15 years of consulting in niche markets

An exciting top 10 list of breakthrough technologies 2017

These new technologies will affect the economy and our politics, improve medicine, or influence our culture. Some are unfolding now; others will take a decade or more to develop. But you should know about all of them right now.

 

Reversing Paralysis

Scientists are making remarkable progress at using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away.

Availability: 10 to 15 years

The French neuroscientist was watching a macaque monkey as it hunched aggressively at one end of a treadmill. His team had used a blade to slice halfway through the animal’s spinal cord, paralyzing its right leg. Now Courtine wanted to prove he could get the monkey walking again. To do it, he and colleagues had installed a recording device beneath its skull, touching its motor cortex, and sutured a pad of flexible electrodes around the animal’s spinal cord, below the injury. A wireless connection joined the two electronic devices.  Click, for a full article.

 

Self-Driven Trucks

Tractor-trailers without a human at the wheel will soon barrel onto highways near you. What will this mean for the nation’s 1.7 million truck drivers?

Roman Mugriyev was driving his long-haul 18-wheeler down a two-lane Texas highway when he saw an oncoming car drift into his lane just a few hundred feet ahead. There was a ditch to his right and more oncoming cars to his left, so there was little for him to do but hit his horn and brake. “I could hear the man who taught me to drive telling me what he always said was rule number one: ‘Don’t hurt anybody,’” Mugriyev recalls. Click, for a full article. 

 

Practical Quantum Computing

 

Advances at Google, Intel, and several research groups indicate that computers with previously unimaginable power are finally within reach.

 

Availability: 4-5 years

One of the labs at QuTech, a Dutch research institute, is responsible for some of the world’s most advanced work on quantum computing, but it looks like an HVAC testing facility. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the applied sciences building at Delft University of Technology, the space is devoid of people. Buzzing with resonant waves as if occupied by a swarm of electric katydids, it is cluttered by tangles of insulated tubes, wires, and control hardware erupting from big blue cylinders on three and four legs. Click, for a full article.

 

The 360-Degree Selfie

Inexpensive cameras that make spherical images are opening a new era in photography and changing the way people share stories.

Availability: Now

Seasonal changes to vegetation fascinate Koen Hufkens. So last fall Hufkens, an ecological researcher at Harvard, devised a system to continuously broadcast images from a Massachusetts forest to a website called VirtualForest.io. And because he used a camera that creates 360° pictures, visitors can do more than just watch the feed; they can use their mouse cursor (on a computer) or finger (on a smartphone or tablet) to pan around the image in a circle or scroll up to view the forest canopy and down to see the ground. If they look at the image through a virtual-reality headset they can rotate the photo by moving their head, intensifying the illusion that they are in the woods. Click, for a full article.

 

Hot Solar Cells

By converting heat to focused beams of light, a new solar device could create cheap and continuous power.

Availability: 10 to 15 years

Solar panels cover a growing number of rooftops, but even decades after they were first developed, the slabs of silicon remain bulky, expensive, and inefficient. Fundamental limitations prevent these conventional photovoltaics from absorbing more than a fraction of the energy in sunlight. Watch the video.

 

Paying with your face

Face-detecting systems in China now authorize payments, provide access to facilities, and track down criminals. Will other countries follow?

Availability: Now

Shortly after walking through the door at Face++, a Chinese startup valued at roughly a billion dollars, I see my face, unshaven and looking a bit jet-lagged, flash up on a large screen near the entrance. Having been added to a database, my face now provides automatic access to the building. It can also be used to monitor my movements through each room inside. As I tour the offices of Face++ (pronounced “face plus plus”), located in a suburb of Beijing, I see it appear on several more screens, automatically captured from countless angles by the company’s software. On one screen a video shows the software tracking 83 different points on my face simultaneously. It’s a little creepy, but undeniably impressive. Click, for a full article.

 

Gene Therapy 2.0

Scientists have solved fundamental problems that were holding back cures for rare hereditary disorders. Next we’ll see if the same approach can take on cancer, heart disease, and other common illnesses.

Availability: Now

When Kala Looks gave birth to fraternal twin boys in January 2015, she and her husband, Philip, had no idea that one of them was harboring a deadly mutation in his genes.

At three months old, their son Levi was diagnosed with severe combined immune deficiency, or SCID, which renders the body defenseless against infections. Levi’s blood had only a few immune cells essential to fighting disease. Soon he would lose them and have no immune system at all. Click, for a full article.

 

The Cell Atlas

Biology’s next mega-project will find out what we’re really made of.

Availability: 5 years

In 1665, Robert Hooke peered down his microscope at a piece of cork and discovered little boxes that reminded him of rooms in a monastery. Being the first scientist to describe cells, Hooke would be amazed by biology’s next mega-project: a scheme to individually capture and scrutinize millions of cells using the most powerful tools in modern genomics and cell biology.  Click, for a full article.

 

Botnets of Things

The relentless push to add connectivity to home gadgets is creating dangerous side effects that figure to get even worse.

Availability: Now

Botnets have existed for at least a decade. As early as 2000, hackers were breaking into computers over the Internet and controlling them en masse from centralized systems. Among other things, the hackers used the combined computing power of these botnets to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks, which flood websites with traffic to take them down.

 

Reinforcement Learning

By experimenting, computers are figuring out how to do things that no programmer could teach them.

Availability: 1 to 2 years

Inside a simple computer simulation, a group of self-driving cars are performing a crazy-looking maneuver on a four-lane virtual highway. Half are trying to move from the right-hand lanes just as the other half try to merge from the left. It seems like just the sort of tricky thing that might flummox a robot vehicle, but they manage it with precision. Click, for a full article.

 

Source: MIT Technology, 2017

Thursday Feb 23, 2017