The Fu­Ture iS here

While we may not have the sci-fi gad­getry from Star Trek, the hu­man spirit for in­no­va­tion is still hard at work. Part op­ti­mism, part peer­ing into the murky crys­tal ball, we shine the spot­light on some of the tech­nol­ogy that could make its mark in the year

HWM (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - By Team HWm

Au­thor Wil­liam Gib­son fa­mously said: “The fu­ture is al­ready here – it’s just not very evenly dis­trib­uted.”

Au­thor Wil­liam Gib­son fa­mously said: “The fu­ture is al­ready here – it’s just not very evenly dis­trib­uted.” Cars that drive them­selves, sen­sors which can track your eye­balls and wire­less charg­ing are real tech­nolo­gies which ex­ist to­day, but they’re not com­mon­place – yet. Check out the fu­ture tech we want to see hap­pen for ev­ery­one in the new year.

Play in­side Another Re­al­ity

The next gen­er­a­tion of con­soles, in the shape of Sony’s PlayS­ta­tion 4 and Mi­crosoft’s Xbox One, is upon us. But if we’re be­ing frank, the up­grades are more evo­lu­tion­ary rather than rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Switch­ing over to x86 ar­chi­tec­ture and arm­ing your gam­ing plat­form with a now-ob­so­lete GPU is not the next level.

De­vices like Ocu­lus Rift how­ever, are look­ing to push the bound­aries of gam­ing. De­vel­oped by Ocu­lus VR, the head-mounted dis­play was show­cased at E3 2013 with 1080p res­o­lu­tion and im­proved head track­ing. Ocu­lus Rift doesn’t just want to in­tro­duce a new world, but im­merse you com­pletely in it.

Un­for­tu­nately the new wave of con­soles has missed out on the op­por­tu­nity to make vir­tual re­al­ity hap­pen by not sup­port­ing Ocu­lus Rift. But hope­fully that isn’t go­ing to stop vir­tual re­al­ity from mov­ing for­ward.

Wire­less Charg­ing

Ever had your smart­phone bat­tery die on you be­cause you for­got to plug your de­vice in to charge? We know the feel­ing. But if wire­less charg­ing was the norm for mo­bile de­vices rather than a pre­mium fea­ture, this un­happy cir­cum­stance could be eas­ily avoided.

The Qi in­duc­tion wire­less charg­ing stan­dard is built into a num­ber of de­vices, but not enough in our opin­ion. Sure, Qi might be a lit­tle slow at present but the ba­ton for de­vel­op­ment has been picked up by in­no­va­tors like Os­sia, who are work­ing on de­vel­op­ing their own com­peti­tor, Cota, to ad­dress per­for­mance is­sues.

Now all we need is for the big boys in the smart de­vice mar­ket to come to an agree­ment, stan­dard­ize the re­quire­ments for wire­less charg­ing and roll it out to the con­sumer. Keep your fin­gers crossed, and one day you might never have to plug in your smart­phone to charge.

Use Your Eyes to Surf the Web

Touch­screens, voice ac­ti­va­tion and mo­tion con­trol tech­nol­ogy are so 2012. If Dan­ish tech firm The Eye Tribe has any­thing to say about it, the fu­ture of in­put tech­nol­ogy will be eye­ball track­ing. The Eye Tribe has de­vel­oped a small, USB-pow­ered sen­sor bar that uses in­fra-red il­lu­mi­na­tion to cre­ate a pat­tern of re­flec­tions on your eye­balls. The sen­sor then uses this data and a sys­tem of al­go­rithms to pre­cisely de­ter­mine your point of gaze. The sen­sor is so pre­cise it will even work while wear­ing con­tact lenses and spec­ta­cles.

Cur­rent ap­pli­ca­tions in­clude aim­ing in video games, eye ac­ti­vated lo­gin, and hands-free brows­ing and typ­ing. There are huge ben­e­fits for those with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties, or just any­one fre­quently find­ing them­selves with a tablet in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other.

In­cred­i­bly, the de­vice is avail­able for sale for a low US$99. A cus­tom mount for Mi­crosoft Sur­face tablets is al­ready on the mar­ket, and An­droid and iOS ver­sions are planned for launch in the first half of this year.

Cars that Drive You

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, Bri­tons spend over 10 hours a week in their cars and drive roughly 7,400 miles on av­er­age a year. Amer­i­cans, on the other hand, are said to spend slightly more than 11 hours a week in their cars and drive around 12,300 miles on av­er­age per year. Clearly, hu­mans spend a lot of time in au­to­mo­biles. So it makes sense to work to­wards up­grad­ing and up­dat­ing the ve­hi­cles we drive.

One thing we can all look for­ward to in the fu­ture is the au­ton­o­mous, self-driv­ing car. Leave it to Google to blaze the trail; they al­ready have a self driv­ing car project un­der­way and it has racked up over half a mil­lion miles to date with no se­ri­ous ac­ci­dents. Mercedes-Benz also re­cently con­ducted an ex­per­i­ment us­ing a self­driv­ing S-Class out­fit­ted with ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies such as cam­eras, radars and sen­sor, driv­ing 125 km through Ger­many with no hu­man in­ter­ven­tion. Nis­san CEO Car­los Ghosn has even gone as far as com­mit­ting the com­pany to sell­ing a driver­less car by 2020. Clearly the tech­nol­ogy ex­ists and works. Now it is only a mat­ter of get­ting such tech­nolo­gies to be com­mer­cially vi­able and in­tro­duced to all makes and mod­els.

