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Self-driving cars are commanding a lot of media attention right now and drones are set to change our lives, but not every technological breakthrough receives the same level of coverage in the mainstream news.
Despite how quick technology advances, you may not be aware of some of the more obscure — but fascinating all the same — products and innovations that are projected to arrive some time in the near future.
Check out the following three innovations that are expected to hit markets by no later than 2017.
1. Sunscreen Pills
Sick of going to the beach and wasting time you could be sunbathing — or frolicking in the ocean — to lather up with your SPF-15 sunscreen lotion? Well, by as early as next Summer, there might be a pill that you can take in lieu of all that goopy cream.
Protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays is a hot topic because of skin cancer’s high prevalence rate. Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer observed in men and seventh most common observed in women, with over 140,000 new cases projected in 2016.
This is partly due to the hassle of applying sunscreen lotion (and doing so properly). The availability of sunscreen in oral form might motivate more people — including you — to toughen up one’s defenses against these dangerous rays.
Another possible advantage of sunscreen pills, in addition to their convenience, is that, because of their potential classification as supplements, they won’t be subject to regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As of now, the FDA imposes strict standards on sunscreen lotion because it’s considered both a cosmetic and a drug.
How do researchers intend to create sunscreen in pill form? One way is to use the extract of a specific tropical fern called Polypodium leucotoms. This fern has long been used in South America to treat conditions such as psoriasis and dermatitis, as it’s known to contain antioxidants.
Preliminary studies of people ingesting the extract showed that subjects could expose themselves to twice as many UV rays that usually cause sunburn and reduce the risk of sun damage by 84 percent.
But don’t throw away your lotions just yet. While the results were promising, this was a small trial, and researchers are working on larger studies to prove the oral form’s effectiveness before the pills become publicly available. So until you hear the official word, make sure you lather up. Your skin will thank you in the meantime.
2. Wound-Sealing Laser Pens
If you love the great outdoors, you’ve probably gone on a hike or two in the last few years. You might have even suffered a serious injury on one of your excursions. Ideally in the event of an injury, you’d be able to make it to a hospital, but hospital trips aren’t always practical or necessary.
What if you could seal your laceration with the point of a portable laser pen? Lasers aren’t solely for surgery anymore. By 2017, scientists predict that portable lasers will be available to mend your wounds on the go.
That doesn’t mean these pens will serve as a replacement for professional medical attention, but if you’re bleeding and can’t get to the hospital right away, this technology may help you seal your open cuts and prevent you from needing uncomfortable stitches — kind of like advanced cauterization.
How do these laser pens work? The innovation comes from Tel Aviv University physicist Abraham Katzir. With his team of researchers in Israel, he developed a portable pen that utilizes high-tech optic fibers to treat wounded human tissues.
The pen has two fibers: one that points carbon dioxide-based infrared laser at the injured area, and one that directs the pen to an infrared sensor that maintains ideal temperature conditions for soldering.
Surgeons have already used Katzir’s laser technique to conduct gallbladder surgeries, and the technology has also successfully treated arthritis, sores, burns, and lower back pain. It’s not market-ready yet, but soon enough you may be able to be more adventurous with a little more confidence.
It sounds like something straight out of science fiction, but by as early as 2017, researchers say you’ll be able to purchase your own hovercraft.
Aerofex, a tech company based in California, has developed a hovercraft called the Aero-X, which will undergo pilot testing this year. If successful, the vehicle will fly at a height of 10 feet with a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour.
The Aero-X is designed to ride with the feel of a motorcycle, and an individual hovercraft can carry up to two passengers with a total weight of 310 pounds. The safety features are still being tested, but so far, it’s advanced enough to adapt to wind gusts and sway bars to remain stable during tough maneuvers.
While the hovercraft may seem like a toy to use in your backyard or a gimmick for flying around town, it will have practical functions, too. For example, first responders and other emergency crews can use this technology in rescue missions when other transportation becomes inaccessible.
Don’t get too excited yet, though. The Aero-X is expected to debut with a price tag of $85,000, so purchasing one won’t be as cheap as going to your local dealership and buying the average sedan. You can, however, reserve a hovercraft now with a $5,000 refundable deposit.
4. Carl Zeiss Smart Glasses
Chances are you’ve probably heard of Google Glass, the fancy optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that lets you use all the features of your smartphone in a high-tech, hands-free design.
Many people have lauded this new technology as groundbreaking, but some have complained that the glasses are a little too bulky for comfort or style. The fact that Google Glass, which is theoretically awesome, hasn’t exploded in popularity speaks volumes.
But never fear! Carl Zeiss smart glasses are (almost) here. Slated to become publicly available by the end of 2017, these glasses have all the features of Google Glass, but with a more subtle and chic look — a curved-lens OHMD that looks almost identical to a standard pair of eyeglasses.
How do these smart glasses work? The Carl Zeiss lenses will be less clunky than Google Glass due to the way they’re engineered. Specifically, all of its hardware — including the battery and processor — sits within the arms, and the hardware is wired to a small organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display. The light from the display directs to the lens surface and reflects into your eye.
Transmitting data from a nearby smartphone, the prototype glasses can display all your favorite icons, which you can control with simple eye movements. Additionally, if you wear eyeglasses on the regular, you’ll even be able to purchase the smart glasses in prescription form.
What’s the catch? As ambitious as this new technology sounds, Carl Zeiss has a lot of refining to do before the smart lenses can go to market. Some prototype testers say the image quality isn’t quite there yet. The company also needs a business partner to answer questions about availability and pricing.
Still, if you’re the kind of person intrigued by the idea of a smartphone in a headset, by the end of next year you could be navigating your apps with your eyes — and without looking like a Google “Glasshole”.
5. Segway Robots
These days, the once highly-anticipated Segway is old news. You can spot them in metropolitan areas, but they’re uncommon, which is a shame because travel by Segway can be quicker than sitting in your car when traffic is bad. Even the police force rides the Segway for its city patrols because it helps to increase security presence and visibility.
What if you could ride a Segway that was even more high-tech — one with a built-in robot?
By Spring or Summer of 2016, you’ll probably be able to. The electric-scooter company recently announced the development of its new Ninebot Segway, a version of the original Segway that includes robotic technology to make your ride that much better.
What features does the Segway robot have? The Ninebot isn’t your typical Segway. It comes with a built-in 3D camera to give you better depth perception and object recognition while you’re riding. These cameras come with a global-positioning system (GPS) so you can easily track your location.
The vehicle also comes with voice-recognition software, so you can control it both during your trip and when you’ve hopped off the scooter. Much like the Carl Zeiss smart glasses, the robot Segway can sync to your smartphone and perform many of the same functions, such as application management and video sending.
When you’re not riding the Ninebot, the device can follow you around and carry your groceries for you. It also has a fresh new design, sporting arms and a screen as the head.
The price of these robot Segways remains undetermined for now, but the new functions will certainly make Segway tours more interesting on your next vacation. Next big idea from the company? Segway hovercrafts, although it could be a few years before we know more about their development.
With all of these high-tech gadgets built into the robot Segway, it’s not just texting and driving you need to worry about anymore. Don’t text and Segway, either.
And There Are More to Come!
While these technologies are intriguing, if they don’t necessarily float your boat, there are so many other projects and innovations that will be coming out within the next two years. Think head transplants, and maybe even the rebirth of Woolly Mammoths.
Of course, these lofty plans don’t always come to fruition right away, so you may be waiting for longer than the tech gurus expect. In the meantime, remember when your phone was just a phone and be grateful for your high-tech data plan.
Do any of these ideas interest you? Are there any other upcoming innovations that we missed? Tell us what you think in the comments below!