“We’re living in the future” seems truer today than in eras past. The jump from telegram to the telephone was big. The jump from sitting in a dark room alone to the damned internet is huge…despite a lot of internet use involving sitting in a dark room, alone. The pace of technological development has slowed in recent decades, but the rate is insignificant when compared to the new inventions that are coming to the fore.
Here are 10 examples of soon-to-be-developed or bet-you-didn’t-know-this-was-a-thing innovations that’ll make you look at your surroundings and say: “James Cameron? Are you making all this happen?… Are you watching me right now?”
Related: Top 10 Short-Lived Inventions That Changed The World
10 No More “Pew Pew”
For all the uber high-tech teleportation-y, voice command-y, thought reading-y machines we’ve become accustomed to in science fiction movies, the weapons are probably the coolest aspect in these films and TV shows. How easy would deer hunting be with a phaser? What about protecting your home with a lightsaber? Doing a quick bit of target practice with a Warhammer 40k bolter gun. Well, the last one may become a reality soon.
U.S. company Arcflash Labs has developed the first commercially available hand-held Gauss rifle. The gun/cannon/tool to save the world from aliens is essentially an electromagnetic catapult, the projectile hurried along the barrel by coiled magnets that are turned on and off at very precise intervals. This process allows the shot to speed up at an incredible rate before leaving your gun and exploding some Xenomorph carapace.
Or at least that’s where the tech will get to someday—for now, Arcflash Labs’ GR-1 Anvil will propel the projectile (which is a steel rod) at around 200 feet per second, delivering around 75 ft-pounds of energy. Not too shabby for a first go. But if any wrong-doer came face to face with you holding one of these bad boys, it’s all but certain they won’t mess with you—nobody messes with “Doom Guy.”
Doesn’t it feel like we’re a hair’s breadth from an energy tech breakthrough that’ll change everything forever? Well, either that or total societal collapse…
The development of ultracapacitors could be enough of a change to stave off our implosion for a few years. These neat little energy storage thingamabobs may well replace batteries someday. Currently, Skeleton Tech is ramping up production of their curved graphene units. These little beauties aren’t quite as good at storing energy as traditional lithium-ion batteries (yet), but boy, do they pack a punch in output. A huge punch.
Skeleton provides the batteries as a supplement for traditional cell batteries in transport systems (from electric cars to public transit vehicles), allowing all the supplemental electric processes to be powered by the ultracapacitors. This frees up energy output for propelling the vehicle as well as saving space and weight, further boosting overall performance. The further and faster we can go, the quicker we can focus on bigger problems—what drama will Joe Rogan be embroiled in next? Y’know, real existential questions like that.
8 Triffids Are Tasty
When The Simpsons released the classic episode “E-I-E-I-D’oh” in 1999, nobody expected that any old dufus sans a lab and a fancy Ph.D. from MIT could just splice two species of plant together like Homer did with tomatoes and tobacco.
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Sorry, that was needlessly morbid. Back in 2013, a gardening company in England released a commercially available TomTato plant, a hybrid between cherry tomatoes and white potatoes. Since then, green-thumbed mad-scientist-emulating amateurs have gotten busy grafting. Now, with the help of a YouTube tutorial or two, you can create the next wonder crop that’ll solve world hunger. It’s all about careful grafting, the amazing combination of surgical skills and gardening.
Or doom us all to overlordship by genetically mutated SproutKumquats. All hail the bitter tangers!
7 Art Meets Fashion Meets Future Tech
Many people find high fashion, for want of a better term, utter sh*t and pointlessly decadent. Clothes nobody wears shown off by people who often don’t look human with less artistic merit than a Bob Ross painting of a tree, a lake, and a bush. But fear not, millennial cynics/realists, futuristic tech will come to the rescue!
Cutting-edge fashion designer Iris Van Herpen is artfully crafting her catwalk pieces using 3-D printing technology and sophisticated AI-analyzing tech. The results, especially compared with the usual stupid-looking nonsense seen at Paris, London, Milan, and New York, are quite beguiling. Plus, the sheer amount of technical wizardry employed proves that fashion can adapt, not just degrade.
6 Meating Expectations
It seems that, whether we like it or not, meat is slowly leaving the world’s menu. Sure, it’ll never completely leave—we have canine teeth in our gobs, and nobody likes it when their 30/30 ammo goes bad. But expect to see most mass-produced, supermarket-sold meat products soon replaced by meat alternatives. Many people will celebrate, many will be up in arms, most of us only care about one thing: Does the facon really taste like bacon?
Pioneering Israeli company RedefineMeat seems to have gotten pretty damned close. Legendary chef Marco Pierre White (the bloke who taught Gordon Ramsey that the essence of great cuisine is swearing at everyone) described the products he was tasked to cook with as “the most clever thing I’ve ever seen in my 45 years of being in a kitchen.” High praise from a guy that doesn’t do high praise. Made from plant-based ingredients like pea protein and beetroot, their product range boasts no GMOs, antibiotics, and all the other nasties associated with factory-farmed meat. From sausages and burgers to flank steak, experts suggest that alternative meat products like these may reach 10% of the global “meat” market by 2029.
