As we outlined last year, there are three reasons for making predictions: because planning things helps us make better decisions; because if we don’t make them, everything would surprise us; and, finally, because it’s just a fun thing to do. And since we love having a good time, we’ll cover some peculiar technologies that are predicted to become strong soon.
Here’s a list of five technologies that are as futuristic as they’re plausible.
Remember when phones were just for calling and playing games? It seems an eternity ago. Nowadays, spending an entire day without using WhatsApp, Instagram, Gmail, or Zoom requires enormous effort. Not using social media is for monks only.
These comms technologies are helpful when you want to stay in touch with your acquaintances or loved ones. Like never before, you can catch up with your partner who’s on a working trip thanks to the ease of making a video call. However, video calls still have some considerable limitations. Long-distance relationships are still tough to keep up for many lovers. This might probably change in the future.
Some engineers at the City University of Hong Kong are taking virtual exchanges to a new level, as they are working to create the possibility of touch across long distances via Bluetooth. The wireless soft e-skin converts the wearer of actuators into electrical signs. These are sent to another e-skin system, where actuators turn them into vibrations that copy the wearer's movements.
If this technology succeeds, many physical interactions will shorten distances, and distant relationships will be much easier to maintain. Black Mirror will tell you otherwise, but future technologies are not only dystopian. There is always a silver lining or more heart-warming possibility to these advancements than burnout or apocalypse!
VR and AR are taking a leap in 2024. Will you be able to cuddle up with a virtual representation of your partner while you feel their touch? Reticent emo bands have been talking about it for a while now, and it could be a fact soon.
In early 2024, Japan landed on the moon with its Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM), which suffered some inconveniences. While this event was motivated by the political conquest of territories (which already transcends planetary boundaries), it also represents plenty of interesting advancements — such as the possibility of setting up a space exploration base on the moon.
The craft landed successfully on the moon with its rovers, but the SLIM’s solar cells were not operating as expected, and it was nine days offline before getting powered on again. The craft differs from those preceding it because it can land closer to its target than other vessels, and the Japanese have called it a “sniper.” It's not too risky to determine that soon, this technology will help expand the landing possibilities and should help find more water on the moon.
Some space exploration companies are determining that, since there’s water on the moon, they could set up fuel stations up there. The key is hydrogen. Through electrolysis, space explorers could split up the hydrogen and oxygen molecules from moon water. And they’d set up base there to start exploring what’s beyond.
Setting up a base on the moon might seem overkill if it’s so close to our planet, at least in relative terms. But electrolysis is still so unreachable because it’s too expensive. Since one side of the moon is hit by sunlight all day long, how about getting the energy to split up the molecules from solar power? That’s when advanced lunar landing starts sounding more and more promising.
Nanotechnology, the science of manipulating matter at the atomic and molecular level, promises considerable potential in diverse areas and industries, like medicine and electronics.
Some tech enthusiasts think nanotechnology may play a significant role in resolving critical aspects of life quality. For instance, with early disease detection or its ability to enhance the lifespan of batteries for improved energy storage.
Some anticipated results are:
Nanorobots: Nanorobots are small devices that measure in nanometres. They are controllable remotely to execute precise and intricate tasks in fields such as medicine and industry.
Nanomedicine: We expect more widespread use of nanotechnology in medicine, creating better and more precise medicines and medical devices. These innovations can work at the tiniest levels in our bodies, offering new ways to treat diseases, such as “attacking” a dangerous cell.
Nanosensors: On a nanoscale, these tiny devices are crafted to sense and measure changes in the surroundings, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, light, or sound, and they could fit in the tiniest places, including the bodies of our pets, for example.
One of the boldest takes on nanotechnology comes from the cyberpunk flick Upgrade (2018), in which goons upgrade themselves with nanobots that inhabit their bodies and weaponise the minuscule tech so they can kill their foes with a sneeze, for example (yes, this happens, and no, it’s not a spoiler — there’s so much more to it). It is highly recommended that you watch the film, as it is exceptionally executed and thoroughly enjoyable, and will help you prepare for a nanobot future.
New technologies are constantly working with the promise of a healthy, bright longevity for humanity. However, there are also promising technologies for working around death.
Necrobiotics consists of transforming deceased animals into robots. A team of researchers from Rice University are doing several experiments to see if this is possible. Until now, they could convert a dead spider into a robot-like gripper, blessed with the capability to pick up other objects. A pretty big deal, isn’t it?
The process involves injecting air into the spider, leveraging its hydraulic system, which propels its version of blood into the limbs, causing extension. These trials make us wonder what a future with robotic dead animals (or, in a highly dystopic scenario, with human beings) might look like. Maybe Westworld is not that far away.
5. Health: Digital twins
Digital twins are exact digital replicas of an asset. Cities want to have them for their critical buildings. There’s some mould on the third-floor ceiling? You can check the digital twin and see if there’s a pipe just above.
Now, it could also work on our bodies. The US company Q Bio has developed a scanner that measures various biological and health factors, including cancer, hormones, cells, and blood. This data will be used to generate a 3D digital representation of each patient, regularly updated with new scans and information.
This digital model can aid in illness prevention and health enhancement, presenting the body's information in a clear and accessible manner for medical professionals and patients.
These advancements will spark new conversations around longevity, an overemphasis on health, and the difficulty of delineating boundaries between natural processes and the urge to counteract them. Showrunners and screenwriters have loved these topics for a while, and there are even fictional TED talks from 2023 that predicted these techs would be within reach. They’re still futuristic, but maybe slightly less than before.
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