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20 Emerging Technologies That Are Just Around the Corner

Aeromobil Flying Car

Emerging technologies are called thus because they are in the process of stepping into the spotlight. Sometimes, this is because these technologies are being created for the first time. Other times, this is because these technologies are seeing more of their potential realized through new innovations. Whatever the case, emerging technologies tend to be very interesting for a lot of people out there, seeing as how they possess the potential to introduce significant shake-ups to the current state of things. Here are 20 examples of emerging technologies:

1. 4D Printing

By this point in time, 3D printing is already seeing widespread use. Granted, consumer 3D printing hasn't taken off in the way that a lot of the most enthusiastic promoters were expecting, but there can be no about the fact that commercial 3D printing has become very popular. With that said, while 3D printing is still realizing its potential, there are those who are already looking into 4D printing, which is very similar to 3D printing but makes use of advanced materials and methods to create 3D objects that can change their shape as well as other characteristics of their nature over time. Something that comes with a lot of possibilities in its own right.

2. Agricultural Robots

Currently, agricultural robots are already seeing use. However, most examples are limited to harvesting certain kinds of crops because the latest robots are still very limited when compared to humans. However, since there is a huge need for agricultural labor in both the United States and Japan that isn't been met at the present time, there is plenty of interest in agricultural robots that are capable of handling more tasks in relation to more crops. As such, it seems safe to say that more sophisticated agricultural robots are no more than a matter of time.

3. Advanced AI

There is a lot of interest in AI. For proof, look no further than the fact that companies such as Amazon and Google are pouring huge amounts of resources into efforts to replicate various human capabilities. For the time being, an AI hasn't come into existence. However, the sheer amount of interest means that such things have a good chance of being made at some point in the future. This is particularly true because the line between a true intelligence and something that was well-programmed isn't going to be clear and obvious, which is a topic that is bound to make for plenty of interesting discussion in the times to come.

4. Arcology

An arcology is supposed to be a structure that can provide for the needs of a large number of people while minimizing their impact on the environment. Currently, no arcology has been built. However, there are various efforts to build either an arcology or something that uses similar principles, with an excellent example situated in the state of Arizona.

5. Brain-Computer Interface

Brain-computer interface are meant to enable direct communication between the human brain and some kind of external machine. The concept might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but brain-computer interfaces have already been created, which is perhaps unsurprising when people have been working on them since the 1970s. In any case, the current versions are still very clumsy, meaning that there is still a long way to go before brain-computer interfaces will be seeing widespread use.

6. Closed Ecological Systems

Closed ecological systems are ecosystems that can sustain themselves without needing to exchange any kind of matter with anything that exists outside of them. For instance, the Earth's ecosphere is a closed ecological system. However, the term tends to be used for man-made ecosystems, which are much, much smaller in scale for obvious reasons. With that said, there is a lot of effort being put into closed ecological systems because they have a number of promising applications. In some cases, people are interested because they want to investigate their potential for sustaining human life in hostile conditions such as, say, outer space. In other cases, people are interested in using them to understand natural ecosystems, which is something that has become more urgent than ever because of climate change.

7. Cultured Meat

Speaking bluntly, meat production is a very inefficient use of limited resources. This is because meat animals need to consume a lot more plant matter over the course of their lifetimes than what they will eventually yield for human consumption. Never mind the numbers for carnivorous meat animals, which are even more horrendous. Due to this, there is a lot of interest in cultured meat using muscle cells, though there is an ethical element to said interest as well. Currently, the cost of cultured meat is still too high to replace its more conventional counterpart, but considering the progress that has been made in that regard, it could be no more than a matter of time.

8. De-Extinction

De-extinction means bringing an extinct species back from the dead. Generally speaking, this means creating a clone after extracting the necessary DNA from an extinct specimen. However, there are other potential methods, with an excellent example being selectively breeding still living relatives in an effort to produce something similar. Something that has already borne fruit here and there.

9. Electronic Nose

Electronic noses are more or less what they sound like, which is to say, electronic devices that can be used to pick up on certain odors. Such tools are already in use for detecting spoilage as well as conducting monitoring of various conditions. However, as they continue to be refined through research, they are expected to see more and more uses in more and more settings.

