By Nash Wills, Co-Editor
Technological innovation has seemingly become a part of our everyday lives, and our dependency on new inventions and creations is changing the way that we come to interact with the world around us. Some of these cutting edge developments are practical, some fascinating, and some a little bit scary. Below are 5 recent technological evolutions that will provide you with a glimpse into what the future might look like.
1.) Aeromorphs: Bubble wrap just got taken to a whole new level of sophistication. This new “origami-like” inflatable known as an Aeromorph recently came out of the lab at MIT’s Tangible Media Group and boasts a surprising number of potentially practical uses. The seemingly simple innovation is made up of air pockets that are strategically sewn into paper, plastic, or fabric. Once inflated, the flat material can then transform into its predetermined shape. Looking ahead, this could mean new types of toys, wearable devices, air bags, packaging methods that involve wrapping the material around a product during shipping, or even a pair of shoes that can be pumped up with air and worn.
2.) Self Healing Clothing: Smart clothing, such as shirts that monitor your workout or sleep patterns, are currently on the forefront of technology. There’s a problem though. Made with a 3D printer, these futuristic textiles are fragile and easy to tear. Call to the stage nano engineers from UC, San Diego, who have developed a creative solution: magnetic ink. When interwoven with smart fabric, this ink enables a torn garment to actually heal itself through magnetic partial attraction. During its testing phases, the ink was able to heal tears up to 3mm in length in only 5 milliseconds.
3.) Energy Generating Cloth: What if you could just put a smartphone in your pocket for 15 minutes to charge up the battery? Well dream no more because Chinese researchers are now developing “smart” fibers that can produce and store solar energy. This cloth of tomorrow is especially exciting because it can be cut, sewn, or tailored to meet designer demands. Also, environmentally speaking, it will be fairly revolutionary in that we will be able to keep our devices fully charged without having to rely on the use of fossil fuels. Although they are still working out some problematic issues–the fabric isn’t waterproof, for instance–the researchers expect these solar powered textiles to be selling commercially within 5 years.
4.) Autonomous Tractors: If you thought self-driving cars and semi-trucks were the only autonomous vehicles currently being tested, think again. The Autonomous Concept Vehicle is a robotic tractor that uses a combination of builtin cameras, radars, and GPS to find its way around a farm. A farmer can program and control the machine via tablet or computer, ultimately eliminating the need for any sort of human intervention. Although the tractor is ready for work, it will probably be a number of years before it is actually plowing up fields. Legal disputes over issues such as the fact that tractors often cross public roads to get from one field to the other are currently stalling its path to market.
5.) Smart Contact Lenses: In the not too distant future, Wi-Fi connectivity may not be limited to only computers and smart devices. Thanks to a new form of technology known as “backscatter,” we may be headed towards a time when pretty much any object–disposables included–will be able to access the internet. Developed by startup Jeeva Wireless, this cutting edge technological innovation allows objects without power sources to communicate by recycling signals from Wi-Fi devices or radio and TV stations. “Backscatter” was recently demonstrated with contact lens, a skin patch that senses temperature, and a concert poster that broadcasts music over FM radio.
Feature photo courtesy of: The Week Magazine