Geek Alert: Our Favourite Breakthrough Technologies for the Year Ahead

MIT predict the top breakthrough technologies of 2018, including Google translating headphones and zero-carbon natural gas.

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For the past 17 years, MIT Technology Review has published an annual list containing the Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies for the year ahead.

In order to be defined as ‘breakthrough technology’ it has to pass two benchmarks; ability for mass commercial use, and foreseeable mass commercial adoption. And each technology or collection of technologies will have a profound effect on our lives.

Whilst there are 10 lifestyle altering technologies in the list, we’ll give you a run down on our favourites.

 

1.3D Metal Printing

3D printing has been around for decades, mostly being confined to the domain of small designers who produce prototypes. On top of that, 3D printing was all to do with plastic, because printing with metal was expensive and super slow.

But soon it will become cheap enough to be a potentially practical way of manufacturing parts, and if it was to be widely adopted it could change the way we produce goods forever.

This technology can create lighter, stronger parts, including more complex shapes that are almost impossible with conventional metal production.

 

2. Artificial Intelligence for Everybody

Most of us know about AI, but it has always been reserved for big tech companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, because for the most part, AI is too expensive and too difficult to fully implement.

This year cloud-based AI is going to bring the technology to a much larger audience, and different parts of the economy. Recently Google announced Cloud AutoML, which is a selection of pre-trained systems that can make MI easier to use.

Amazon leads the pack with their cloud-based AI but Google is close behind with their product TensorFlow. We will have to wait and see which big tech company will become a clear leader in cloud-based AI.

Many sectors could benefit from this technology, and should it be implemented it would result in a huge economic boost in productivity.

 

3. Pixel Buds

You’re travelling overseas and not many people speak English, what do you do? Get by with crude hand signals and gestures? Not anymore, thanks to Google’s new Pixel Buds. Along with their Pixel Smartphones and the Google Translate app, these earbuds will produce a real-time translation of the language being spoken to you. It really is a technology that can change the world.

It works by one person wearing the earbuds, and the other holding the smartphone. The earbud bearer speaks their language and the app translates the speech, playing it aloud on their phone. The person holding the phone then responds, and the response is translated and played through the earbuds.

The Pixel Buds have been slammed for their poor design, as they look tacky and probably won’t fit your ears well, and can be slow to function when paired up with the smartphone. However, for $159 bad hardware can be fixed over time, and for now, Pixel Buds are paving the way for intelligible communication between two different native tongues.

 

4. Genetic Report Cards

Huge genetic studies, some involving more than a million people, have created a technology that allows the DNA of babies to offer predictions about the probability of suffering common health problems like heart attacks, cancer or even being smarter than the average human.

Through these tests, scientists have discovered that most common diseases, and many behaviours and traits are the result of a heap of genes, and by gathering and using data from continuous genetic studies scientists have created ‘polygenic risk scores’.

The technologies offer probabilities not diagnosis, so women with a higher probability of breast cancer could get screened more often, and thus catch the cancer earlier. Unfortunately the predictions are nowhere near perfect.

Even though they could be used for so much good, there is a risk in the fact that they can predict personality traits and IQ, and there is no way to control how people use this information.

These are just four of our favourites, but you should check out the full list, which includes Zero-Carbon Natural Gas and more.

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