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Focus 2016: Amazing new tech

DECCAN CHRONICLE | GOVIND VIJAYKUMAR
Published Dec 27, 2015, 12:01 am IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 2:21 pm IST
Why machines will become smarter, learn more and last longer as we take new leaps.
Representational image
 Representational image

It has been a year of bold moves. The planet’s biggest technology firm launched a tiny watch. Manufacturers of electronic gaming consoles are convinced virtual reality headsets are the way forward and a search engine giant has unveiled a motor car that doesn’t need a human behind the wheel.

The world’s going wearable, wireless, wondrous — all at warp speed. A certain bearded Briton once suggested that we inhabitants are products of evolution. Species have adapted, changed, adjusted — devices followed a digital Darwinism too. Machines grew smaller to fit pockets, got faster to suit schedules and more robust to match situations. Hell, your phone’s now water-proof and just in time because, boffins have figured a way to charge phones using urine. We have come far and year 2016, as far as tech is concerned, we’ll be diving into known unknowns.

Efficient wearables

Year 2015 saw Apple placing big bets on its Watch. The others are catching up. So, expect more efficient, cheaper watches — with better battery life, screens and hopefully, a more attractive price tag. The market for wearables has become so intense Intel’s even unveiling a reality show starring entrepreneurs vying for the $1million grand prize!

 

Sport apparel manufacturers such as Adidas are pouring millions just on the wrist to show cardiac capacity, performance limits etc. “Consumers don’t care what type of sensors is embedded in their wearables, but what they can learn from those sensors,” says Stacey Burr VP of wearable sports electronics at Adidas. Bear in mind, companies hope to strike gold from a market that’s expected to hit $31.27 billion by 2020 — and is all from that immediate space between your hand and the elbow. Fantastic!

Virtual reality

Sometime early 2016, the Oculus Rift will launch after having spent over five years and a few millions in development. So ambitious is its scope that it could well be electronic gaming’s Moon landing. The Rift will allow gamers to be ‘inside’ the game and rumours claim the landmark device will be available this year for just about $500.

But VR is not limited to unkempt gamers. Stanford University employs a surgery simulator which includes haptic feedback for those in training — one wrong move and it’s just a vibration instead of instant death. VR is also helping rehabilitate patients with cognitive damage. Thing is, the Rift’s development DNA is free for developers. Once the machine hits the mainstream, we are only limited by our imagination.

Better batteries

We spoke of urine being used to charge phones. Thankfully, science will not bring us to a point where we’ll need to unzip pants to continue a conversation. In 2016, expect “long-lasting” performance, “stiffer” power reserves and slower drain. Before we sound like a condom ad, consider these breakthroughs. Next year will see the release of the Alfa battery — with 40 times the capacity of lithium-ion and powered by water. Creators Fuji Pigment say a charge will last 14 days and all it needs is water. Experts are also fine-tuning traditional sources of electricity. For example, scientists have figured out a way to harness power from skin friction.

Quantum dot displays

HD is long dead. The future will be all about packing as many colours as we can into a single inch of display. Quantum Dots produce a wider range of colours when hit with a special blue LED backlight. They output much more than usual LCDs. There’s already a laptop on sale that has this tech and it costs just under Rs 2 lakh.

But early adopters are pricey and with a competition thrown in, we should see prices drop. And quantum dots are so flexible scientists believe these little drops of nano magic can be used in light bulbs to the imaging of cancer cells or even in the design of solar cells. The best part? Quantum dots can generate the same amount of light as LCDs using 30 per cent less power!

What to watch out for in 2016

Oceans will power our homes: Blue Energy Canada says it’s close to “commercialising” turbine technologies that’ll capture energy from ocean currents and has started
paperwork in countries such as India, Indonesia, and New Zealand.

The Omniprocessor: Drinking water from faeces? Backed by Bill Gates, the tech could solve our planet-sized problem of waste disposal. The machine will handle waste “from 1,00,000 people, producing up to 86,000 litres of potable water a day.”

Wait for the sunscreen pill: It’s the ultimate in healthcare. The pill will take care of the eyes and the skin. The tech is based on how coral shields itself against UV rays. Scientists are closer to producing a synthetic compound which can mimic this ability.

Mammoths reborn: Yup, we’ll be doing a real-life Jurassic Park. Japan’s Riken Center for Developmental Biology are of the belief that they can actually bring back the animal by using ancient DNA.

Wifi for miles: Bengaluru-based Saankhya Labs has rolled out the world’s first TV Whitespace single chip radio module. Called Pruthvi, it will bring Internet to rural homes that can receive a TV signal, but are otherwise outside mobile phone coverage. And this wifi can travel over hillocks and other geo-features that can block wifi signals.

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