Tiny computers, smartphones, instant messaging, and video conferencing used to be the stuff of science fiction, but these are integral to our technology today.
But what about all those cool inventions that movies, television, and science fiction promised us, such as flying cars, robot fighters, and bionic body parts?
Believe it or not, some are real and prepared to shape tomorrow's markets. Read on to learn about some science-fiction-like innovations and inventions brought to life by some businesses.
Tactile Virtual Reality
Northwestern University researchers have created a prototype system that aims to bring the sense of contact within the realm of VR, using a flexible material equipped with tiny vibrating components that can be connected to the skin.
In other cases, the system, known as epidermal VR, could also be useful, from a child touching a display relaying the gesture to a family member located elsewhere, to helping people with amputations renew their feeling of touch.
The team's layout features 32 vibrating actuators on a thin 15 cm by 15 cm silicone polymer that sticks with no tape or braces to the skin and is free of large batteries and wires.
Scientists hope that the technology will eventually find its way into clothing, allowing persons with prosthetics to wear VR shirts that communicate touch through their fingertips.
A subset of AI is Machine Learning. Computers are programmed with Machine Learning to learn how to do what they are not programmed to do: they learn by finding patterns and observations from the data. Machine Learning generally has two types of learning, which are supervised and unmonitored.
While Machine Learning is a subset of AI, we also have subsets in the Machine Learning domain, including neural networks, natural language processing (NLP), and deep learning.
Machine learning is being rapidly deployed in all kinds of industries, creating enormous demand for qualified professionals. The market for machine learning is set to grow to $8.81 billion by 2022.
Frameworks for machine learning are used in data processing, data mining, and pattern recognition. At the user end, web search results, real-time ads, and network intrusion detection are driven by machine learning.
Air Touch Technology
The air-touch screens were one of the coolest sci-fi technologies in the movie "Minority Report", freeing computing from the desk and even handheld devices.
The prospect of computing with an air-touch screen is becoming closer than ever, thanks to the Taiwanese firm Industrial Technology Research Institute.
Fuel From the Sky
Researchers led by Peter Loutzenhiser are leveraging solar energy in another intriguing project to reverse the combustion process and produce synthesis gas (mixes of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and small amounts of carbon dioxide), which can be converted into fuels, such as kerosene and gasoline.
The researchers are using metal oxides to study a two-step process that can split water and carbon dioxide.
The first stage, which occurs between 1100 and 1800 degrees Celsius, thermally removes oxygen from the metal oxide material or "pulls it off". Then, in the second stage, either water or carbon dioxide is added at about 300 to 900 degrees Celsius.
Hoverboards were a vital component of the film "Back to the Future." A company named Hendo Hover is now working on one, but no one has created a platform that actually floats over the ground.
The magic that lies behind the hoverboard is its disc-shaped hover engines. Such engines generate an opposing magnetic field that provides lift in the surface substratum below, levitating the board off the ground.
Next-Gen Power Plants
Researchers at the School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech are working on a significant makeover for power plants, implementing technologies ranging from improved power cycles to new infrastructure materials.
For one plant, steam is substituted as the working fluid for operating turbines and generating electricity by supercritical carbon dioxide (SCCO2).
SCCO2 occurs when carbon dioxide is placed under pressure above 7.4 megapascals and over 31 degrees Celsius. This magical state provides high fluid density, thermal conductivity, and heat capacity, somewhere between a liquid and a gas.
We know the future has plenty more surprises in store with the rapid acceleration of new technologies and the increasingly clever uses of new technologies. Let's watch brilliant scientists invent new technologies that we can definitely use to live more efficiently!