Technology: Two Innovations That Will Change the World

By: Jimoh Ovbiagele

One. Eight years from now cars will drive themselves

Late January, Wired magazine published a captivating article: “Let the Robot Drive.” In a five-page spread, journalist, Tommy Vanderbilt, interviewed corporate giants (GM, Audi, Lexus) looking to bring the first fully autonomous cars to the market1. Google, America’s favorite search engine, is a well-known, but unexpected member of this automotive foray. Nevertheless, Google is making outstanding strides. In 2007, many schools, including The University of Texas, participated in DARPA’s Urban Challenge. The challenge included mundane tasks like parking, handling four-way intersections, and vehicle-lane positioning. Fast forward five years and Google’s modified Toyota Prius can merge onto highways at speeds at of an excess of sixty miles per hour. Are you eager to get your hands on one? GM’s Alan Taub believes self-driving cars will traverse our streets by the end of the decade. I cannot wait to tune into Sports Center, Facebook stalk, and indulge in fork-and-knife meals during my daily commute. 

Two.If scientists could have any super power… invisibility

Material scientists, John Rogers of the University of Illinois, has come one step closer to creating an invisible cloak (or whatever invisible apparel you may fancy). Rogers and his innovative printer were recently featured in Popular Science magazine2. No, this printer does not churn out invisible fabric. Rather, it can print out giant sheets metamaterials, which could only be produced in small quantities before. Under the microscope, the material is a tight grid of metal alloys. So tight, in fact, that light’s waves cannot pass through; the light gets trapped. This enables scientists to manipulate the light’s photons and direct them back around the material and the object it cloaks. Essentially, this allows man to bend light outward, around objects, contrary to the inward refraction we commonly see as light passes through water.

Both of these technologies are being tailored for military applications, like invisible armor to cloak our soldiers on the frontline and tanks that can navigate themselves through enemy territory. Kudos to the defensive benefits, but you should be excited for what uses entrepreneurs around the world will be brining to your home in the next ten to twenty years. I know I am.

1.      Vanderbilt, Tom. “Let the Robot Drive: The Autonomous Car of the Future Is Here .” Wired. 20 01 2012: 1-5. Web. 11 Feb. 2012. .

2.      Ferreira, Becky. “The Newest Revolutions in Metamaterials Bring Invisibility Within Reach.” Popular Science. 13 01 2012: 1. Web. 11 Feb. 2012. .

 

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