There is a broad agreement in our society that technology is the greatest catalyst for change in this world. Today’s breakthrough technology developments consistently deliver the most innovative solutions to the world’s most vexing problems, and at the same time, they never fail to astonish us with new ways, forms and varieties of amusement and entertainment. The role of technology in modern times is that of the unchangeable actor that creates conditions under which the expectation of change is simply taken for granted. Most of us view technology as a thing when in reality it is a process that develops in harmony with other processes (social and economic) that continually influences previous technologies by intensifying or diminishing their social relevance across time. What follows is an encapsulation of some of the most intriguing and remarkable new technologies to watch out for in 2014.
Online Shopping Delivery Drones
It was a revelation that grabbed the media by the lapels, but it probably should have surprised no one. In December of 2013, Amazon.com choose to allow the CBS program “60 Minutes” to be the first media outlet to broadcast to the world the news that Amazon.com was planning to use electric-powered drones to fulfill requests for 30-minute delivery of many of the items available for purchase on the Amazon website. Following an interview with Charlie Rose, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos led Rose into a secret room within Amazon headquarters where he revealed a classified research and development project: “Octocopter” flying drones capable of delivering packages of goods directly to a customer’s doorstep within 30 minutes. After this demonstration, Bezos ran a video for the 60 Minutes team demonstrating how his octocopter drones pick up packages in small yellow buckets at Amazon’s fulfillment centers and fly them through the air for delivery to shopper’s homes within 30 minutes of the “buy” button being clicked. The use of airborne drones to deliver consumer goods is a truly venturesome plan that Mr. Bezos admits requires some more safety testing and of course, FAA approvals before we can expect to see it in use, but few doubt that Amazon “Prime Air,” will be available to customers quite soon.
Open-Source Honey Bee Husbandry
Honey bees represent only a tiny fraction of the 20,000 or more species of bees on the earth, but they may be the most important species of all. Honey bees are an indispensable component to our food growing systems. If they disappear, so will our food supply. In North America and other parts of the world, Honey bees are dying in unprecedented numbers. In certain regions of the U.S., 30 percent of Honey bee colonies have collapsed or disappeared. Naturally, a problem of this magnitude will attract the attention of important thinkers in the field of life sciences as well as the agriculture industry.
The study of honey bees is known as apology. Those who study bees know that bee colonies are presently in decline worldwide. The loss of these bees is a growing problem kept in check only by the ability of bee keepers to keep splitting and growing their hives. Recently, a team of eco-technologists from the United States and Europe have merged their resources in order to generate an aggressive response to this problem. What they have come up with is an open-source bee hive structure that can be easily fabricated on site and help house and keep track of Honey bees. The design for these wooden hives can be “printed” on a single standard sheet of plywood in less than one hour using a computer-aided table router. Those without the use of such a special cutting tool can purchase an inexpensive, ready-to-assemble flat-pack hive. When assembled, the open-source beehive will provide a “low-stress environment that allows bees to thrive.” These open-source hives come with sensors to track environmental conditions within the interior, such as temperature and humidity. The data collected can be uploaded to an open-data platform where it can be studied by scientists working on this problem.
Honeybees are quite essential for food production. Without bees, the pollination of crops is not possible. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a condition in which all or most adult bees in a hive die or fail to return. Solving the problem of CCD is crucial to protecting our ability to continue to grow food on this earth.
Screenless Mobile Device Displays
As computing devices become more miniaturized they become all that much more difficult to interact with. The lack of a large enough screen makes performing certain tasks on a smartphone somewhat onerous. The solving of this problem creates an opportunity for screenless displays — a technology that will show us the future of interactive media. The Screenless mobile device display works by projecting images directly onto a user’s retina rather than onto a screen. When this manner of technology becomes commonplace, there will no longer be any need for bulky hardware that goes into traditional displays. Interest in this kind of technology has expanded exponentially since its development in 2013, and progress in the field shows promise of further breakthroughs beginning this year. Soon, scalable deployments of screenless displays will become not just possible, but expected.