still have a way to go.
The science or prosthetic limbs has become more and more life-like over the years, producing limbs that look like they are made of flesh and blood. Though they may look real, though, to the wearer, there is something vital that’s missing and that’s the ability to consciously move the replica limb. For patients that may have lost their hand in a tragic accident, the implementation of motor neuroprosthetics would allow them to regain functionality of their prosthetic fingers to perform common, everyday activities. Such advancements in neuroprosthetics have been made, as seen in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where a spinal cord-injury patient was able to perform the initial kick-off.
Portable Healing Laser
You’re walking down the street when you stumble and fall, your arm landing on a sharp piece of glass. What would once result in a slew of stiches and a fairly ugly scar in the past could actually be healed much quicker with a laser. In 2008, Physicist, Abraham Katzir, was experimenting with laser-bonded healing, hoping to eventually permanently replace sutures in surgical bonding and healing. The practice of laser healing is being looked at and implemented for a range of therapies and healing, including arthritis, migraines, and cell regeneration, but these all require in-office visits. The technology is looking to be fitted for personal and portable use, meaning those nasty cuts, burns, and sores could eventually be on the same level as holding a pen. Maybe we’re not too far off from having portable devices to instantly heal external injuries?
Mind Controlled Appliances
The implementation of mind controlled technologies isn’t entirely a new concept, as there are several devices on the market that allow users to control video games and certain aspects of their computers with nothing but a thought – but how convenient would life be if every aspect of our homes was mind controlled. Gone are the days of having to get out of bed just to run the dishwasher or start the washing machine. Need to shut the oven off before dinner burns? Don’t bother getting up, just shut your oven off with a simple thought. It may sound ridiculous, but how far off are we with voice activated lights and television remotes?
One of man’s greatest barriers is language and that could very well be an issue of the past. As The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy showed us, breaking that barrier is going to be an essential part of communicating with potential extraterrestrials; but prior to that, it’ll definitely be a great means of uniting the world linguistically speaking. Back in 2014, Microsoft unveiled a new technology that would allow Skype-users to communicate, regardless of the language difference, and while there are some kinks to work out, it’s a great step towards a possible handheld device. Unfortunately, the biggest hitch that comes with any current translator is that not all dialogue translates perfectly. Going from one language to another then back to the original language can cause a confusing word jumble with potentially disastrous results.
Most of us marveled when Marty McFly put on that oversized jacket and it immediately shrunk to fit his form. What a brilliant idea! An invention that would eradicate fitting rooms and the need for different fits of clothing; but for so long, it seemed like a mere fantasy. With time, though, comes ingenuity, and the concept of self-adjusting clothing could be in our near future. In 2014, it was reported that researchers from Purdue University were working with a robotic fabric that can compress and expand in certain scenarios. The fabric is actually the first step of the universities intent on making a robotic skin that can be used on space missions and space exploration. Just imagine how much money and time boyfriends across the world would save from having to sit through the inevitable ‘shopping with the girlfriend’ escapades.
Maybe we can’t speak for everyone, but it may be safe to say that there is a general distaste when it comes to the slimy feel that some sunscreens leave behind. It’s also a nuisance to have to stop lounging every so often to reapply said layer of slime, but British researchers from King’s College in London may have stumbled upon a means of creating a sunscreen pill. While studying coral, Dr. Paul Long, along with fellow researchers, believe that algae living in the coral produces a compound with a purpose not to dissimilar from sunscreen. The team is looking to biosynthetically develop the same compound to create a simple tablet or pill. While current supplements promise sun protection, they’re not recommended as replacements for sunscreen. Should the sunscreen pill see the light of day, even the most sensitive of skin types should be able to enjoy a day in the sun without the annoyance of water-resistant screens.