GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE – June 2016
A monthly digest of technologies, developments and trends that may shape our lives. (If you would prefer not to receive these digests, flip back ‘NO THANKS’ and you will be removed from the list). For daily glimpses follow me on Twitter: @hammondfuturist
Your Personal, Electric VTOL Aircraft Is Ready For Take-Off
Hate commuting? Why not bypass the whole circus and jump in your two-seat, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) all-electric engine jet aircraft?
That’s the vision for the Lilium Jet, an aircraft currently being developed in Germany under the auspices of the European Space Agency’s business incubation centre.
The design boasts fly-by-wire joystick controls, retractable landing gear, gull-wing doors, and a claimed top speed of 400 km/h (250 mph). The creators claim that this personal e-jet could be made available to the public as early as 2018.
Will ITER Nuclear Fusion Run Out Of Steam Before It Arrives?
Launched in 2006, the ITER nuclear fusion reactor project in France has been plagued with delays and cost overruns as the challenge of bringing six countries—the United States, China, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea—together with the European Union to build an experimental reactor has proved nearly insurmountable.
But as the latest round of ITER funding is being considered, it has become clear that private-sector fusion companies, such as General Fusion and Tri Alpha Energy, are attracting venture capital funding and making apparent progress in building prototypes.
Southern California-based Tri Alpha, which has received nearly half a billion dollars in venture funding from a list of investors that includes Goldman Sachs and Vulcan, the investment fund of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, said in August that it had successfully confined the cloud of ionized plasma in which the fusion reactions will occur. And General Fusion, which has also received millions in private funding, last month was awarded another $12.75 million from the Canadian government.
All of which may mean that ITER technology has been leapfrogged.
If You Always Wanted A Jet-Pack – Place Your Order!
In the next month Australia-listed Martin Jetpack will begin manufacturing its P-14 aircraft, a carbon fibre, petrol-powered jetpack that can reach heights of 3,000ft and speeds of up to 74km per hour — all for a price tag of between $200,000 and $250,000.
Over 35 years ago Glenn Martin, founder of Martin Jetpack, began working on a dream to improve the Bell Rocket Belt — a device that inspired many when it featured in the James Bond film Thunderball but was ultimately discontinued.
“The problem with the Bell rocket belt was that to fly it you had to weigh less than 65kg and I haven’t weighed less than that since I was 12 years old,” said Mr Martin. “The fuel was volatile and dangerous and the belt could only fly for 26 seconds. I wanted to fly for half an hour and carry 120kg.”
Dubai Civil Defence and a US company, Avwatch, has already signed memorandums of understanding with Martin Jetpack, which it hopes to translate into orders. The plan is to deploy the jetpacks for use with emergency services such as fire, police and border security
AirBnB Improves Location Info
Home listing service Airbnb has launched a new matching engine for its mobile application that the company says will deliver more personalized search results.
The new system is based on obtaining more information from users in advance, such as whether their neighbourhood preferences skew toward the funky or the more family friendly.
Airbnb says getting this explicit feedback from users early in the search process will improve its matching algorithm over time and give it a competitive advantage by collecting more specific information about the experience customers want to have.
Pentagon Looks To SiliconValley For A.I. Advances
In its quest to maintain a United States military advantage, the Pentagon is aggressively turning to Silicon Valley’s hottest technology — artificial intelligence.
Last month, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter made his fourth trip to the tech industry’s heartland since being named to his post last year. Before that, it had been 20 years since a defense secretary had visited the area, he noted in a speech at a Defense Department research facility near Google’s headquarters.
The Pentagon’s intense interest in A.I. — and by connection the Silicon Valley companies specializing in that technology — has grown out of the“Third Offset” strategy articulated by Mr. Carter last fall. Concerned about the re-emergence of China and Russia as military competitors, he stated that computer-based, high-tech weapons would give the American military an edge in the future.
Contact Lenses That Record Everything You See
A recent patent filing by Sony reveals its vision for a contact lens that not only records video and images with a simple blink, but manages to store them right there and then on the user’s eyeballs.
Google, Samsung and a number of research groups have all made their plans for smart contact lenses public. The motivation behind these range from glucose monitoring to augmented reality to boosting vision through telescopic lenses.
Sony’s patent application reveals an even bolder plan for a smarter, and probably scarier, piece of eyewear. Among the hardware built into the lens would be an image capture unit, a main control unit, storage module, antenna and a piezoelectric sensor.
Can The Human Body Withstand Hyperloop Travel?
In the 19th Century people wondered whether humans could survive train travel. Now the same question is being asked about travel on the “Hyperloop”, a prototype mass transit system being developed by PayPal and Tesla founder Elon Musk.
Hyperloop is a futuristic transportation system that resembles a supersized version of a pneumatic tube in an old-fashioned retail store or bank.
People would hop into a pod, which would then travel up to 760 miles per hour inside a tube. That’s just shy of breaking the sound barrier.
But extreme speed isn’t the element that might make people sick – it’s acceleration — those thrilling moments when your body moves from standstill to near Mach 1 — that produce nausea.
Perhaps passengers should don virtual reality headsets.
Will It Become Possible To Create An Artificial Human?
Scientists are now contemplating the fabrication of a human genome, meaning they would use chemicals to manufacture all the DNA contained in human chromosomes.
The prospect is spurring both intrigue and concern in the life sciences community because it might be possible, such as through cloning, to use a synthetic genome to create human beings without biological parents.
While the project is still in the conceptual phase, and also involves efforts to improve DNA synthesis in general, it was discussed at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday at Harvard Medical School in Boston. The nearly 150 attendees were told not to contact the news media or to post on Twitter during the meeting.
Live-Streaming Suicide – And Other Atrocities
I am proud of my record of forecasting the future, but I did not foresee this trend for broadcasting appalling acts. The following is from The Washington Post:
“With more than 1,000 voyeurs watching through a live video sharing app called Periscope, a 19-year-old French woman jumped in front of a train south of Paris on Tuesday, taking her own life. It is the latest in a string of tragedies and crimes broadcast through the app, including a rape in Ohio in February and an assault on a drunken man in France last month.
“The woman who committed suicide in France has not been named. Before going to the train station, she posted multiple times on social media about her intentions, and also said that she had been raped, naming the assailant,according to Le Point newspaper. Those claims are being “treated with caution,” local police said.
“Those watching the scene unfold showered the Periscope feed with “likes” and comments, most of which seemed to be light-hearted in nature, and did not take the woman’s threats of self-harm seriously.”
Talking Toys Record Every Word Said To Them
Several new “talking dolls” have appeared on the U.S. market that not only respond to a child’s voice but which also record every word the child utters. The range includes a doll called “Hello Barbie”.
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