The groundbreaking innovations of the present century
By Alex Paikada
Already we have marched past the first two decades of the running century. Believe it or not, somewhere I read that the greatest innovation of the previous century is rocket technology, the automotive revolution, or telecommunication. It is the U-tube used in modern latrines. Such a simple and effective valve to seal off the excreta made a great difference in human civilization. It has had a strong impact on sanitation and public health. The great western urban centers all along the long and tumultuous centuries did not have a sustainable means to manage the excreta they produced and fecal contamination in food and water used to decimate populations in the cities at a macabre regularity. But when we graduate to the present century, the life-changing inventions are at a different level, the digital level! The digital revolution munificently expanded the horizon of entertainment, exploration, research, and cognitive processes. In the mid-eighties, the computer was a furiously guarded curiosity flaunted in airconditioned glass chambers, accessible only to the correctly initiated ones. Now almost everyone has a high-performance handy computer in his pocket. The digital revolution has coughed up landmark innovations that changed social and economic life dramatically. Of course, the choice has an individual touch, but generally, there would be little dispute about the selection of the greatest inventions. The landmark events in this context are listed below:
AR and VR
Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) emerged as a concept and possibilities in the mid-20th century itself. But now they are in our midst splurging into the realms of entertainment and simulation. When AR imparts a digital dimension to our live view of the real surroundings, VR replaces a real-life situation with a doctored parallel environment. NIKE, IKEA, Warby Parker, L'Oreal, WatchBox, FaceCake, BMW, and many other global players are the pioneers in this area. It has added a new dimension to the customer experience.
Some of the popular applications of AR and VR include interior design in which a 3D representation of your living space under different furniture and tapestry arrangements could be visualized and critically examined when you are choosy about the feel and experience. Similarly, different makeovers could be analyzed for beauty-conscious people. Technicians could put on a device by which they could go through maintenance and repair work strictly sticking to the sequence and maintenance protocols.
In architecture, virtual home technology is used to help the clients get a feel of the structure in the making and feed modifications if any. In the automotive industry, AR and VR are going to play a substantial role. Driverless cars that pick vital cues from the surroundings and instantly respond are already in vogue. Similarly, people who have to work in very hazardous circumstances could employ VR to impart training, without subjecting themselves to the risk of life. The practical applicability of VR and AR has transcended the spheres of entertainment, games, and research. It will claim a larger space in the global economy and production cycles in the future.
Here is an autogenerated report on VR:
Cell phones (mobile phones) which were actually fussy and bulky at the turn of the century, had been a preserve of the elite. When internet connectivity exploded and mobile phones successfully improved their versatility to take over the functions of computers, a brave new world was opened up. The landmark event happened in 2007 when iPhone introduced the system to the curious world. Thereafter big global players like Blackberry, Huawei, Samsung, and many emerging Chinese companies dazzled the world, taking the world by storm. The huge economic success behind smartphones lies in the ground truth that such phones caught the imagination of the younger generation. Currently, a major chunk of the world population, transcending nations, and cultures is addicted to smartphones. In addition to smooth communication, self-expression, and entertainment, smartphones rule the roost in the areas of banking, and delivery of a large spectrum of goods and services. Probably smartphones are the most influential avatar of the present century, pervading the diverse areas of communication, entertainment, social life, businesses, and all streams of economic activities.
Technological evolution is happening at a stunning pace in the industry and every year new interesting capabilities are emerging. After every couple of years, a smartphone ceases to be not-so-smart a phone and the scenario is subject to change real fast. Handsets freed from dragging wires have opened up a vast universe and their full potential is still far away.
Here is an insightful report on smartphones:
Transactions and the exchange of goods and services have come a long way from the stage of barter systems. The credibility of state-guaranteed and gold reserve-backed currencies has taken a drubbing in many parts of the world. Run-away inflation in many ailing Asian economies has further challenged the credibility of national currencies. During the 2008 economic crisis that gripped major economies was the raison d’etre of cryptocurrencies. It offers an alternative mode of payment relying on encryption algorithms. It offers a smart accounting system and a cryptocurrency wallet. Bitcoin was introduced in 2009 and thereafter hundreds of such virtual currencies hit the markets.
However, cryptocurrencies are subject to many risks. They are not moderated or supported by a bank or a third party, and thus they are not easily convertible to traditional currencies. When spyware gains an upper hand, these currencies could be susceptible to hacking and vandalization.
The steep fluctuations in the value of the major cryptocurrencies in the recent past have made the world more skeptical about the future of these currencies.
Electric, driverless cars
Fossil fuel-based IC engines had eclipsed electric cars into obscurity in the 20th century. A new realization is penetrating the collective mind of nations that fossil fuels are not forever and that they leave behind a nasty threatening environmental impact. Once again, the world is switching over to battery cars with a bang, and this time the whole package is more sophisticated and promisingly autonomous. But automated driving systems are not a newly fanged idea. From the early 20th century the world was aware of it. Combined with lithium-ion batteries and driving automation, a new automotive culture is emerging. Apart from Lithium-ion batteries fuel cells also are likely to come of age in the future.
In the eighties, Carnegie Mellon University and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency had taken up a research project for pioneering advances in this direction. In the same decade, Mercedes-Benz and Bundeswehr University had taken up a similar project. The real practically meaningful progress happened in the present century. It was Tesla that introduced self-driving cars on ordinary roads. The Asian giant China is seriously into this technology and Robotaxies are bracing to take over the arterial Chinese urban road networks. Subsequently, many other global giants are entering this area. Battery cars with autonomous navigational capabilities, edging out the idea of a driver as an integral part of the process, are going to dominate the roads of the world.
Click here for an autogenerated report on autonomous vehicles:
Self-driving cars, with little or no human managerial input, capable of reading into the prevailing environmental cues, are fast coming of age. A harmony of multiple sensors such as cameras, radar, sonar, GPS, Odometry, and a control unit to take instant rational decisions based on sensory information as part of navigational responses are key to the system. The system is likely to become more efficient and incident-free in the future as intense research is on to make the operation more rugged and weather hardened.
Click here to get an insight into the trends in electric vehicles:
The common denominator of most of the game-changing and groundbreaking innovations is the digital revolution. It has practically opened up a parallel universe to make things easier on many fronts. The teaching-learning process has reached altogether a new level and memorization capabilities are no anymore a necessary gift to excel at school. Higher education and research have become more synchronized globally and offices are becoming paper free. Books, which streamlined the progress of civilization and technology, are becoming obsolete in the traditional sense. The traditional reading culture also changed. Digital books and audiobooks are the new fads. Even in agriculture, digitalization is finding its space. But the real protagonist going the dominate the state would be 3-D printing. Click here to get an insight into the trends in 3D printing:
When it comes to age, the construction industry, artificial organ production, spare parts, customized gadgets, etc., will be the preserve of technology. When the world in toto switches over to precision farming, digital monitoring would be an integral part. The world is easing out to a binary system, just digital or non-digital, there is no space in between.