Virtual Reality (VR)
Once the stuff of science fiction, Virtual Reality (VR) is set to take a major step into the everyday lives of people this year. Following the crowd-sourcing success of Oculus Rift, which this year revealed its Crystal Cove prototype headset, gaming giant Sony has unveiled its own device, which it has dubbed Project Morpheus. "We believe VR will shape the future of games," where the words of Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony's Worldwide Studios. Applications will however extend beyond gaming, with aspects of VR technology being incorporated into many of the most exciting new innovations, for example Google Glass.
Thinner than a sheet of paper, yet 200 times stronger than steel and more conductive than copper, in the eyes of many Graphene is the future. Branded as a “supply critical mineral” and a “strategic mineral” by the US and the EU, Graphene is today being used throughout the world in order to achieve critical advances in various industries and technologies, from more efficient solar panels to building lighter aircraft. Everyday items are also starting to benefit from the minerals unique properties, from batteries that last up to ten time faster to phones and computer displays that bend and fold.
While the technology has existed since the 1980s, it has only been in the last few years that 3D printers have become more widely available on a commercial level. Today 3D printing technology, the market for which was valued at around $2.2 billion worldwide in 2012, is being utilised for prototyping and distributed manufacturing across a plethora of industries such as architecture, construction, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, dental and medical care, biotech and even the food sector.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)
Until now the term Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or Drones have had an almost purely military connotation, what with their use being embraced by the US and other armed forces in recent combat operations. While their military applications will undoubtedly grow in the years to come, attention is now turning to what some are calling the untapped commercial use of these pilotless aircraft. Potential future uses of UAV’s includes the monitoring of crops, fighting forest fires, inspecting power lines and pipelines, and delivering vaccines to remote parts of the world.
In 2001, American Dennis Tito became the first space tourist, travelling into the atmosphere on an eight day trip that included a stopover at the International Space Station. Since then only six other people have shared such an experience. Nevertheless, predictions remain that the Space Tourism industry is set to become a billion-dollar market in the coming years, claims backed up by the fact that Virgin Galactic, one of a number of private space agencies, had sold around 500 tickets worth $200,000 each by the end of 2012 alone.
The idea of creating machines that can operate autonomously dates back many a decade, however it was until the second half of the 20th Century that fully autonomous robots became a reality. In 2014, robotics is an ever-growing field with commercial and industrial robots more widespread than ever before. Often used to perform jobs more cheaply, and more accurately and reliably than humans, robots can today be found being used in manufacturing, assembly, transport, earth and space exploration, surgery and laboratory research. With innovations in sensors and processing, modern robots are able to tackle more complex tasks with greater ability to adapt and more dexterity than ever before.
2013 was a landmark year for driverless, or autonomous, vehicles, with the US states of Nevada, Florida, California and Michigan becoming the first to pass laws permitting such vehicles on their roads. In the wake of this several European cities in Belgium, France and Italy now intend to develop transport systems for driverless cars. It marked the latest step in the development of the automotive sector, one which numerous experts predict will see 75 percent of all vehicles being autonomous by as early as 2035.
The world has come a long way since the introduction of the calculator watch during the 1980s, a device which at the time was among the very first pieces of widespread worn electronics. Today the development of wearable technology that will be adopted on a global scale is a crucial aim of the world’s leading tech firms, from Samsung’s new range of Galaxy Gear to Google Glass, the search company’s wearable glasses that it hopes will take the planet by storm. The application of wearable tech also extends far beyond commercial means, with the medical and military industries continuing to prototype and roll out new devices and solutions at a rapid rate.
Introduced in 2009, Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, a digital medium of exchange that is electronically created and stored, to begin trading and remains today the best known and most abundant digital currency, with roughly twelve million bitcoins in existence as of November 2013. Since Bitcoin first appeared numerous other cryptocurrencies have been created, many of which share the characteristic of slowly introducing new units in order to mimic the scarcity and value of precious metals and avoid hyperinflation. What they all share however is a design to replicate Bitcoin’s successes in 2013 when its value at one point topped the $1,000 mark. Will 2014 be the year that a new contender steps up to challenge Bitcoin’s dominance?
Never before has so much data been readily available. But how do you get any useful information out of such large data sets? Data collection is becoming so large and complex that it is virtually impossible to process using traditional database management tools or processing applications. With advances in technology such as semantic language processing, and without the financial constraint to cost effectively store and process huge collections of data, more and more businesses are looking to more unstructured data as a source of customer and business intelligence. Big data is also big business with an influx of new dedicated information management specialists, software firms and businesses that excel in big data management and analytics. In 2010 it was calculated that the Big Data market on its own was already worth more than $100 billion, a figure that has continued to grow by ten percent annually since, twice as fast as the software business as a whole.