The year “2017” looks more like something you’d see in the opening crawl of an 80’s sci-fi movie than the actual year, doesn’t it? The future is now, and nothing could illustrate that fact better than this year’s most mind-boggling, exciting, thought-provoking trends in technology. Here are a few of the technological projects you can expect to see in headlines for the rest of this year.
Dreaming of Electric Sheep
We should probably start looking for a young John Connor, because prominent tech companies like Google and Slack have started using artificial intelligence-driven machine learning to improve efficiency and gather usage data. Pseudo-AI programs are nothing new, of course. The difference here is that AI technologies may be getting better at using the data they accrue to perform their functions more effectively–in other words, learning.
Many experts believe that practical AI innovations will have a wide variety of (often surprising!) effects on business, education, communication, and… pretty much everything else! Don’t worry too much just yet, though–our new synthetic friends will probably never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. A lot about AI research is relatively new and therefore theoretical and debatable. However, the AI precursors, algorithms and machine learning, are already playing a critical part in the way our marketing messages are presented all over the web. AI seems poised to change the face of business and life from here on out.
Tastes Like (Lab-grown) Chicken!
“Synthetic” food might sound as appealing as eating silicone, but “synbio” foods are quickly overtaking GMOs as the new controversial food frontier. What’s the difference? Genetic modification “cuts and pastes” genetic sequences to imbue organisms with desirable genes. Synthetic biology actually “writes” DNA to create food that isn’t found in nature. The result? Companies like Evolva and Muufri have successfully engineered products like yeast and vanillin. A company called New Wave Foods is even working on algae-based shrimp!
Now for the–*ahem*–meat-and-potatoes question: why do we want synthetic food? There are quite a few reasons. Food modifications could create crops that need less water and energy. Synbio foods could make us less dependent on oil. Synbio meats made from plants could reduce the need to slaughter animals. If the technology takes off, synbio products could help combat world hunger. And it’s happening sooner than you’d think! Some advocates believe we’ll start seeing synthetic, plant-based meat replacements in grocery stores everywhere this year.
So Long, Flesh World!
It’s easy to be cynical given its spotty history, but it seems as though virtual and augmented reality has really arrived. Virtually every major electronics hardware company is courting their own version of VR. There’s the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and Daydream, PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR… and the list goes on! As for augmented reality, when the AR phone game Pokémon Go released last year made $100 million in 20 days and generally brought the world to a screeching halt.
Although virtual reality remains primarily gaming-focused, different organizations are developing software for applications as diverse as communication, performance, theater, film, dangerous training, education, historical preservation, and even therapy! Yes, there will be a wide array of new marketing opportunities as this tech continues to be adopted by users. These amazing applications pale in comparison to the possibilities imaginable with further VR developments. VR is already fundamentally changing the way we interact with technology, and it’s only going to become even more important.
Fast and the Furious 12 is Going to Be Weird
You probably know that Google and Tesla are conducting driverless car research, but you might not know just what a big deal the driverless car revolution is. Current predictions estimate that the first fully automated vehicles will be available to the public between 2020 and 2025. Almost every automotive manufacturer has plans to introduce self-driving vehicles between now and 2020. Still too far out? Elon Musk of Tesla says he’ll have a driverless car ready by 2018!
Driverless cars use a 3D scanning system called “lidar” (“light” and “radar”) to bounce millions of tiny light shafts off nearby objects every second. Lidar allows cars to get very detailed and accurate measurements of the surrounding environment. The technology is far from perfect, but when it gets there, the implications are staggering. Self-driving cars could save 300,000 lives per decade in America alone. They will also provide new opportunities to serve content to people who have the freedom to engage in tasks other than driving. Chances are you’ll see cars driving around by themselves on city streets in your lifetime. You may even own one!
Of course, no one knows what the future holds. Trends change, new discoveries are made, new technology is invented. With the sheer number of technologies poised to fundamentally change the way we live, however, one prediction we feel comfortable making is: the future won’t be boring!