Sometimes I wonder where the limits of technology lie because we certainly haven’t reached them yet. Technology is expanding our capabilities as humans and is empowering us to achieve feats that were thought impossible just a few years ago. As the late, science writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke eloquently puts it
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
In this blog, we’ll look at 3 amazing technologies you didn’t know were real.
I know what you’re thinking, but no, this isn’t Douglas Adam’s Babel fish from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. These earphones are a real-life version which are able to speak to, understand and assist the wearer in translating languages all in real-time.
Google’s version, Pixel Buds, work with the Google Translate app to produce coherent, instant translation. One person wears the earbuds, while the other holds a phone. The earbud wearer speaks in their language, the app translates the talking and plays it aloud on the phone. The person holding the phone responds; this response is translated and played through the earbuds. Impressive.
In the seconds it takes to translate what’s being said, there is an extensive chain of several technologies working hard to make it happen. One of the technologies, language identification (LID), uses machine learning to identify what language is being spoken within a couple of seconds. It’s not just about learning word for word translation, the device has to identify and distinguish phoneme characteristics, pronunciation, grammar patterns and probability.
Think about how hard it is for us to learn just a second language, this machine can do that and 39 other languages in a fraction of the time. Just think how easy it will be to chat up your summer holiday romance now with the power of a real-life Babel fish.
Smart Contact Lenses
In the past, a number of tech and healthcare giants have announced research into developing a smart contact lens that is capable of monitoring blood glucose in diabetics. Different methods have been tried and tested but come to no avail.
One of the main problems with smart contact lenses is their wearability. In order to create one, you have to put a rigid, opaque item directly on your eye, obstructing your view. I’m pretty sure that defeats the object of a contact lens.
Now, Purdue University in Indiana have come up with an innovative, non-invasive way to help monitor one of the key indicators of a diabetic’s health by combining contact lenses and senor tech.
Using a new technology called interfacial bonding, the team at Purdue University were able to separate thin-film electronics from their own wafer substrate, and then print them onto the contact lens. The glucose sensors that are attached to the contact lens are covered by a "thin layer of transparent, biocompatible, and breathable polymer" which doesn’t interfere with the person’s vision.
Monitoring blood glucose is only the beginning, this technology could potentially monitor many other ocular diseases and in some cases, deliver medicines and drugs into the eye itself. You’ve seen it all now!
Zero Carbon Natural Gas
Natural gas supplies 22% of the energy used worldwide, as a highly scalable energy generation fuel base, it’s relatively cheap and readily available. However, whilst natural gas is a versatile fuel that carries environmental benefits when compared with fossil fuels such as coal, it still produces plenty of those nasty carbon emissions that we try so hard to avoid. But with new technologies, zero carbon natural gas could become a reality in the future.
Experts are developing a system that essentially produces power from natural gas without having to burn it. The system produces clean water and what is considered almost pure carbon dioxide as a waste product, which is then repurposed for plenty of other uses from food processing to electronics.
A similar version of this mechanism is already being tested by a company called NET Power in the U.S. There, the plant actually burns natural gas but repurposes the CO2 released into supercritical CO2 (a fluid state of CO2), that’s then used to drive a specially built turbine in a continuous and self-sustaining cycle.
By no means is this the be all and end all to the global energy problem, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
We may have only touched on a handful of incredible emerging technologies in this blog, but to find out how even more amazing tech advances are changing the world,, have a read of our recent blog here.
Posted by Kate Auchterlonie