Refrigerators, smartphones, radiators, electricity, computers… have you ever stopped to think how great a role technology plays in your life?
According to Google’s Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, the speed of technological innovation is actually increasing year on year as well! In his book, “The Singularity is Near,” Kurzweil predicts that progress will eventually become so fast that machine intelligence will outstrip that of humans.
Here are 4 emerging technologies which are set to explode over the next 20 years.
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1. 3D Printing
Currently used primarily by professional engineers and nerdy hobbyists, consumer 3D printing is about to hit the mainstream. A home 3D printer can already be bought for as little as a few hundred dollars.
What are the practical uses of this technology? Well, imagine if you could print everything that you currently buy. Objects are mainly printed in plastic as present, but wood, metal and even food printers are being developed. 3D Printers are also getting larger: a Chinese company is currently working on technology that will allow it to print the entire frame of an automobile. Printed furniture and printed housing are likely to be a reality in the near future.
As well as impacting on our consumer habits, 3D printing raises some interesting questions about security. Governments are increasingly concerned about the risks posed by 3D-printed weaponry.
The Citrix Workplace of the Future survey found that 25% of companies allow employees to work whatever hours they choose from wherever they want to. This trend is set to grow over the next 20 years.
Why? Companies find that they can save money on office space and hire the best talent regardless of location. Millennials are well-known for placing high value on work-life balance and telecommuting appeals to their sense of autonomy. On top of this, telecommuting reduces traffic congestion, which means that the cities of the future will have fewer cars, better air quality and less noise pollution. What’s not to love?
3. Wearable Tech
Google Glass might have been a flop, but wearable tech has not gone away. Britons spent a staggering £104.7 million on wearable tech over Christmas 2014 alone. Runners wearing smartphones on their arms to track fitness data have become a common sight in city parks.
Watch out for the rise of smartwatches over the next few years. With the simultaneous development of flexible smartphone screens by companies like Samsung, it’s possible that you won’t need a smartphone at all by 2020!
For me, the most exciting part of this particular trend is the emergence of smart clothing. Expect to see smart shirts in the workplace that pass on data about posture and hydration levels to a smartphone app. Athletes have already started using products like Heddoko, a smart shirt that reduces the chances of injury during training. Sensors have even been added to baby clothing in order to monitor things like sleep status and breathing patterns.
4. Virtual assistants
Popularised by Tim Ferriss and his “4 Hour Workweek” philosophy, the outsourcing of simple tasks to virtual assistants is a trend to watch in the next few years.
Ferriss’ original concept was part of a larger philosophy of ensuring that business owners spend more time on their mission and less money on bureaucracy. By connecting Western businesses to workers in Asia with lower wage requirements, websites like Upwork (formerly Odesk) have made this service accessible to entrepreneurs on even the smallest of budgets.
In the future, expect to see more middle class families outsourcing simple tasks like shopping and bill management. The chances of these assistants being robotic rather than human also seem set to rise. Robotbase, a robotics company based in New York, is developing a personal robot that can perform functions ranging from turning on lights to reading bedtime stories to children!
We might not know exactly what the future is going to bring. But with all this emerging technology, it’s an exciting time to be alive. Which innovation are you most looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comments section below.