We have seen great leaps in digital technologies the past five years. Smartphones, cloud computing, multi-touch tablets, these are all innovations that revolutionized the way we live and work. However, believe it or not, we are just getting started. Technology will get even better. In the future, we could live like how people in science fiction movies did.
NASA has challenged designers to develop a conventional drone to work inside a space station, navigating with no ‘up’ or ‘down’. The winning design, ArachnoBeeA, would use cameras and tiny beacons to manoeuvre its way around. How popular drones would be in such a confined space is a different question.
2.760mph trains Hyperloop
Hate commuting? Imagine, instead, your train carriage hurtling down a tunnel at the same speed as a commercial jet airliner. That’s the dream of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. His Hyperloop system would see ‘train’ passengers travel at up to 760mph through a vacuum tube, propelled by compressed air and induction motors. A site has been chosen with the goal of starting test runs in two years. Once built, the loop will ferry passengers between San Francisco and LA in 35 minutes, compared to 7.5 hours by train.
Today, we are already at a turning point in our ability to 3D “bioprint” organ tissues, a process that involves depositing a “bio-ink” made of cells precisely in layers, resulting in a functional living human tissue for use in the lab. These tissues should be better predictors of drug function than animal models in many cases. In the long-term, this has the potential to pave the way to “printing” human organs, such as kidneys, livers and hearts. By 2020, our goal is to have the technology be broadly used by pharmaceutical companies, resulting in the identification of safer and better drug candidates and fewer failures in clinical trials. Keith Murphy, CEO of Organovo
4.Internet for everyone
After Tesla and SpaceX, PayPal founder Elon Musk is turning his attention back to the internet: he’s awaiting permission to send almost 4,000 small satellites into low-Earth orbit that would beam back a high-speed wireless signal to everyone on the planet. And things are moving fast: Musk hopes to launch a series of test satellites in 2016, with a view to completing the project by 2020. He has competition to get there first though, as British billionaire Richard Branson also wants to cover the world with wi-fi.
- Augmented reality headsets
Like VR headsets, augmented reality headsets are expected to become an interesting part of our gadget arsenal within the next few years. As Scott Stein reported for CNET upon the unveiling of Microsoft’s HoloLens, the word “holographic” was tossed around during the event. While some researchers think that holographic TVs may become a reality by 2020 or shortly thereafter, it’s looking like augmented reality — which doesn’t offer a true version of holograms — will be the technology that paves the way for shows and games that project characters and environments onto your living room and create immersive virtual worlds that blend with your surroundings. Noted futurist Ray Kurzweil has even predicted that in the not-so-distant future, we’ll be in augmented reality at all times.
If you want to take a trip into space, your quickest bet might be to take a balloon. The company World View Enterprises wants to send tourists into the stratosphere, 32km above Earth, on hot air balloons. Technically ‘space’ is defined as 100km above sea level, but 32km is high enough to witness the curvature of the Earth, just as Felix Baumgartner did on his space jump. The balloon flew its first successful test flight in June, and the company will start selling tickets in 2016 – at the bargain price of just £75,000 per person!
- Wearables or implants to monitor your health
Some health executives predict that gadgets we’ll have by 2020 will enable real-time diagnostics for cancer, the immune system, intestinal flora, and conditions like pre-diabetes. Such gadgets, which may come in the form of wearable devices or patches, could make health care preventive rather than reactive. Such technology is already on its way. As Alistair Barr and Ron Winslow reported for Wall Street Journal in 2014, Google had begun developing tiny magnetic particles that could search the body for biomarkers that indicate the presence of cancer and other diseases. These nanoparticles would bind to cells, proteins, and other molecules inside the body, and would be counted by a wearable device equipped with a magnet. The particles could be delivered via a pill, and would make it easier to detect cancer or predict an imminent heart attack.
8.We’ll control devices via microchips implanted in our brains
The human brain remains biology’s great, unconquered wilderness, and while the idea of meshing the raw power of the human mind with electronic stimulus and responsiveness has long existed in both science fiction and — to some degree — in reality, we likely won’t be controlling our devices with a thought in 2020 as Intel has predicted. While it’s currently possible to implant a chip in the brain and even get one to respond to or stimulate gross neural activity, we simply don’t understand the brain’s nuance well enough to create the kind of interface that would let you channel surf by simply thinking about it.
“Neural communications are both chemical and electrical,” Liebhold says. “And we have no idea about how that works, particularly in the semantics of neural communication. So yeah, somebody might be able to put electronics inside somebody’s cranium, but I personally believe it’s only going to be nominally useful for very, very narrow therapeutic applications.”
PopSci Predicts: We might have chips in the brain by 2020, but they won’t be doing much.
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