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With yet another decade behind us, it’s tempting to look back at the technologies that became indelible parts of our lives. But we say: resist the temptation, there’s too much new stuff coming around the bend! And now, with the new year well under way, we can’t help but wonder what incredible gadgets are headed our way over the next decade. To that end, here’s our list of tech, gadgets and gizmos that are signs of things to come.

Floored
Sci-fi flicks all present radically different takes on what the future is going to look like. But there is one thing they all agree on: whether mankind’s future lies in space-wars or overthrowing an omnipotent dictator, we won’t be cleaning up any messes left behind. That job usually falls to oddly cheerful robots like the iRobot Scooba 230. Although this is hardly iRobot’s first foray in to automated mopping, this little guy is about half the size of previous iterations, allowing it to clean in those hard-to-reach places (on the floor, in case you were wondering). Older bots used two bins to separate dirty and clean water, but the new guy uses dual bladders that expand and contract as needed. $300

floored

Keeping Current
There are plenty of electric cars around the corner, but they typically come in two flavors: expensive or dull. Nissan, still basking in the green glow of their all-electric Leaf, recently revealed their ESFLOW concept car. Nissan hopes this latest electron-slurper can hit the sweet spot on fun-to-drive meter, but will still boast a price well below other full-electric performance cars – like the $60,000 Tesla Model S and the $80,000 Fisker Karma.

car 

The car uses the same electric powertrain as the Leaf, but the car is designed from the ground up for driving excitement, rather than family comfort. That excitement will come chiefly from the two motors  that independently provide thrust to the two rear wheels. Nissan estimates a 150 mile range for the ESFLOW.

Super Scooper
With the extra-white winter that dropped record levels of the cold stuff across the US, it’s no surprise that many people are looking for an easier way to de-winterize their wonderland. They should check out one of Japan’s latest robot wonder, a cheerful automated snowplow named Yuki-taro. This Pac-man doppelganger is about the size of a go-cart, and it navigates your driveway with a GPS and two video cameras. Yuki-taro doesn’t just push the snow out of the way; it devours it. After scooping the snow, it is –ahem- “excreted” out the back in tidy bricks. Now if only the family dog could do that.

scooper

Hot Meals, Cool Tech
Technology in the kitchen isn’t always a good thing (instant macaroni, anyone?), but when it comes to the art of cooking, some of us can use all the help we can get. For those of us who are tech-wise and oven-foolish, Fulton Innovation has introduced its new line of eCoupled technology. Using the same technology as in those wireless charging stations for iPods and cell phones, the firm’s specially designed pots, pans and soup cans heat food using a surface that’s cool to the touch. Meanwhile, the equipment is communicating with your PC or smartphone, letting you change instructions or know you’re almost out of an ingredient, or simply allowing you check up on your roast.

cooking

A Real Blowout
3-D? Puh-leeze. The home theater of the future won’t just require you to wear dorky glasses, it will flood your entire living room with ambient lights, rumbles and wind. That’s the vision of Phillips’ Ambx system, a system of lights, speakers and fans that are designed to fully immerse you in your entertainment of choice. Ambx currently offers systems ranging from basic home set-ups to built-in installations designed around an entire bar, restaurant, or club. Some prototype systems even incorporate water atomizers and heating effects.  

home theatre

The Ambx system is still relatively new, meaning few games and movies are optimized for the technology. However, the idea that the whole room should be a part of your home theater experience is surely a sign of things to come – “smell-o-vision,” perhaps?

A New Squeeze
On any given day, you’ll be confronted by a bewildering number of screens. Widescreens, flatscreens, 3-D screens, LED screens, plasma screens and touch screens are all around us. But one thing they all have in common is that you can’t bend them. They either stay perfectly flat, or they’re in the garbage.

If Sony gets its way, though, screens everywhere will bend to your will using its new organic LED screen. The technology isn’t available yet, but a 0.2 mm thick prototype screen can be squeezed, curled, and even rolled around a pencil without losing its bright, crystal clear image.

led screen

Carbon-based, organic electronics promise to revolutionize more than just your portable TVs. The same technology used for the screen also promise to advances ultra thin fuel cells, batteries and “spray on” solar cells.

Reality... As Seen on TV!
Picture this: you’re walking down to your favorite cafe. Suddenly, your sunglasses highlight a person nearby with a blue glow. They notice you, too, and you shake hands. Their name pops up next to their face, along with how you know them, their age, and some basic likes and dislikes. Or you’re at the movie theater, and you hold your iPhone’s camera up to a movie poster. Suddenly, miniature versions of the characters leap out of the poster and start trading gunfire. You look and it’s still just a movie poster, but on your phone’s screen you see the actors ducking behind trashcans and putting bullet holes in the marquee.

reality

These are both examples of “augmented reality.” The concept uses technology to superimpose fantastic or useful images onto the plain ol’ boring world around you. The idea has been around for awhile, but until recently the technology has failed to take off.

Now, consumers can check out augmented reality through an ever-growing list of devices and companies. GE recently used it in an ad campaign promoting their “green” energy investments, and Nintendo’s 3DS is shipping with a game called “Face Raiders” (maybe not the best name) that uses the concept to turn your living room into a game level.  

What is “Watson?”
If you hear the name “Watson” and still imagine Jude Law in Victorian garb, you probably haven’t heard about the IBM supercomputer by the same name. After years of intensive development by the IBM team, this multi-ton, nearly 3,000-core beast put the hurt on Jeopardy royalty Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings at their own game.

watson

But the real story here isn’t that Watson knows every seventeenth century Austrian poet, or that it has a cool million in prize money to donate, it’s that a computer can understand the tricky wordplay and other nuances of Jeopardy “questions”. For the first time, a computer can understand the way we speak, instead of us painstakingly having to write in a specific code or format. It’s a major leap towards a world where humans and our devices interact seamlessly and naturally.

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 120 - September 2018
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