June 21, 2014
We’ve all seen the new Google Glass — the wearable computer that allows users to communicate with the Internet using voice commands. It’s truly a breakthrough in technology, however, there are many other exciting new products and advances that may change the way we look at the world around us.
Here is a quick look at seven exciting technological developments:
1. Brain-Computer Interfaces
Image via Flickr by Saad Faruque
Imagine being able to control a computer using your brainwaves. This is an important step in allowing quadriplegics to move their wheelchairs or even eat and drink. This technology could also entail moving a robotic arm with brainwaves or restoring vision through the use of direct brain implants. Additionally, more advanced interfaces are being studied as a possible treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder by directly manipulating memories via a brain implant.
2. Screenless Displays
Image via Flickr by Porsche Brosseau
As our devices have become smaller, we find that they become increasing difficult to interact with. We are limited with some tasks, such as writing long documents because the lack of screen space and tiny keyboards. Imagine a full-size, interactive keyboard or screen being projected onto just about any surface. Amazingly, screenless displays are also being projected directly onto the eye’s retina, further eliminating the need for heavy hardware.
3. Body-Adapted Wearable Devices
Body-adapted wearable electronics are virtually invisible devices that can monitor vital signs, and other devices worn under the clothes can track posture. It’s even come to the point where some of these devices communicate GPS directions through vibrations via haptic shoe soles. The uses of these devices are varied: the shoe soles can be used to help blind people navigate their environment.
4. Quantified Self or Predictive Analytics
Smartphones hold a record of users’ activities including contacts, call and text logs, and GPS information, to name a few data collection points. And by taking this data and using specialized learning algorithms, predictive models of behaviors can be created. These models of human behavior can then be used in urban planning, sustainability, medical diagnosis, and personalized medicine. In addition, these analytics are being used by scientists to predict human conditions such as depression or changes in sleep behaviors.
5. Nanowire Lithium-Ion Batteries
Image via Flickr by Rob Nunn
We depend on batteries for so many things — from our smartphones and laptops to our television remotes and even electric automobiles. The new nanowire lithium-ion batteries charge far more quickly and produce 30% to 40% more electricity. This new battery technology is set to improve the electric car market as well as boosting the use of solar electricity due to its ability to store more energy.
6. Mining Metals from Desalination Brine
Image via Flickr by prilfish
With supplies of freshwater continually dwindling around the world, the desalination of seawater is emerging as a viable option to meet the demand. The desalination process does have drawbacks, such as a high energy cost and the production of brine containing rejected materials. This desalination brine can negatively impact marine life if it is returned to the oceans. However, one approach to deal with that issue is to “mine” materials such as magnesium, uranium, and lithium to make this desalination brine.
7. RNA-Based Therapies
Exciting new developments in ribonucleic acid (RNA) science and vivo delivery are enabling the creation of new drugs. Two new RNA-based drugs have been recently approved for human therapies and are being used to treat conditions including infectious diseases, cancer, and genetic disorders. They can also use the mechanics of RNA interference to suppress defective or over-expressed genes.
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