MIT Technology Review unveils again this year what it considers to be the ten most "disruptive" major technologies for the coming years.
How will we live tomorrow? While robotics and aeronautics are going to undergo radical changes, ongoing work on stem cells or the field of neurosciences also opens up immense prospects. Technologies that should soon have an impact on the economy as much as on daily life. In previous years, MIT predicted the rise of big data, DNA sequencing and crowdfounding. Let's see what the future holds...
Precision Agricultural Drones
Relatively inexpensive UAVs with advanced sensors and imaging capabilities will enable farmers to increase yields and reduce crop damage through increased surveillance. These UAVs will also be used to reduce water consumption and better combat insect invasions.
A company like Parrot, in partnership with INRIA, has already presented a drone measuring crop reflectance to feed software for estimating nitrogen fertilizer requirements. It covers 10 hectares in a few minutes with a precision and resolution 20 times higher than that of a satellite. Another company, Redbird offers plot-tracking services using drones.
Ultra-private smartphones that encrypt data and communications to prevent the sharing of personal data. Anonymity will therefore be guaranteed in the face of governments or advertisers, who nowadays manage to track down the smallest details of privacy: the projects Blackphone, CryptoPhone or Whisper. These smartphones that encrypt data to ensure confidentiality of exchanges would have a bright future.
Just remember what happened to an activist in Kiev last January, who received a message telling him that he had been located at a demonstration site. The message had been sent to him by the security of the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych.
Or the example of the NSA revealed by Edward Snowden reminds us that fewer and fewer things escape the control of government or marketing.
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"Last year, Bull marketed Hoox, a smartphone with a "restricted circulation" security level. In a similar strategy, the aircraft manufacturer Boeing has been developing a secure telephone for government agencies for the past two years. Intended for employees in the world of defense and homeland security, the multifunction high-security phone, developed by the American company, operates under Android.
Boeing goes beyond data encryption. Up to the gadgets of Mission Impossiblethe smartphone has a self-destruct function. Any attempt to forcibly open the BoeingBlack will result in the erasure of data and software and will disable the device. It also includes an encrypted storage solution for sensitive data. » (Source : IT Industry and Technologies - April 29, 2014)
Neuroscientists have made remarkable progress in recent years in understanding how the brain works. And in the coming years, the European project Human Brain will attempt to create a simulation of human brain computation, while the Initiative US Brain will try to create a large-scale picture of brain activity. These ambitious projects will greatly benefit from a new resource: detailed and complete maps of the structure of the brain and its different regions, thanks to a supercomputer capable of eventually performing 1018 operations per second.
Microprocessors configured like human intelligence: the future of computing! The robot performs tasks that usually require powerful computers. Powered by just a smartphone chip with specialized software, a robot can recognize objects it hasn't seen before, sort them by similarity and navigate through space to deliver them to the right place. The robot can do all this because it approaches the brain's reflective system.
For computers, the purpose of these neuromorphic chips will be to enhance the functions of some of them. Qualcomm has produced a prototype chip with a neural network. The system works with "neurons" linked by "synapses", allowing it to process information in parallel.
Genomic editing would make it possible to create specific genome mutations in primates to combat certain human diseases: powerful means to study complex and confusing brain disorders. In November 2013, a first experiment was carried out in Kunming, China on twin monkey twins. Researchers succeeded in inserting foreign genes into embryos created in vitro using the so-called "Crispr" method.
Another advance is mobile collaboration: applications on smarpthones that will not only share our documents in the cloud but can "capture communication flows" to organize work between several people.
This is particularly important, says MIT, given that most work today is done outside the office. Cloud" can already be included in this new technology, but also all kinds of applications such as "Quip" - a document processing system that allows simultaneous dialogue via messaging - or "QuickOffice" or "Box Notes" or "CloudOn".
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Thirty years after the first virtual reality goggles and immersive virtual worlds, the technology finally seems ready for more widespread use.
The virtual reality mask Oculus Rift allows you to explore new immersive visual experiences, particularly in the field of video games. This type of mask helps advance communication and entertainment. Its acquisition by Facebook for $2 billion this spring proves that the potential of the start-up goes beyond video games. Mark Zuckerberg has made no secret of his ambitions: to make Oculus a new communication platform that allows you to "share unlimited spaces and experiences with the people in your life".
Oculus has inspired other renowned companies: Sony has shown a VR headset that players will be able to use with the PlayStation 4. Sony is also working with NASA to create a virtual reality simulation of Mars using images from the Mars Rover.
The idea of merging immersive virtual reality with social communication is interesting. It could also be a compelling tool for teleconferencing, online shopping, or more passive forms of entertainment. Some filmmakers have already experimented with it.
Big Data at the service of energy
On the energy side, solar and wind turbines will be implemented in a much more relevant way with the help of Big Data and artificial intelligence. Their use will be more efficient with less loss of renewable energy.
So-called "agile" robots
Walking is an extraordinary feat of biomechanical engineering. Each step requires balance and the ability to adapt to instability in a fraction of a second. Agile robots are in fact machines with legs that can travel over all types of terrain. Some places are indeed inaccessible to machines on wheels, but will have no more secrets for these robots. They will be able to help the elderly or those who can no longer move around, but they will also be used in the military.
Example with Atlas, a humanoid robot created by Boston Dynamics, a company that Google acquired in December 2013. It can walk on rough terrain and even run on flat ground. Although previous robots such as Honda's ASIMO and Sony's QRIO are able to walk, they cannot adapt to the terrain; therefore, they are often awkward and limited in practice. Atlas, which has an exceptional sense of balance and can stabilize with ease, demonstrates the capabilities that robots will be able to move in all human environments easily and safely.
3D printing of the living
On the medical side, 3D microprinting will become more widespread and will allow the creation of objects linked to the body: human tissues composed of blood vessels could thus be designed by mixing and matching "inks" with precision.
Jennifer Lewis, a materials scientist at Harvard University, is developing the experiments to make this possible. She prints complex shaped objects by precisely adding materials that are useful for their mechanical properties, electrical conductivity, or optical features. This means that 3D printing technology could create objects that detect and react to their environment: "This will be the next big innovation that will happen with 3D printing," she predicts.
A team at Princeton University printed a bionic ear, combining biological tissues and electronics, while a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge printed retinal cells to form the complex eye tissue. But even among these impressive efforts to expand the possibilities of 3D printing, Jennifer Lewis' lab is distinguished by the diversity of materials and types of objects it can print.
Last year, Lewis and his students showed that they could print microscopic electrodes and other components needed for tiny lithium-ion batteries. Other projects include printed sensors made on plastic plates that athletes could one day wear to detect concussions and measure violent impacts. More recently, his group has been able to print biological tissue intertwined with a complex network of blood vessels. To do this, researchers had to work inks on various cell types and the materials that form the matrix to support them. A constant challenge in the creation of artificial organs that could be used for drug testing or, one day, as spare parts. Or how to create a new vascular system to keep cells alive.
Innovations that will make tomorrow's wealth ...
- Report "Key Technologies 2015: Foresight and Informing Decisions". /Directorate General for the Competitiveness of Industry and Services.