Technology is never static; it is constantly transforming, adapting, and progressing to satisfy changing consumer preferences and behaviors. Every year, new innovations and trends that were seemingly impossible and even unimaginable in previous years, enter the market. This constant introduction of novel materials is a clear attempt at improvement in a perpetually shifting market system. In our society, which craves speed and efficiency, technology must meet exceptionally high standards of functionality. These five innovations, among countless other trends to look forward to this upcoming year, will not only reshape society, but will even rewire the way human beings think.
1) SuperMeat: The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN says that by 2050, the world will be home to nine billion people, and the current food production will need to almost double to meet the growing population. However, a scarce amount of land, climate change and related water shortages could have a profound impact on food production. SuperMeat is an Israeli startup company that is working to develop chicken cultured meat products created through the use of cell culture and genetic modification. Tissues are drawn painlessly from live animals, which will be engineered to create synthetic, lab-grown food. This, and other endeavors of laboratory-grown meat and meat products, are meant to completely transform the production of food, being marketed as more ethical, safe, environmentally friendly, and healthy.
2) Smarter self-driving cars: Tesla and Uber have been trying to break into the driverless car industry, with Tesla coming out with an updated version of the Autopilot feature. This past summer, the first fatal accident happened as a result of the Autopilot feature in the Tesla Model S, which failed to detect oncoming traffic. Because of this controversy, both Tesla and Uber are hoping to engineer smarter automated vehicles to significantly diminish these risks. Through the use of artificial intelligence, they are hoping to make cars able to “talk” to each other in order to reduce the chance of crashes. If cars are able to “communicate” with their surrounding vehicles, the number of accidents can decrease significantly. This intelligence could propel the ride-hailing service into a world where human beings are inessential to driving.
3) Virtual reality as a form of treatment: Virtual reality will become so immersive this upcoming year that it will essentially have the ability to rewire people’s brains. Research shows that virtual reality can help users overcome anxiety, fear and PTSD. Meditation promotes mental health by reducing stress and anxiety, and the Oculus Rift, the Google Cardboard, and other virtual reality headsets have now introduced guided meditation. Other endeavors include creating virtual reality for stroke patients that can inherently rewire their brains, along with virtual 3D models that can be constructed from MRI’s, CAT scans, and ultrasounds, that will allow a surgeon to explore the site of surgery before the operation itself.
4) 3D printed food: German company Biozoon has begun to 3D print ‘SmoothFood’ that is meant to help feed the elderly. Developed for those who are unable to chew food properly, this process involves mixing food with a texturing agent before 3D printing it into a desired shape and soft texture. SmoothFood will include a range of 3D printable powder mixtures that solidify when printed but melt very quickly when eaten. Their main target is elderly people who suffer from dysphagia, the inability or difficulty to swallow food properly.
5) “The Uber of ___”: The power one has to be able to retrieve almost any information using a device that fits in one’s pocket is revolutionary. Having apps on one’s phone that can accomplish countless tasks and satisfy most consumer needs is groundbreaking. Being “the Uber” of something is a phrase coined to refer to companies that use mobile devices to offer on-demand delivery of a product or service. Some applications that already exist include the Uber of laundry and the Uber of flowers. Dryv and Washio are just two such examples of services that pick up dirty clothes and return them freshly laundered and/or dry cleaned. BloomThat is an app that allows you to choose flowers from their wide selection, and have them delivered to a specific location in under 90 minutes.