Technology has the potential to radically change the way we live, and even how we relate to each other as human beings.
Technologies like 3D printing are changing manufacturing and democratizing creativity. Mobile apps are changing our buying behaviour, with mobile commerce making up 20% of all e-commerce activity.
Nano-filtration is even changing the way we drink water.
At the same time, technologies like Google Glass are bringing the Internet closer to us than it ever has been before.
We're already seeing Google's self-driving cars every now and then on the road in California, where Google is testing its driverless car program. But they could be on the market by 2018.
Google estimates that self-driving vehicles could cut the 1.2 million lives lost every year due to car accidents in half.
Whether society is ready for this or not still remains to be seen. But driverless cars will most definitely be an option. Other big players like Toyota and Audi are also working on their own self-driving cars.
Google Glass, the search giant's Internet-connected glasses, is one of the most exciting products to come around in a while. That's because the implications are huge.
Glass will bring everyday activities closer to our senses, and enhance our interactions with our surroundings. We'll be more connected to the Internet than we ever have before and we'll be able to see useful information like text messages, news articles, tweets, and directions overlaid onto the real world.
With Glass, we can also record everything around us and store it to the cloud. That way we can make sure we don't forget a single moment of life.
With apps and services like Nike FuelBand, Fitbit, and ZEO, we're increasingly generating more and more data in our day-to-day lives. Those devices help us track things like calories burned, steps taken, and even how well we're sleeping.
These devices are all part of the 'quantified self' movement, which aims to empower people through their own data, telling us things about ourselves and our biology that aren't obvious.
There's now a slew of startups in the sharing economy, where people are renting out their houses, cars, parking spots, camping tents, and much more.
There's Airbnb for renting apartments, Rent the Runway for temporary ownership of high fashion clothes and accessories, SideCar for instant ride sharing -- the list goes on.
But none of that would be possible, and not nearly as easy, without the Internet acting as a matchmaker.
Affordable, industrial robots that can perform a variety of simple tasks and work safely alongside human workers are starting to emerge in the U.S.
Rethink Robotics's first robot, Baxter, can handle materials, load and unload items on/off from conveyor belts, inspect and test parts, lightly operate machines, and pack and unpack boxes.
Rethink Robotics is aiming to make America more competitive by creating low cost manufacturing techniques and processes. If all goes according to plan, Baxter should be able to work alongside human coworkers and help America better compete against low-wage offshore labour.
The ultimate goal for Baxter is to accomplish more difficult tasks, like fitting together parts on an electronics assembly line. It's also working on software to let Baxter communicate with a conveyor belt, and other machines.
Smartphones are incredibly useful tools for staying connected to what's going on all over the world.
Mobile phones keep us connected to email, news, stocks -- you name it. Maps ensure that we never get lost, as long as we have a signal. Meanwhile, dating apps like Tinder and Grindr are helping us meet new people nearby.
But how often we check our phones is slightly disturbing. Within the first fifteen minutes of waking up, 79% of smartphones users look at their phones, according to a recent IDC study. 48% use their smartphones at the gym and 50% of smartphone users check Facebook in movie theatres.
Text messaging has also become more commonplace than making phone calls, so we're communicating less with our voices and more with our strategically crafted written words.
Facebook and Twitter provide platforms for us to keep up with what our friends, family, and even strangers are doing all over the world.
At the same time, social media is helping fuel social activism, as it provides a way for people to connect over common causes and ambitions.
Social media played a huge role in the Arab Spring, as protestors took to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to update the world in real-time of the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain.
In the early stages, activists relied heavily on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to accelerate the movement. With YouTube, protestors were able to upload and share videos featuring protest and political commentary. Many of those videos ended up going viral, with the top ones receiving nearly 5.5 million views each
3D printing is making manufacturing more accessible to the masses and even fueling major breakthroughs in medicine. Just this month, a 3D printer made the tiniest human liver ever.
