Over the last couple of months, in our series The Future, we’ve looked at some of the emerging technologies that are set to change our world. Some day, computer technicians like us may be coming to your house to fix your wardrobe, your car, your food dispenser, your glasses or your nanny! Here’s a look back at five of the technologies we showcased and how things have moved ahead in just the last few weeks.
I barely know where to start with what’s happening in the world of 3D printing, so instead, I’ll just give you a list of links. Here’s just a few of the things that have been showcased in the last couple of weeks:
- The Urbee – a 3D printed car
- Pizza – yes, really!
- Toy Porsches
- Surgical tools that print live bone cells onto a patient – check this one out, it’s unbelievable!
- Fully working loudspeakers
- “Chainmail” clothing
- An Iron Man suit
- Accessories for Victoria’s Secret models
- Little miniature models of you – scanned by Kinect!
- This weird gadget made of interlocking gears – it may not look like much, but the design technology is astonishing
- A gadget to turn your iPhone into a 3D scanner
- A 3D printer that turns sand into glass using solar power
And that’s just a very small sampling of what’s going on!
Since our post about robots, the last few weeks have seen some amazing activity in the field. The DARPA challenges in Miami put robots through a range of challenges, with the contest being won convincingly by – no surprises here – Google. Their robot had to perform eight rescue-themed tasks, including navigating stairs, opening doors, attaching a hose, removing debris, and cutting holes in walls. Click through to here or here for more images and videos of the robots in action.
And Google aren’t slowing down. They bought another robot manufacturer, Boston Dynamics, just two weeks ago. That’s eight robotics companies in six months.
Shortly after we wrote about driverless cars, the British government announced that they were working to ensure that the country will be one of the pioneers of the technology. They are amending the necessary laws to permit them on the roads, and have offered a £10m ($17m) incentive to any town that wants to become a test area. Already, Milton Keynes has announced plans to have 100 autonomous vehicles on the streets by 2017.
And the car manufacturers are racing to get ahead in this field. Daimler and Nissan will have autonomous cars by 2020. Google said theirs will be ready by 2017. And electric sports car manufacturer Tesla aims to have theirs on the roads by 2016.
On our piece, we discussed the issue of liability. Google, however, doesn’t see this as a major problem. Adviser Brad Templeton pointed out, “”Humans kill 1.2 million people in car accidents each year so the idea of being able to make a safer vehicle is very appealing,” he said. “For me the more interesting question is whether a machine is more liable than a drunk driver. Countries that decide a machine is more liable will slow the development of this technology,” he added.
A major drawback to home automation is the initial cost of the technology. However, with a market worth over $8 billion right now, and projected to grow to as much as $500 billion, companies are thinking hard about how to encourage customers to upgrade their homes to smart homes. Seema Jethani discusses the different ways they’re looking at pricing technology and services – and yes, some of it may well be free!
One of the issues we raised in our piece about smart homes was the concept of personal privacy. As our work and home lives become increasingly intertwined, this raises the additional problem of how much your boss might know about your activities when you’re working in a smart office or working from home. Kevin Tofel and Stacey Higginbotham discuss the issues involved in building a smart office. It has some fascinating ideas that could potentially change the way many of us work and our whole work-life balance.