Technology is much like Darwinism. Those that fail to adapt to changes die out, while the ones that evolve survive. This is why technology is always becoming newer, smaller and better. A perfect example of this is personal computers. The first computers were huge and bulky but now they are small enough to fit into our bags.
We have compiled a list of 10 technological advances that we thought you should know about. They are not listed in any particular order.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI has been around for decades. I’m sure many of us first became familiar with the term after watching Steven Spielberg’s film. So what is AI? It is when machines exhibit intelligence. This can range from learning, speech recognition, problem-solving, and much more. A few examples of popular AI that are being used today are Siri, Amazon and Netflix. Even the Google search engine runs on AI. In fact, AI is becoming so intelligent that it can make more accurate diagnoses than doctors. Experts even believe that soon, it will be able to automate all human jobs within the next century.
AI leads to automation. Automation helps to improve efficiency and thus our quality of life. Many jobs are being replaced by machines. It won’t take long before some jobs disappear completely. Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) has a robotic librarian. It can detect misplaced or missing books. Royal Caribbean has robots on board their cruise ship to whip up perfect cocktails. Even journalism is being automated. We are sure to see more advances in this field in the next couple of years.
3. Self Driving Cars
Self-driving cars is another form of AI. Google first started its self-driving car project in 2009. By 2012, their project (now called Waymo) had clocked up more than 300,000 miles of autonomous driving. Tesla also released a driver assist feature called Tesla Autopilot in 2014. It has features such as parking and semi-autonomous driving. Soon, companies will replace vehicles such as trucks and taxis with self-driving cars. Intel predicts that this will create a huge positive impact on the economy. The technology can also help prevent accidents, potentially saving thousands of lives in the future.
4. Big Data
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the term, but only some understand it. The study of big data reveals human patterns, behaviour and interactions. A/B testing, cloud computing and business intelligence are some elements of big data. It helps corporations strategise better and make well-informed business decisions. As consumers, we will soon find that businesses are meeting our needs quicker and better.
5. Augmented Reality
The concept of AR was popularised in 2016, after Niantic’s release of Pokémon GO. What many don’t know is that the technology has been around since the 20th century. It was first built for the Air Force, by Louis Rosenberg.
Companies only began producing AR for commercial use in the 2000s. Google first introduced wearable AR in 2014, with Google Glass. Microsoft followed suit with the HoloLens. Recently, we’ve also been seeing companies using AR for marketing. Snapchat started the trend with its famous face-swap and flower-crown filters. Their most recent update, World Lenses, takes AR to the next level.
Another use of AR in marketing is the Sephora Virtual Artist.
It allows the user to test makeup looks just by uploading a selfie. I’m sure many companies will soon hop onto the AR bandwagon and come up with more innovative ways to use it.
6. Virtual Reality
The release of Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR sparked the VR hype. It’s changing the gaming landscape as it gives users a more realistic experience. VR is also changing healthcare. In April 2016, for the first time, a virtual reality camera was used to show a tumour operation. Thousands of people tuned in as Dr Shafi Ahmed removed the cancerous tissue. VR is also being used for education and sales.
7. 3D Printing
Fused deposition modelling (FDM) is one technique used for 3D printing. Ever since the patent for FDM ended in 2009, 3D printing has become more commercialised. This has led to vast improvements in the manufacturing industry. Processes are now faster and cheaper, but product quality is only improving. Because of its affordability, even individuals can own 3D printers. This creates business opportunities, but it definitely has its share of cons as well.
8. Drones Cars
Drones were originally used by the military. It was only in the past few years that commercial drones came about. There are many industries that use drones — Media, Private Security, Search & Rescue, etc. As the technology of drones advance, more companies will follow suit. In time to come, drones will be doing everyday things such as watering plants or delivering food.
9. Internet of Things
The internet of things is about connecting physical devices through machine-to-machine communication. It’s about making devices “smart” – forming mobile, virtual and instant connections. We’ve already seen the trend of smart homes and soon, more things will follow.
10. Mobile Payments
Consumers want frictionless payment. As a result, payments have constantly been evolving to meet this expectation. Recently, we have been able to pay with a tap of our credit cards and now we are able to pay using just our phones. Phones store our credit card data and use Near Field Communication (NFC) to make payments. Some examples include Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay. Banks are also releasing peer-to-peer payment platforms such as DBS’ PayNow and OCBC’s PayAnyone.
In essence, technology has and will continue to play a very vital part in our lives. It will continue to change and evolve depending on our needs and our lifestyle. It is so easy to take technology’s contributions for granted, but we need to truly understand how it helped us. We may not live to see cars flying or time travelling, but we are alive now to see cars driving themselves. We are alive to witness houses being 3D-printed and computers communicating with us. Let’s learn to appreciate it.