10 promising innovations that will change our world

From monitoring human emotions to destroying cancer cells

The world has witnessed a huge technological leap in the last decade. From the rise of smartphones and tablets to 3D printing, artificial intelligence and blockchain. As the saying goes, these technologies are here to stay and have not only generated the occasional stir, but have permanently changed our daily lives and the way we work. These 10 innovations have the potential to shape our future.

The world has seen a huge technological leap in the last decade. Innovations such as smartphones and tablets, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and blockchain have been with us. As the saying goes, these technologies are here to stay and have not only caused an occasional stir, but have permanently changed our daily lives and the way we work.

Will the pace of this development slow down? I don’t think so – quite the opposite. In fact, in the next decade we can expect advances that we cannot even imagine today.

Here are 10 innovations that have the potential to shape our future:

1. Emotional artificial intelligence

The basic idea behind artificial intelligence (AI) is to emulate human capabilities. From Google Maps to social networking to robotic vacuum cleaners. AI is everywhere. Emotional Artificial Intelligence (or Affective AI) goes one step further, collecting data from faces, voices and body language to measure human emotions. For example, the MIT Media Lab is developing a wearable device that determines a person’s mood by monitoring their heartbeat. The device then emits different scents depending on the wearer’s mood. If the wearer is anxious or stressed, the increased heartbeat will cause the device to emit a lavender-like scent to reduce anxiety.

2. Self-driving cars

Self-driving cars are nothing new and have been on our roads for some time. But future developments will make fully autonomous cars possible and could lead to one of the most significant changes in our daily lives. Tesla already has a complex autopilot mode that can take over some control functions, but car manufacturers hope to one day let us drive completely hands-free.

3. New mobility innovations such as hyper-fast trains

Hyperloop, a company backed by Elon Musk, is already working on a high-speed subway system that is currently being tested in the United States. The journey from New York to Washington D.C. is expected to take just 29 minutes instead of 2 hours and 56 minutes.

Superfast trains could revolutionise not only local public transport but also international travel. Flying cars are another possibility. There are already many interesting designs for flying cars, demonstrating that this future is a realistic possibility.

4. Smart homes

In the home, electronic devices and lights have long been controlled intelligently and by voice. Assistants like Alexa are already making life easier for many households. But in the future, smart home technologies will take on much more advanced and multifunctional forms. For example, researchers are working on a programme that detects when you wake up and helps you with your morning routine, such as adjusting the room temperature and automatically activating the coffee maker. Technologies that work simultaneously may be more useful than systems that do only one of these things at a time.

5. Genetic predictions

Genetics and genomics are developing rapidly today. Genetic predictions can revolutionise the way medicine works. In the future, it will be possible to make health predictions based on a person’s genome. Diseases such as heart disease or diabetes can be predicted, allowing faster treatment. This advance could pave the way for personalised medicine.

6. Microchips and human augmentation

Tiny chips are fusing biology and technology. Several thousand Germans already wear a microchip under their skin, for example to make their daily lives more comfortable. Medical or personal data can be stored in these implants.

The role-playing game “Cyberpunk 2077” takes players into a world where advances in medicine and robotics have made it normal for people to augment themselves to become more than human.

Although we are still a long way from that normalcy, the use of biotonic limbs is nothing new. Researchers are also investigating how backs or eyes might be augmented in the future. One example is eSight, which allows blind people to see again.

The military is already using robotic exoskeletons to give soldiers extra strength and skills to make their jobs easier. In the future, these capabilities could also help disabled people get around more easily.

7. Nanorobotics

Nanorobotics are robots of minimal size in the micro- and nanometre range that are used in medicine. In the future, they will be used, for example, to deliver drugs to the right place in the eye or to destroy and detect cancer cells and toxins. They can also be used to repair damaged organs or perform complex surgical procedures, which would mean less time in hospital, shorter recovery times and less scarring.

8. Robotics

Progress in robotics is enormous. NASA is already sending robots of all shapes and sizes into space, and robots are taking on increasingly tedious, annoying and dangerous tasks in the workplace and at home. Boston Dynamics is constantly working on machines to help the military, and a few months ago launched its new robotic dog, which caused quite a stir.

9. Printed food

Technology is also revolutionising food. As 3D printing technology advances, companies are already experimenting with printing food. Meat is being grown in the lab without the addition of antibiotics or growth hormones and could be available as early as 2021.

10. Green technology

In the face of global warming and environmental and resource problems, green technology could be the answer. Electricity can be generated from wastewater or waste, and new technologies could turn discarded plastic into material for paving roads and pavements.

Many countries are planning to focus on green technology, with countries such as Denmark, Israel and Sweden leading the way.

As the "Head of Data Strategy & Data Culture" at O2 Telefónica, Britta champions data-driven business transformation. She is also the founder of "dy.no," a platform dedicated to empowering change-makers in the corporate and business sectors. Before her current role, Britta established an Artificial Intelligence department at IBM, where she spearheaded the implementation of AI programs for various corporations. She is the author of "The Disruption DNA" (2021), a book that motivates individuals to take an active role in digital transformation.

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