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2020 Future Technology Trends Predictions – Of Autonomous Cars & Printed Hearts

Just a decade ago, things like self-driving cars, holograms and virtual reality were little more than figments of imagination. Sure, there were some early predecessors to these and many other technologies but they were mostly the preserve of universities and other research institutions. Today, we have multiple companies from Google to Uber planning to introduce self-driving cars on the road. We have virtual and augmented reality technologies that threaten to make extinct screened devices.

In a few short years, technology has moved at a breathtaking pace. We have smart wearables, we have smart TVs, we have smart homes and Elon Musk is planning to colonize mars. With such huge technological developments taking place, it requires a bit of a mind stretch to predict the technologies that will have developed in half a decade’s time. But we will try. Here are the future technology trends we expect to see between now and 2020.

If you have a few others in mind, feel free to share in the comments below.

1. Self-driving cars on the road

Autonomous cars have been in the works for almost a century. As early as the 1920s, experiments with driverless cars were being carried out. From the 1950s, driverless car technology accelerated with the first truly autonomous cars being invented in the 1980s.

In modern times, Google has been one of the biggest names in self-driving technology. Other companies including Tesla, General Motors and Daimler have also made efforts to develop their own autonomous vehicles.

A lot of progress has been made. Google’s autonomous cars have driven more than 1.5 million miles. Uber is carrying out public tests for self-driving cars and soon, people will be able to summon an autonomous Uber. Tesla has also added autonomous modes to its popular luxury electric cars.

But in all cases, there is always someone ready to take over the wheel in case things get tricky. The challenge for companies in the next few years is to develop driverless technology that can handle almost anything thrown at it. By 2020, we could see cars that have full robotic driving (referred to as Level 5 in autonomous car lingo) though it may take a bit longer to leave the cars without a human caretaker.

In the next 5 years, the focus will be on nurturing self-driving technology to maturity and creating guidelines and frameworks within which the new driverless industry will function.

2. The Rise of AR/VR/MR at the expense of smartphones (and computers)

2016 has been a big year for virtual reality. Names like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard have made big splashes in the tech industry. It has not just been a good year for VR; mixed reality (MR) and augmented reality (AR) technology has also picked up.

As these alternate realities technologies gain popularity, expect to see even more innovation coming your way. Today’s VR and AR devices are clunky with short battery lives and some, a necessity to remain tethered to a computer. By 2020, VR/AR products will be lighter and more powerful.

The implications will be world-changing. Design, whether for architects or engineers, will become much easier and more realistic. Learning will be transformed as students are able to explore virtual bodies or attend a virtual classroom. Travel will no longer be the costly and time consuming thing it is today since you will be able to explore faraway museums and attractions without leaving your couch.

An even bigger impact will be the death of smartphones and computers. Virtual and augmented reality devices can do a lot of things your smartphone or PC does; communicate with people, browse the internet, shop, watch videos, edit images, design, prepare documents and so on.

Why then, will we need these clunky iPhones and Galaxies around?

See recommended VR headsets on Amazon

HTC Vive

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Oculus Rift

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Sony Playstation VR

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Samsung Gear VR

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3. Wearables that can do everything

Wearables have become the trusted companions of smartphones. Smartwatches are the most popular wearables with brands like Apple Watch and Samsung Gear leading the way. Most of these wearables are focused on fitness. They count your steps, track your heart rate and measure other activity and fitness data. They will also tell you when you have a call or message on your connected phone.

We are still in the early stages of wearables but we can already see a divergence from fitness-focused devices. From interactive t-shirts to wearables that can track your blood sugar, these new wearables can do a lot more than you expect.

As wearables become more popular, expect to see the competition and innovation heat up. By 2020, we will have wearables that can accomplish a wide range of tasks. Most importantly, these wearables will be able to function independently from smartphones, a challenge many wearables face today.

With something like a smart watch, you will be able to make a call, navigate around the city, track your fitness and many more functions. Combined with VR/AR tech, wearables may just do away with your smartphone.

4. Renewabale energy everywhere

Global warming is a major threat to human existence. The hottest years on record have all been in the last decade and 2016 is expected to be the hottest year yet. Seas are rising, coastal settlements face existential threats and tumultuous weather is no the rise around the world.

Renewable and smart energy has been cast as one of the most effective weapons against global warming. There are calls for countries and regions to adopt renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal. While the renewables revolution has been substantial, a big chunk of the world still relies on fossil fuels for power. But this chunk could get significantly smaller in the next five years or so.

One area that will face plenty of development is battery technology. With Tesla’s Powerwall leading the way, expect to see better and bigger-capacity batteries in the near future. This will enable efficient storage of energy from renewable sources.

Fields like solar and wind power will also face significant development, with the aim of producing more energy at a cheaper cost. Countries like Denmark, UK and Germany now have a huge portion of their energy coming from renewable sources. In a few years, you could see entire countries relying on renewable energy. Perhaps in a few decades, fossil fuels could become the exception as renewable energy becomes the rule globally.

