Special Report

Technologies That Will Change the Way We Live

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1. 3-D printing

The ability to fabricate materials by “printing” them layer by layer is still largely problematic. Compared to injection molding, 3-D printing holds significant promise once the evolution of the process overcomes the current challenges. 3-D printing has already been used to make sculptures, auto parts, and prototype bridges and homes, and may in the near future be used to construct satellite solar arrays in orbit. 3-D printing will likely proliferate in laboratories, factories, and maybe even in the home.

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2. Augmented reality

Enhancing the real world with layers of computer-generated sensory information has been around for a while, most notably in mobile gaming where users interact with virtual graphics displayed over the camera view of a smartphone or tablet screen. AR will soon be more commonly used in other industries, like retail, health care, and live events. Examples include being able to view product information by simply pointing your smartphone camera at a certain item, virtually exploring a home that’s on the market, or letting doctors view relevant medical information though an AR screen pointed at a patient.

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3. Autonomous vehicles

Self-driving cars have been rapidly evolving in recent years as the technology that underpins them is rapidly evolving. But tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles will likely look nothing like today’s “self-driving” Tesla and Waymo prototypes. Within our lifetime, we could witness a mass deployment of cars, trucks, planes, and sea vessels operating at so-called Level 4 “High Automation” or Level 5 “Full Automation.” Level 4 automation allows vehicles to operate independently in certain conditions or areas, while Level 5 automation means that the autonomous vehicle can handle any situation a human driver could.

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4. Brain-computer interface

Despite being crude and erratic today, the technology that allows devices to be controlled by brain signals is rapidly evolving, and it holds immense promise not just in helping patients with movement, speech, or visual impairments, but also in the workplace. The brain-computer interface, or BCI, could be used to monitor attention in long distance drivers and pilots or to send simple commands to industrial or domestic robots and other devices.

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5. Cellular agriculture

The process of taking cells from cows and tuna and growing them into hamburger patties and filets would have sounded like something out of a science fiction book 20 years ago, but sometime in the near future – possibly as soon as the end of this year – lab-grown meat will start appearing on store shelves. This is just the beginning of what, in the near future, could be widely available meat, eggs, gelatin, leather, silk, and other currently animal-derived products made through tissue engineering or a fermentation process that uses microorganisms to get proteins currently found in birds, mammals, and fish.