Sometimes technological progress is slow—and sometimes it bolts ahead like a rocket. So far this year, we’ve already had all sorts of interesting technology advances that are pushing the envelope and paving the road for the consumer products of the future. An exciting thing happens when entrepreneurs, scientists, and technologists work together to solve problems.
Ranging from important environmental technology to the future of flying cars, here are the five best technology advances of 2017 so far:
5. The Boring Company’s Cheap Digging Machines
The Boring Company is another one of Elon Musk’s ambitious projects that most people would leave for science fiction. Putting the silly name aside, the company is all about making digging machines that will make underground operations cheaper and more accessible. Musk launched the project this year, starting with its first machines and digging projects right in Tesla’s own parking lot.
The possibilities are endless, but Musk has said that The Boring Company was made with the Hyperloop technology in mind. In the mockup video from the website, you can see the dream concept of underground transportation in full motion—and it’s glorious.
4. Tracking Individuals Simultaneously
Photo by Kayana Szymczak / Stringer / Getty Images.
Researchers have developed a method for tracking hundreds of individuals at once, giving new meaning to the phrase “big brother is always watching”. While it may sound like something out of a futuristic spy movie, this technology could help to spot suspicious behavior and predict the likelihood of dangerous crowd movements, potentially saving countless lives.
Though the method currently does not work in real time, the researchers are hopeful that the algorithm can be improved upon in the near future. Being able to track crowds of people at once could prove to be a major step forward in ensuring crowd security in public spaces and identifying potentially dangerous behavior.—Laura Leising
3. Turning pollution into power
Photo by UAntwerpen and KU Leuven.
The idea of solving both the problem of air pollution and power generation in one piece of technology is an interesting one. Researchers from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven (University of Leuven) in Belgium have a new technological process that manages to do both of these things simultaneously. The technology allows the hydrogen gas to be stored, which can later be used as fuel.
“We use a small device with two rooms separated by a membrane,” says Professor Sammy Verbruggen. “These catalysts are capable of producing hydrogen gas and breaking down air pollution. We are currently working on a scale of only a few square centimeters. At a later stage, we would like to scale up our technology to make the process industrially applicable. We are also working on improving our materials so we can use sunlight more efficiently to trigger the reactions.”
The technology seems to still be in the early developmental stages, but here’s to hoping it leads to some future tech that can solve both problems.
2. Kitty Hawk Flyer
Okay so we get a new flying prototype that isn’t actually a car every year or so. However, despite what the headlines say, the Kitty Hawk Flyer never really claims to be a flying car. Instead, it is an all-electric personal flying vehicle that just happens to be able to float on water as well.
The use case scenario for something like this is pretty limited, but the personal flying aspect of the Flyer is pretty exciting. The vehicle has already been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and the company says it only takes minutes to learn how to fly. What’s more, the founder of Google Larry Page is backing the company—so you know it’s got some legitimate support.
Photo by Mike Windle / Getty Images.
Neuralink is the other new project on Elon Musk’s already very full plate. Perhaps more ambitious than even commercial space flight, Neuralink is a company about brain implants and merging human brains with artificial intelligence. The company’s grand pursuits range from promising telepathic communication to helping those with severe brain injuries. Musk even claims that everyone will be wanting these brain implants in more less than eight to ten years.
The interesting thing is that Musk has always been unafraid to express his concerns about the future of artificial intelligence. Musk’s interest in putting that power inside of your brain seems like his way of ensuring it’s done in a responsible way. Or we’re all toast—either way, it’s going to be a big part of our future.