Forbes website has a list of ten things that we might see in our lifetimes — some are sci-fi and the rest are more plausible — sounds interesting. Read on:
In fuel cells, the energy of a reaction between a fuel, such as liquid hydrogen, and an oxidant, such as liquid oxygen, is converted into electrical energy. Fuel cells will change the global economy, and not just because they will be as big a development in motoring as the internal-combustion engine was. They will also be used as cell-phone batteries and power generators, among other things. And they will eliminate the problem of what to do with used batteries: Theoretically, fuel cells are renewable forever.
Although the FDA has not approved any human gene therapy for sale, the potential for using it to correct defective genes responsible for disease development is enormous. Gene therapy works by inserting genes into cell tissue, essentially replacing a defective gene with one that works. So far, researchers have been exploring how gene therapy could be used to combat or eradicate diseases caused by single-gene defects, such as cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, muscular dystrophy and sickle cell anemia. With time, however, it is hoped that it will not only revolutionize the treatment of all disease but will also be able to prevent hereditary diseases, such as Down syndrome and heart disease.
Whether people know it or not, haptics has been subtly making inroads into everyday life in the form of vibrating phones, gaming controllers and force-feedback control knobs in cars (BMW’s iDrive system uses the technology). But the science of haptics has the potential to do much more. Products, such as the CyberForce “whole-hand force feedback system” from Immersion Corporation and SenseAble Technologies, let users interact physically with virtual objects. For instance, by using a sensor-equipped glove and a force-reflecting exoskeleton, you could literally feel the shape, texture and weight of an onscreen 3-D object. Such devices are used now for virtual modeling, medicine and the military, but as costs decrease, haptic interfaces could become valuable communication tools. Using haptics technology, people will be able to shake hands virtually over the Internet, and doctors will have the ability to remotely diagnose and operate on patients.
Internet2, or UCAID (University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development), is the next-generation Internet. It is a nonprofit consortium developed by many of the leading universities in the U.S., as well as by companies such as Cisco, Intel and Comcast, in 1996, to deliver video and data at much faster speeds than are possible over the public Internet. The reason is that it is connected to the Abilene national backbone–provided by Qwest Communications–by regional fiber networks, which will soon have a capacity of 10 gigabits per second through the use of optical-networking technologies. This will allow for faster downloads of more complex packets of data and facilitate activities such as peer-to-peer applications, high-definition videoconferencing and, yes, gaming.
What’s the most precious liquid on earth? If you said oil, you’re wrong. It’s water. Even though more than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered in H20, many parts of the world suffer from a persistent and crippling shortage of potable drinking water. LifeStraw hopes to change all that. The 10-inch-long, 1-inch-in-diameter device is made by Vestergaard Frandsen S.A. of Lausanne, Switzerland, out of a patented resin that kills bacteria on contact. Its filters remove bacteria, such as salmonella and staphylococcus, from surface water in rivers and lakes. Reusable and, at $3 to $4 each, affordable, it has the potential to not only reduce the outbreak of disease but also to improve living standards and sanitation in many of the world’s poorest regions.
MRAM, or Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory, could change the way we work. Researchers at IBM have shown that MRAM can be six times faster than the current industry-standard memory, dynamic RAM (DRAM). It is almost as fast as static RAM (SRAM) and is much faster and suffers less degradation over time than Flash memory. Unlike these technologies, MRAM uses magnetism instead of electrical charges to store data. As a result, it is lower in density and in cost. In December 2005, Sony engineers verified operation of a spin-torque-transfer MRAM in the lab with data-write speeds of two nanoseconds. If adopted as a universal standard, MRAM could have significant military communications applications.
If we are to accept that the world economy is now fully dependent upon the information economy, then it stands to reason that those people who are left out of the global information network are doomed to an endless cycle of poverty. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab has designed a fully functional laptop computer that can be sold for $100, so that children in poor or developing nations can get access to the Internet. To keep costs down, the laptop will use a $35 dual-mode display (the kind found on cheap DVD players), a 500-megahertz processor, a slimmed-down operating system and will have only one gigabyte of storage. Users will be able to plug it into a wall outlet or charge it by a crank-driven battery, and it will connect to the Internet via a wireless card. To be sure, these laptops are not going to be playing Quake 4 anytime soon, but they could give disadvantaged kids a shot at taking part in the digital community. MIT hopes to have a working prototype by November 2005 and production units shipping to government education ministries by the end of 2006.
$200 Barrel Of Oil
It’s not an invention, but it will have a dramatic effect on the way everyone lives. Although the predictions range from terrifying to calming, all experts agree that a dramatic rise in the cost of fossil fuel would have a devastating impact not only on the global economy but on global society as well.
Voice-over-Internet Protocol lets people make telephone calls over the Internet or any other IP-based network. Because the voice data flows over a general-purpose packet-switched network, instead of dedicated, circuit-switched voice transmission lines, the cost of making telephone calls for both business and residential users is much less than with traditional telcos. The reason it is so cheap is that the high-speed Internet providers essentially bundle VoIP free with Internet access. Another advantage is that it is mobile: All one needs is an Internet connection to make a phone call from anywhere. But there are a few drawbacks–although these are being smoothed over–such as quality and reliability.
WiMAX stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, which is a long-range, standard-based wireless technology that will effectively allow people to access their phones, computers and the Internet from virtually anywhere. No more need to wait for the cable or phone company to install the “last mile” of pipe to your home. The IEEE 802.16 broadband wireless access standard provides up to 31 miles of linear service area range and allows for connectivity between users without a direct line of sight. This is significant for several reasons: First, it will increase the ease and frequency with which people make wireless connections for work or leisure; second, it will have enormous potential applications in underdeveloped countries–as well as rural areas of the First World–which lack adequate communications infrastructure; and third, no more messy wires.
Full article at (with images): http://www.forbes.com/2006/02/16/cx_cd_0217featslide_print.html