Crystal Ball: 6 Budding Technologies That Will Soon Become HUGE
Okay, a hot order of hamburgers and fries through a printer may be a stretch, but less of one than you might think.
We live in an amazing world—one where people dress up to be eaten by a snake but then don't actually do it—and one in which some day you'll be able to attend an intolerably long baseball game and not have to worry if your phone's battery is going to run out. (Hint: solar panels.) As 2014 nears its end, we're looking to the future to see what technologies are set to blow up to the point that they become thankfully inescapable.
Some are just convenient and cool. Others need to happen like right now or humanity will never achieve its next stage of enlightenment. The good news? All of it's coming very soon.
For now it seems the only 3-D things people are printing at home are stretchy plastic bracelets and maybe a few miniature figurines, possibly to hang on the Christmas tree. And 3-D printers are not cheap! But hey, neither were the first cell phones. They'll get better, they'll get cheaper, and soon enough you'll be printing stylish sunglasses and probably even something edible. How do we know this? Because events like the 2015 3-D Printing Tour are blowing minds all over the country, and the more minds are blown, the more minds are ready to create.
Shattered screens aren't just a minor inconvenience, they're an inevitability that undermine the promise of the mobile existence! New screens will likely change forever how we interact with our phones—namely turning the hunks of metal into thin, almost paper-ish devices that bend and remain incredibly durable, without ever shattering. Imagine holding your phone or laptop and being able to manipulate it, drop it, spill water on it, whatever, without ending your session in tears because your magnificent device is now... marred. This stuff already exists, and it shouldn't take more than a few more iterations of portable devices before they become the norm. Our cell phone insurance policies can't wait.
Safe Road Trains
Driving is the best! Except when you've been driving for hours and keep falling asleep despite the fact that you just drank a delicious gas station cappuccino. With accident rates being what they are, we all could use a little more safety on the road. "SARTRE," an idea being pushed in Europe (led by Volvo), essentially turns all cars autonomous and takes the driver out of the process. It's looking like sooner rather than later we'll all live in a world where jerks can't cut you off at 95 mph. Check this video to see how this miracle could work.
The eternal issue: your battery is nearing its end, but you still have two hours of an incredibly boring baseball game left, and you need your phone to keep you entertained. Yes, solar-powered chargers exist and are relatively cheap and they're wonderful and great stop-gaps, but eventually phones will have solar panels embedded, allowing for wireless, cord-less charging that does away with bulky extra devices you'll probably lose even faster than you'll lose your phone.
It's a staple at Starbucks and Barnes & Noble, but the art of paying for everything via your mobile device hasn't quite caught on here in the States. But it's starting to happen, as evidenced by the fact that we just used our phone to pay for some freaking yogurt (you can't be too healthy). Soon, not only will your credit card be downloaded into your phone with a scan-able screen, you'll be able to swipe your phone for entrance into subway turnstiles and, we're guessing, to unlock your car.
The best/most difficult for last. HSR, of course, is not a new concept but in America (see the movie Singles), but it's yet to really grip the imagination. It should and will. The New York Times characterizes it as a project "inching" along, one that's costly and difficult to sell to taxpayers but one that will ultimately change long-distant travel and, with any luck, save the planet. It will be a generation or two until airplanes are phased out, if ever, but trains should eventually outpace air travel as it's 1) a better experience for customers, 2) safer, 3) cheaper if run on alternative fuels. Let's make this happen, folks.