5. The second space race

In an interesting, and arguably a little bit crazy, speech, Elon Musk recently laid out his vision to colonize mars in the next 40 to 100 years. But the Tesla CEO is not the only person thinking of bringing back the glory days of Neil Armstrong. NASA has been granted $19.5 billion by congress to send man to mars in the next quarter century.

Both the European Space Agency and NASA are planning future trips to the water-spewing moon of Jupiter, Europa. Jeff Bezos of Amazon also has his own grand space exploration plans. Even India has set its sights on conquering mars and beyond.

In many ways, it feels like a scramble for heavenly knowledge and glory. The first time, the tussle was between USSR and the United States, and it was mostly a matter of ego. Today, numerous countries and billionaires are in a second space race. The first prize up for grabs is Mars.

6. Fully developed IOT (internet of things) systems

IOT or Internet of Things has been billed as the next big revolution in technology. It will give rise to smart homes, smart power grids, smart cities, smart cars…smart everything. By integrating sensors, software and electronics into structures and objects, we will create an overarching information interconnectivity.

Experts predict that by 2020, over 50 billion ‘things’ (physical objects) will be interconnected.

The impact of fully developed IOT systems will be nothing short of revolutionary. Your doctor will be able to keep up with your health status without you having to go to the hospital. Traffic gridlocks in cities will belong to history books. Homeowners will be able to control every aspect of their home – from temperature to lighting – from their smartphones.

Of all the technologies we have discussed in this column, IOT has the biggest potential impact on how we live and work. It encompasses all other technologies mentioned here. 

See recommended smart home devices on Amazon

Nest Learning Thermostat

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Nest Cam

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Amazon Echo

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Philips Hue Starter Kit

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7. Fully developed 3D printing

This is another relatively young industry experiencing phenomenal growth. Like IOT, the most interesting thing is not the technology itself but the impact it will have in our world. 3D printing has often been referred to as the third industrial revolution. We love to think of it as a personalized industrial revolution.

The concept of mass produced factory products will face new competition. People will have the ability to create whatever they want at home. You can create objects that suit your unique needs. Can you imagine 3D printing your own utensils at home or, even more absurdly, printing out your dinner on a 3D printer?

If you think this is amazing, consider that 3D printers are being used to print human organs. There will no longer be a shortage of organs like kidneys and liver for transplant. Even more importantly, organs can be printed specifically for an individual’s needs and health status, hence eliminating the risk of organ rejection.

3D printing will not eliminate mass production, at least not in the near future, but it will introduce a new slew of product categories. Fields like fashion, food and healthcare will be drastically transformed.

8. The rise of the robotic workforce

2020 Future Technology Trends Predictions - Of Autonomous Cars & Printed Hearts There is something of a panic moment in many countries. For decades, the manufacturing industry has provided a steady income flow for millions of laborers globally. But that is under threat from none other than robots. One Chinese factory replaced 60,000 workers with robots. In the United States, more and more factories are opting for robots instead of human workers as they pursue cost cuts and higher operational efficiency.

As industrial robots take over human jobs there is concern over what it means for the financial health of families and economic status of countries. Some experts propose a basic guaranteed income for everyone.

Whatever the economic impact, the future of robot factories is inevitable. Technology is allowing for the creation of smarter robots that can do virtually anything. By 2020, we expect the human workforce in factories to dwindle further. Even places like fast food outlets and restaurants could be filled with robots. Large factories will be able to operate with just a handful of human employees.

Whatever happens, it will be an interesting time to be alive.

9. Artificial intelligence almost as smart as humans

As if unanimously, tech companies have decided to aggressively pursue artificial intelligence with an unexpected vigor. Microsoft has developed Cortana for Windows users, IBM has Watson, Apple has Siri and Google has Assistant.

While AI has been there for quite some time, it is just now that companies are pushing to make it smarter. Recently, Google released Allo, a smart messaging app. The app can tell you what to say in reply to a message and will even supply contextual information (such as nearby restaurants or movie listings) right there in the conversation.

As with robots, there is no shortage of fears regarding the rise of AI. Some experts, notably Elon Musk, have speculated that artificial intelligence could run amok and turn against us ‘Skynet’ style. Others worry that it could take over jobs from humans.

For example, IBM’s Watson AI system has already been hired as a lawyer.

As with robots, an AI-filled future is inevitable regardless of the potential impact. It is a future that could prove even more exciting (or scary) when you consider what AI combined with other tech like IOT could achieve.

2020 Future Technology Trends Predictions

To put it mildly, we are on the cusp of one of the greatest times in human history. The technological era we are about to enter feels like it is on the same scale as the agricultural revolution that speeded up evolution or the industrial revolution that gave rise to capitalism.

The years till 2020 are but just a beginning of the revolution that is to come. By the time we hit 20150, the world as we know it will have completely transformed hopefully for the better.

3D printed pizza anyone?

What major technological trend do you predict for the next five years? Leave your comments below.




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