I’ve been researching a lot about emerging and future technology recently, so I thought I would share some of my most exciting findings. If you enjoy science fiction, work in technology, or just like thinking about the future, check out the following:
Yep, starting with a classic. The thing that shocked me from my research on hoverbikes was that they already exist. The Aero-X flies up to 10 feet off the ground and up to 45 miles per hour, but can’t be flown over roads and is currently prohibitively expensive for personal use.
- Connecting nervous systems bidirectionally to synthetic limbs
To summarise what Hugh Herr says in this TED talk: a mountain-climber lost his leg and they connected a synthetic one in its place. Not only can he move this synthetic leg just by thinking, but he can feel through it because it’s connected to his nervous system. It acts and feels just like his regular leg. Pretty amazing stuff.
- Brain-computer interfaces
The idea here is that humans will be able to control computers with just our thoughts, and this already exists in a very early form. One of the most exciting parts of this area is, for me, the ability to convert thought to text. I would love to be able to ‘write down’ things in the shower or the train with nothing more than my brain; no notebook or keyboard required. It also suggests a form of consensual telepathy could be possible in the future, sending our thoughts directly to others’ brains.
- Translation of animal ‘speech’
Scientists who have analysed 70 human languages to determine their universal ‘shape’ think they could use AI to translate animal ‘speech’ into human language. Our relationships with our pets and other animals would be completely transformed.
- Extra senses
This is all about augmenting our existing senses to gain a real-time understanding of things that we wouldn’t normally be aware of, via our basic human bodies. These have already provide us with technologies like a form of echolocation, allowing blind basketballers to successfully shoot hoops, and for deaf people to ‘hear’ an orchestra through a vest. The North Sense was quite tempting to me as someone with zero sense of direction. If you’d like to learn a bit more about the potential for extra senses, this TED talk is a great place to start.
- Smart contact lenses
These smart contact lenses are intended to project images onto your eyes, overlaying images onto the real world, and also have the ability to record what the user sees. I’d love to have information like directions or instructions overlaid onto my vision, to be able to ‘see’ AR games like Pokemon Go without using a device, and to be able to record what I see with the blink of my eyes.
- Sharing virtual spaces / virtual commuting
Technologies like Magic Leap: Social give you the ability to create an avatar and hang out with people all over the world via virtual reality. It would be fantastic to to feel like I was ‘in the same room’ as a friend in another country, and that we could quickly meet up at short notice from the comfort of our own homes. This technology is likely to expand to ‘virtual commuting,’ where more and more people go to work via virtual reality instead of sharing the same physical space. It’s exciting to think that your physical location may have little-to-no impact on many of the jobs you can do in the future.
- Self-driving cars
Self-driving cars aren’t a new concept these days, but they’re one that I’m absolutely lusting after. Being able to order a car at the touch of a button, without having to talk to or in any way interact with a driver, sounds like heaven.
- 3D printing
The two parts of 3D printing that excite me the most, at the moment, are the ability to 3D print human organs (which would revolutionise healthcare), and the ability to 3D print clothing. Within the next few years, it’ll quite likely that we’ll be able to cheaply print – in our own homes – a huge range of clothing which will be custom-fitted to our measurements. Bring it on.
- Longevity extensions
Leaving one of the best until last: a combination of humans naturally living longer plus a variety of longevity technologies means that it’s quite possible that some people born as late as the 1960s may live to 200 years old or more. Technology that powerful doesn’t exist yet, of course, but as it advances it will buy living humans more time, and on and on in a virtuous cycle until it may be possible to live more or less forever.