Futuristic Technology Ideas

Transformative Technologies I Would Make Reality

Our partners at ReadWrite share what concept gadgets they'd bring to life.

By Adriana Lee


The latest Powerball lottery winners just scored a collective $448 million dollars in one fell swoop. For the average American, that's an incredible load of money to ponder and that's just what I find myself doing — fantasizing about where I'd put that windfall.

One thing I know is that it wouldn't be on a personal jet or a $15 million smartphone. I would invest in technology that would enrich our lives. Maybe $448 million wouldn't cover it, but hey, I could give the transformative ideas a swift kick in the pants on the road to becoming transformative technologies.

Here are five ideas that are frustratingly close to reality.

Natural User Interface (NUI/NI)s

What it is

NUI (or NI) refers to Human-Machine Interfaces that are almost invisible to the user, conforming to a person's natural behavior. A common example is using mid-air physical gestures to scroll, close windows or switch between computer applications.

Where it stands

Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensor put natural interfaces on the public's radar. And now a new, hyped item is attempting to follow in its footsteps: the Leap Motion Controller. The accessory, which launched a couple of weeks ago, attempts to liberate hands from the mouse drudgery of computer use. Leap Motion succeeded in gaining some buzz, thanks to its tiny footprint, $80 price tag and science fiction-like features. Ever see Tom Cruise manipulating screens with his hands in the movie Minority Report? Yeah, it's kind of like that.

Why I'd put money into this

Three words: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If it's possible to vanquish this annoyingly painful facet of modern life and feel like a wizard casting spells in the process then it is humanity's duty to pursue this.

Unfortunately, in my own testing of the Leap Motion Controller, the device is a bit buggy and limited. Right now, it works better for games than productivity. But that's not to say it isn't on the right track. There's an undeniable cool factor in commanding a computer with a wave of the hand. With further development, this or another device could have the chops to captivate the masses and change the face of computing.

3D Printing

What it is

A process that uses a single hardware unit to "print" or create a physical 3D object on demand by layering on material, typically plastic, until the item has formed.

Where it stands

3D printing already appeals to artists, architects, inventors and other creatives who need an easy method of prototyping or modeling. Companies like MakerBot and 3D Systems want mainstream users and they're going after them by broadening availability and focusing on ease of use. But price remains an obstacle. The best bet for the industry may be Pirate3D's Buccaneer, an attractive, compact printer that started at less than $400 on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

Why I'd put money into this

The reach of 3D printers extends to many different areas. There's the obvious: success in retail popularity would cause less overall demand for the cheap, imported trinkets manufactured overseas. 3D printing could support a diverse range of other applications including medicine and fashion. Even food, if you are into that Star Trek kind of thing.

The industry must continue developing. On the consumer front, lower prices will make 3D printers more attractive and improvements in quality, speed, and safety will further the cause. All of that takes money. MakerBot cashed in for $403 million when it was acquired by Stratasys, but others could use a helping hand.

Project Loon

What it is

The Project Loon is a Google experiment started June 2013 with a single goal: to provide Internet coverage to a small pilot group using high-flying helium-filled balloons. According to the Project Loon website:

Project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. They are carried around the Earth by winds and they can be steered by rising or descending to an altitude with winds moving in the desired direction. People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth.

Where it stands

The test program launched 30 balloons from New Zealand. The balloons are now making their way over Fresno, CA, to see if the city's radio interference might interfere with Project Loon's transmissions.

Why I'd put money into this

It's one of Google's strangest projects ever, but that doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing. Although Google could send dozens, even hundreds, of these into the air, buildings have to be equipped to connect to them. Judging by the company's Google Fiber initiative, only select locations will be brought into the fold. With my lottery winnings, more could be brought online in the areas that need it most.

Find out if the fabled hyperloop could become reality after the break.

Mobile Batteries

What it is

A vexing problem, that's what. The battery life of our mobiles takes a beating thanks to cloud services, streaming, gaming, and other power-hungry activities. Although innovations in processor chips and power management software help reduce the load, that can only go so far. Scientists have been hard at work to improve or reimagine the battery conundrum, but none of it has reached the consumer level yet.

Where it stands

Some researchers are looking at ways of improving on today's lithium-ions, like the University of Maryland, whose silicon beads may boost their capacity. Others hope to usher in new graphene batteries which deliver vast amounts of energy in a smaller, lighter, and more stable package. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Supercapacitors could speed charging while new microbatteries rethink the fundamental anodes and cathodes to deliver impossibly tiny and powerful mobile energy sources.

Why I'd put money into this

Over time, our Internet use will only go up, not down, and a major disruption in power cells needs to happen, just to keep pace. Where do I invest my lottery winnings among all this innovative battery tech? Do I pick one and back it heavily or maybe spread a little money to each project to see which sticks?

Hyperloop Transporter

What it is

A wacky pneumatic transportation system conceived by Tesla co-founder and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. His loose lips tipped that he was working on a solar-powered approach to travel that could transport people between San Francisco and Los Angeles within 30 minutes.

Where it stands

Of course, Musk is so rich. His net worth is $7.7 billion and just went up $570 million with a strong quarter from Tesla. He doesn't need my money. Then again, his hands may be full. Changing the future of cars with Tesla and extra-planetary exploration with SpaceX is hard work. Musk may wind up open-sourcing the Hyperloop instead of building it himself. At least that way others would be able to take a go at it. It looks like Musk is willing to unveil his preliminary Hyperloop plans on Aug. 12, as promised, he just won't be the one pushing it forward.

Why I'd put money into this

This scheme is so crazy, it just might work. The idea of an alternative mode of travel that's fueled by solar energy and super-fast sounds mad, but Musk's guarded-yet-clear enthusiasm gives it some cred. Presumably we'll know Monday whether or not there's any merit to it, but if there is, Hyperloop could one day become a role model for other efficient transit and transportation systems.

Of course, it would take more than my measly $448 million investment, but at least that would bring in some brilliant environmental and engineering minds to act as the architects of this project. And if that only keeps it from falling by the wayside for now, that might be just fine.

This has "intriguing" written all over it.

If you had the resources to back any initiative or innovations you wanted, which ones would you take on? Let us know in the comments below.

Related Links
TV's Social Game: Watching Offline
Life (and Work) on the Treadmill
The Web's Best Photo-Sharing Services
Have Chromecast Will Travel
Another Chromecast Gotcha

Latest

POPSUGAR Selfie : Get the new app!

+