10. Flexible Electronics

Flexible electronics have already been introduced. However, it is clear that they are still at a relatively early stage of their development, meaning that it will take some time to see the full extent of their impact on the consumer market as well as other avenues.

11. Flying Cars

Flying cars already exist in the form of prototypes. However, it will take some time before interested individuals can actually expect to see them in a widespread manner on the consumer market. Still, there are a lot of parties pouring resources into the development of flying cars, meaning that it seems likely that we will be seeing such vehicles at some point in the not too distant future. As for whether flying cars will actually see widespread use at the expense of their landbound counterparts, well, that is something that remains to be seen.

12. Fusion Power

Fusion power is something of a joke because people have been promising that it will be coming very soon for quite some time. However, it is still something of significant interest for a lot of parties out there because it promises to be a huge step-up compared to fission. For those who are unfamiliar with the difference, fission is when a atom is split, whereas fusion is when atoms come together to create new atoms. Both processes can be used to produce huge amounts of energy, but fission can't hope to match fusion, which is what is happening in the sun on a constant basis.

13. Immersive Virtual Reality

Immersive virtual reality can be considered the next step up when it comes to virtual reality. Essentially, it refers to virtual reality that is just as immersive as consensus reality, which is what is generally agreed to be the reality that really exists. For the time being, immersive virtual reality isn't much of a thing. There are various demonstrations that make use of the concept, but something like, say, a virtual reality game with immersive virtual reality is still pretty far from hitting the market. Still, considering the interest in such things as well as the advancements that are being made in related fields, it seems safe to say that it will be happening at some point in time.

14. Machine Translation

In the present, machine translation remains something that is plagued with issues. Modern capabilities in this regard have seen huge improvements even when compared to just a few years ago. However, they are still far from the point of being able to match up against a human professional. With that said, once machine translation improves to the point that interested individuals have something just as good as a human professional or very close to it on hand, that could do a great deal for human to human interaction, thus enabling a wide range of new possibilities in a wide range of fields and contexts.

15. Neural Implants

Our understanding of the human brain is still very incomplete. However, researchers have nonetheless managed to make incredible leaps, which is why neural implants for the purpose of substituting for lost functions of the brain are starting to see use. For instance, cochlear implants are already seeing use in people with hearing loss. However, there are other creations that are meant to help with everything from pain management to motor control. With that said, while a lot of these neural implants are meant to help with lost functions as well as other problems, it seems safe to say that creations of a more augmentative nature are more or less inevitable.

16. Powered Exoskeletons

Essentially, powered exoskeletons are wearable machines that can be used to make the wearer both stronger and longer-lasting. Various examples already exist, but there is still a lot of research that needs to be carried out before such products can be expected to hit the consumer market in significant numbers. As for what people might use powered exoskeletons for, well, suffice to say that there are a lot of situations in which a powered skeleton can prove to be useful. For a lot of people, the most obvious use would be military applications, particularly since the U.S. military has been looking into such machines for years and years. However, there are a lot of other potential uses, which range from construction to providing care for people with disabilities as well as help interested individuals cope with conditions that have had a very negative effect on their ability to get around on their own by relying on their own muscles.

17. Quantum Computing

Quantum computing means using phenomena found in quantum mechanics for the purpose of computation. This makes for very, very powerful computers, so much so that quantum computers are expected to outstrip even the most powerful supercomputers of these times.

18. Reusable Rocket Technology

Reusable rocket technology refers to orbital launch systems that can be used to send vessels into space again and again rather than being expended after a single use. There are various parties that are looking into the potential of reusable rocket technology, which is perhaps unsurprising when a successful system would possess the potential to make going into space much more economical. Something that is very important because cost is one of the major factors holding up further human projects in relation to space.

19. Translucent Concrete

Translucent concrete isn't see-through. However, it is nonetheless capable of letting light transmit through it, which is made possible by the inclusion of optical fibers in the rest of the material. Said material is already seeing use, not least because it possesses ornamental uses that its conventional counterpart does not.

20. Vertical Farming

Vertical farming can have very beneficial effects for food security. Essentially, it would put food production much closer to the people who will wind up consuming its products, thus lowering food costs. Furthermore, it would reduce the impact of unpredictable nature because of its controlled conditions, which will have another benefit of enabling year-round growth. Combined, these characteristics could make vertical farming ubiquitous in the next few decades.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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