The 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2013 According to MIT Technology Review
Every year the MIT Technology Review picks the ten technologies that represent significant breakthroughs. Past years have included crowdfunding in 2012, gestural interfaces to computers in 2011, engineered stem cells in 2010 and low cost DNA sequencing in 2009, just to name a few. What's on the list for 2013? Here are your top ten:
Deep Learning - refers to machine intelligence that simulates the human brain. We are witnessing the development of powerful software that can find a needle in a haystack of millions of images, that can do instant translation of a speaker with smaller and smaller error rates, that can fold proteins and identify how to use them to fight disease. The ultimate evolution of this technology will be the creation of an artificial brain equal if not superior to that of us humans. We are well on the way to getting there.
Temporary Social Media - refers to one of the most annoying aspects of the social media "twitterverse," the in perpetuity nature of messages sent online. A new generation of messaging technologies can make tweets, text, pictures, audio,and video expire after being viewed. Vendors include Snapchat , a mobile phone application that sends messages and images with an expiry date. Wickr is another that promises users military-grade encrypted text, pictures, audio, and video that can be read for up to six days before expiring. Programs like these are restoring privacy to communication, something we have lost in the Internet age.
Prenatal DNA Sequencing - prenatal testing is about to undergo a revolution in 2013. Noninvasive screening from a syringe of an expecting mother's blood can now provide a genetic map of the fetus rendering an end to amniocentesis as the means to discover whether an unborn child has a genetic disorder such as Down's Syndrome. Four companies including Verinata have taken DNA sequencing of the fetus from the laboratory to commercial application and predict that sequencing the entire genome from a mother's blood will be a standard and affordable prenatal test in the very near future.
Additive Manufacturing - refers to the industrialization of 3D printing. Today companies like General Electric are printing parts rather than casting them. Biomedical companies are constructing organs and other tissues. Traditional manufacturing is undergoing a revolution in prototyping and is developing new business models for doing mass customization through 3D printing technology.
Baxter: the Blue Collar Robot - if you didn't get the chance to read my blog about Baxter access it here. Why MIT chose this for 2013 when Baxter launched last year may have something to do with industry acceptance. It seems there is a robot coming to your workplace very soon.
Memory Implants - refers to prosthetic implants that can restore lost memory caused by a stroke, Alzheimer's and other diseases, or memory loss from a traumatic brain injury. So far the technology is working with rats and monkeys and the experimental results are impressive.
Smart watches - to me the most unlikely choice as a breakthrough technology. But if you have seen the Pebble watch on Kickstarter then you realize that this technology certainly hit a hot button raising over $10.2 million from almost 69,000 backers.
Ultra-Efficient Solar Power - we have witnessed incremental improvements to photovoltaics but efficiencies approaching 20% have yet to appear commercially. Now it appears that we are about to see a dimensional leap to 50% efficiency through the capturing and focusing of a broader spectrum of sunlight to maximize the energy that can be harvested.
Big Data from Cell Phones - tracking data to find patterns has always been an invaluable tool for researchers. Now with 6 billion cell phones in the world we have another way of studying human behaviour and derive patterns from the technology's location and use. For epidemiologists disease transmission and spread can be correlated to cellular hot spots. Malaria in Africa, and Dengue fever in North America are just two diseases that we can analyze through cell phone traffic.
Supergrids - I'm glad to see this one making MIT's list. I wrote about ABB and their high-voltage DC circuit breaker technology in one of my headlines some time ago. For solar, wind, tidal and other renewable energy technologies development of a DC grid is critical as well as efficient when compared to AC. ABB's technology could make the development of massive solar arrays extremely compelling in desert locations like the Sahara or the the U.S. Southwest.
There you have it. Nothing from space. Nothing about urban farms and other agricultural advancements. Nothing about green buildings and new construction materials. In fact mothing green in any of the technologies except maybe solar. Nothing about electric cars. Nothing about mass storage and improvements to battery technologies. Do you think MIT got it right? If not let me know what they missed and we will publish readers' choices in the very near future.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
Free Email Newsletter
To sign up for Futurist Update, our free monthly email newsletter, enter your email in the box below and click Save.
If we could help plants turn CO2 into sugar at a faster rate we could revolutionize agriculture. That's what researchers have in mind in trying to make C3 plants act like C4s. Confused?
The date today reinforces that we are well into autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet and it shouldn't be a surprise then that the words "glacier" and "ice" are starting to appear in some headlines. The latest, however, are not of this world but our neighbor Mars.
The investment doesn't amount to a lot of dollars, a mere $1 billion, a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of billions and trillions that are the numbers associated with the fossil fuel industry, but New York State is on a path to increase solar capacity by 68%. This amounts to 214 Megawatts of new installations.
Energy storage prices are dropping fast. If you follow me, you’ve seen me write about this before. Energy storage prices have in fact been dropping exponentially for at least 25 years. Here’s a new piece of analysis – a model that uses a 20% learning curve per doubling to that project Li-ion batteries dropping to 5 cents per kwh round-tripped through them by ~2030.
The beleaguered nuclear power industry may soon have a good story to tell post-Fukushima. Lightbridge, a nuclear engineering company based in Virginia, is about to test a literal "twist" for fuel rods that can increase power yield by 10% in existing nuclear power plants with only minor modifications. And if the plants replace existing turbines with larger ones it would mean as much as a 17% increase in power output and incurring only an incremental investment without a major build.
The carbon capture and storage project at the Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan is about to go live as reported in the press today. The project goal has been to eliminate 90% of the CO2 generated by the coal-fired power plant. Additions have cost $1.4 billion CDN, $115 million over budget, and represent what is believed to be the world's first commercial-scale CCS project to go live.
I occasionally do talks on future TV and I generally ignore current companies and their recent developments because people can read about them anywhere. If it is already out there, it isn’t the future.
Surely gardens are a place to get back to nature, to escape from technology? Well, when journalists ask to see really advanced technology, I take them to the garden. Humans still have a long way to go to catch up with what nature does all the time.