A 3D printer builds objects piece by piece in three dimensions. These devices are popping up in people's homes with companies like MakerBot, Printrbot, and Shapeways creating affordable 3D printers.
The availability of 3D printers has even spurred a marketplace dedicated to 3D-printed objects. So now we have an entirely new way of producing and consuming products thanks to 3D printing.
Nano-filtration technology is helping hundreds of thousands of people produce and drink clean water.
Unsanitary water is a huge health risk. Roughly 3.4 million people die each year from water-related disease, according to the World Health organisation.
That's where Lifesaver comes in. Lifesaver is a water bottle that uses nano-filtration technology to purify water. It removes bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites, fungi, and other microbiological waterborne pathogens.
Computer mouses are becoming a bit passé. New technologies are popping up that allow you to interact with your computer just by waving your hand. With Leap Motion, using natural hand gestures instead of a mouse allows you to better shape your ideas on to the screen.
Another technology called MYO by Thalmic Labs is an armband that enables you to control other devices using your movements, and without the need for a camera, unlike Leap Motion.
The MYO armband works by sensing the electrical activity in your muscles to control your computer, video games, or even a drone.
Touchscreen devices and Wi-Fi in underground transportation systems will vastly improve how we get around.
New York City is planning to install at least 77 new touchscreen kiosks in subway stations throughout its five boroughs.
The new displays will feature subway planning tools, information about service updates and delays, as well as advertisements.
Each 47-inch touchscreen will be packed with sensors, video cameras, microphones, and Wi-Fi to facilitate communication between subway riders and the MTA. In the future, Control Group envisions sponsored experiences making their way to the touchscreens, like streaming media or even a networked game of Jeopardy.
Meanwhile, New York is also rolling out Wi-Fi in its subway stations so people can continue to text and make phones calls while waiting for the train. But Bay Area Rapid Transit in the San Francisco Bay Area has taken it a step further. It already allows you to use your phone's wireless connection in the tunnels, and might soon roll out free Wi-Fi.
We once relied solely on human interaction in retail stores--with a little catalogue shopping on the side. Those days are approaching an end as companies like Apple allow you to pay for a purchase and walk out of a store without talking to anyone.
Apple stores can sometimes get so crowded that it's hard to find a clerk to check you out. That's why the EasyPay app lets you buy items like chargers, cases, and software without needing to interact with anyone in the store.
The rise of tablets has also been instrumental in revamping the retail experience, with many brick-and-mortar businesses using the tablet as a kind of mobile cash register for ringing up sales. Square, for example, has allowed retailers to completely ditch traditional checkout methods. Its card reader and Register app allow merchants to accept credit- or debit-card payments using an iPhone, iPad, or Android device.
It's hard to believe the impact apps have had on society. Apple's famous line 'There's an app for that' is not an overstatement. It's pretty much true.
Tech companies are constantly developing new apps to make our lives easier. Fantastical is one of the best calendar apps out there right now, Evernote ensures you always have all of your notes with you, no matter what device you're on, and Uber usually comes through for you when you can't find a cab.
But apps can also fuel laziness and unnecessary spending. With restaurant delivery service Seamless, you could theoretically never leave your house and stay nourished for the rest of your life. The same goes for grocery delivery app FreshDirect.
The use of drones by government and law enforcement agencies has stirred up privacy concerns, but some say that we really shouldn't be afraid of drones.
The creation of smartphones has led to advanced technology, like gyroscopes, accelerometers, armed processors, and GPS, that make it possible to produce cheap, functioning autopilots.
People are already using drones to do things like find hikers and skiers in need of rescuing, take aerial imagery of homes and other properties, and survey archaeological sites in Africa.
Already, companies like FedEx are counting the days until drones are admitted to standard US airspace. The FAA will officially allow the commercial use of drones starting in 2015, but the drones cannot fly higher than 400 feet above the ground and must be at least five miles away from any airport.
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