5 The (Augmented) Realities of War
Military advancements are more than just how big a bang a new bomb can make—wartime innovation drove the technological advancements of the 20th century. From radio technology to nuclear energy, no WWII means no internet, slower automotive advances, and a very different (probably still sepia-toned) world. The latest area of tech we can expect a massive leap in is augmented reality. Why? The U.S. military just sunk billions of dollars into developing it. That’ll do it.
Augmented reality is like the more sci-fi version of VR; elements of virtual reality are melded with our real-world surroundings. Think of those cool visors on the helmets of futuristic soldiers or what Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator saw from his POV—real-time analysis of the surroundings appearing in your eyeline. It means Yelp reviews popping in your eyeline as you pass a café, the latest football scores as you see a billboard for the Dallas Cowboys…you get the idea. More than just a few lines of text will start to be incorporated—maps, diagrams, and even media clips, all playing as you walk around…in 3-D.
The U.S. Armed Forces are developing this tech for their fighting men. But optimized for the battlefield, obviously.
4 Lifting Made Easy
Not every advancement needs to be super high-tech. Look at the grafted and hybridized plants—that’s just gardening. Digitized exoskeletons sound super high-tech. What about a basic harness that aids in lifting, saving you from a bad back? A nifty little product but hardly Battleship Galactica stuff. But sometimes, the simplest-seeming innovations can be game changers. Game changers that allow us to traverse the stars.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic.
This harness, the result of years of research from salubrious institutions like Harvard, hopes to make back strains a thing of the past. Heavy loads become much easier to lift, up to 50 extra pounds without a problem, all without causing harm if you don this figure-boosting harness. It doesn’t look like something Neo would wear, but any augmentation that boosts human ability is super futuristic.
No? Well, imagine this device helping an astrophysicist with a perpetually bad back get over his or her pain and finally discover warp travel. See, it is futuristic.
3 Fusion. Finally. Maybe.
It seems like fusion tech may be just around the corner. A long, long, long corner. It’s been decades since waggish science reporters started chirping about mankind’s next onward leap in energy—fusion power. Just a few more years, they said…in the ’70s.
Recent developments in the field do now seem to herald the dawn of the fusion age, however. Fusion’s potential is ridiculous—safer, cleaner, cheaper, and incredible in terms of energy output. The fusion of 0.1g of deuterium and 0.3g of lithium could power the average American household for a year. These elements occur naturally. And abundantly. In late 2021, MIT and a fusion start-up called Commonwealth Fusion systems seemed to have leaped over the last great hurdle in the race for fusion power—the insanely powerful magnets required.
Using a high-temperature superconductor tape, they managed to create one of the most powerful magnets ever made. With lower-than-expected power input and the type of magnetic field needed to allow safe fusion power generation. The test they ran proved that the math behind their concept was sound, paving the way for fusion generators to become a reality. Finally.
By 2025, the team hopes to debut SPARC, the first fusion device that’ll attain net energy output. The hope then is that the investment that this will attract could allow for fusion to be the go-to energy source soon.
Oh, and the “power?” It could very well be unlimited.
2 From the Depths to the Heights?
A whole ton of these technological advances, many listed here, could go one of two ways—save mankind or doom mankind. It’s tough to imagine a positive use for the burgeoning field of “deepfake” synthetic media. Anyone with the technical know-how can clip your face from a photo, run it through an AI-driven program and superimpose your mug onto any other piece of media they want: “Are you sure it wasn’t you throwing that Molotov cocktail into the orphanage, Ms. Jones? What about this video we found?” Chilling.
But it isn’t all bad. In 2019, David Beckham was used as a spokesman for malaria awareness via the organization Malaria Must Die. Instead of forcing the tinny-voiced retiree to learn eight different languages, deepfake tech was employed, allowing various actors to voice the message in their native tongues while seemingly to come out of Becks’ mouth. Pretty cool. Another cool use of the tech is Samsung’s AI lab manipulating an image of the Mona Lisa, allowing her to move around and talk (real Harry Potter vibes on this one, but don’t hold that against them).
Beyond these cool but arguably frivolous examples, hospitals are now employing deepfake tech to create fake patients, keeping real patients’ data safe. Still, is it all worth it when some nefarious people could stick your face on a murderer’s torso or make it seem like you’ve said something cancellable? It may even be the case that this tech pushes mankind into new levels of paranoia; ultimate paranoia—what even is reality anymore if you can’t trust anything you see?
Time will tell, but all this seems (warning: word of the last two years coming up) rather dystopian.
1 The Future Is Ours to Fix. Literally.
Let’s step away from inventions and scientific advancements for a moment and focus on the really juicy stuff—customer service policies.
Okay, so maybe not the most inspiring or adrenaline-pushing subject, but a new policy that looks to become the norm in the tech world may very well be a real game changer. In late 2021, Apple made an announcement that shocked techno anarchists and “right to repair” advocates everywhere. They basically said, “Yup, you’re right. We’ll make it happen,” allowing customers to have access to previously unavailable parts and tools needed to fix their own broken devices.
This sounds like a simple act of PR, but if you consider the greater consolidation of the market we’ve seen, a not-insignificant portion of the “power” has been ceded back to the consumer. Maybe the scary Big Tech oligarchs have realized that a miserable populace with no choice doesn’t make for good drones, or maybe they aren’t the evil overlords we thought they were. Whatever the rationale, this news should be bigger, given the ramifications. A Star Trek future looks slightly more attainable in the wake of this.