But why just stop at cars that drive them­selves? If you can have a con­ver­sa­tion with your smart­phone, why can’t you do the same with your au­to­mo­bile? Both Ap­ple and Google are work­ing hard at get­ting their re­spec­tive mo­bile OSes into cars. Ear­lier last year at WWDC, Ap­ple an­nounced ‘iOS in the Car’ and said that car man­u­fac­tur­ers like Fer­rari, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar will be in­tro­duc­ing iOS in­te­gra­tion in their cars in 2014. Google, on the other hand, is work­ing on in­te­grat­ing its plat­form in cars with their ex­cit­ing Google Glass en­deavor.

Imag­ine a near fu­ture where you will be able to look up a lo­ca­tion on Google Maps or Ap­ple’s Maps app, have di­rec­tions sent to your car and then be driven there by the car it­self.

Fake Steak

Meat - un­less you’re a veg­e­tar­ian, chances are you have it al­most ev­ery day. But our meat habit is un­sus­tain­able; rais­ing so many more an­i­mals to feed so many more hu­mans is caus­ing im­mense strain on re­sources, rais­ing lev­els of green­house gases, and prop­a­gat­ing dis­eases like bird flu thanks to over­crowded fac­tory farms.

The so­lu­tion? Eat less meat. But it’s un­likely that most will do so, and that’s why mak­ing the con­ver­sion easy or even in­vis­i­ble will be cru­cial. The way for­ward will ei­ther be with ‘real’ meat grown in a lab, with­out the need to raise and slaugh­ter live an­i­mals, or with meat sub­sti­tutes, made from veg­eta­bles, which taste ex­actly like the same thing. Com­pa­nies like Cul­tured Beef is do­ing the for­mer, and Be­yond Meat is do­ing the lat­ter.

While Cul­tured Beef is still in the de­vel­op­ment phase (a Cul­tured Beef burger made for a re­cent demo cost an es­ti­mated US$325,000), Be­yond Meat rolled out its com­mer­cial prod­ucts in the United States in late 2013. The chicken burger you’ll eat in the fu­ture may not even be made of chicken – and you won’t even no­tice the dif­fer­ence.

See-Through Dis­plays

OLEDs are meant to be the next big thing. While TV man­u­fac­tur­ers are busy mak­ing use of them to de­liver out­stand­ing col­ors and curved screens, they have another prop­erty that should be lev­er­aged: OLEDs can be used to de­velop trans­par­ent dis­plays. Com­pa­nies like Sam­sung and Pla­nar have al­ready pro­duced trans­par­ent OLED dis­plays for re­tail pack­ag­ing. Next thing we want to see; Smart­phones with trans­par­ent dis­plays.

Longer-Last­ing Bat­ter­ies

Let’s face it: Lithium-ion bat­tery tech­nol­ogy is hit­ting a plateau. It’s high time for new bat­tery tech­nolo­gies to emerge and meet the ev­er­in­creas­ing en­ergy needs of our gad­gets.

Tin is in­creas­ingly viewed by sci­en­tists as the new elec­trode nano­ma­te­rial to in­crease the en­ergy-stor­age ca­pac­ity of lithium-ion bat­ter­ies. Tin crys­tal works just like a sponge – it can ex­pand up to three times its nor­mal size to ab­sorb lithium ions and shrinks again when re­leas­ing them. The Lab­o­ra­tory of In­or­ganic Chem­istry at ETH Zurich claims that tin crys­tals can dou­ble the en­ergy ca­pac­ity of the bat­tery.

Sci­en­tists also are look­ing at ex­tend­ing the life span of bat­ter­ies. Bat­ter­ies de­te­ri­o­rate over time as the poly­mer coat­ing the elec­trodes be­come brit­tle and crack. This is caused by the ex­pand­ing and shrink­ing of elec­trodes in be­tween charg­ing cy­cles.

Re­searchers at Stan­ford Univer­sity have de­vel­oped a new poly­mer coat­ing with tiny nanopar­ti­cles of carbon which can re­pair it­self “within just a few hours”. If suc­cess­ful, th­ese projects may be the next break­through in bat­tery tech­nolo­gies, and we could have smart­phones that fi­nally last more than a sin­gle day.

Faster Thun­der

Thunderbolt promised much but de­liv­ered lit­tle. The per­for­mance lev­els it pro­vided were overkill for most ev­ery­day users and it just couldn’t break­out from its niche. In April 2013, In­tel an­nounced Thunderbolt 2, which may fare bet­ter than its pre­de­ces­sor. With a dou­bled band­width of 20Gbps (10Gbps up­link, 10Gbps down­link) Thunderbolt 2 can al­low for si­mul­ta­ne­ous 4K video file trans­fer and 4k video dis­play. Even if it loses the 4K bat­tle to HDMI 2.0, Thunderbolt 2 has the raw po­ten­tial to suc­ceed as long as man­u­fac­tur­ers find a way to lever­age its ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

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