1. 3D metal printing
3D printing itself has existed for a very long time, but it was used mainly for working with plastic. All other materials – especially metal – were too expensive for this technology. Now 3D printing of metal products has become affordable, widely applicable and will soon change the mass production system itself.
In particular, the missing part can simply be printed on a printer in a single copy, instead of organizing large-scale production. For old cars, televisions and other rare equipment, the problem of the lack of spare parts will disappear. Factories will be able to diversify the range of their mechanisms, adapting them to the specific needs of customers. And for this you will not need to purchase new equipment.
So, in the UK, the patient has installed ribs printed from titanium. The French company Stelia Aerospace has printed a self-hardening fuselage panel . And the Dutch shipbuilders introduced the first fully printed ship propeller . And these are just a few of the dozens of successful applications of 3D metal printing over the past year.
2. Artificial embryos
Scientists from Cambridge are completely changing the very concept of creating a new life. They managed to grow a mouse embryo in vitro, using only stem cells for this. Neither an egg nor a sperm was needed for this. Stem cells somehow organized themselves into an embryo, which, however, is still unable to develop further. Nevertheless, this is the first step towards creating viable human embryos in such a non-standard way.
Such studies will help scientists understand how to grow artificial organs and edit genes, prevent hereditary diseases, and study embryo development at the earliest stages. True, a number of ethical problems arise that must be resolved before the technology can be improved to the desired level.
3. Smart cities
Sidewalk Labs, a Google subsidiary, will build an 8-square-meter Quayside smart district in Toronto, Canada . km It will be located along the eastern coastline of the city, and the local unit of the Internet search engine Google Canada will transfer its head office there. The company will become an anchor resident there and invest $ 50 million in the development of the region.
The project will cost Sidewalk about $ 1 billion, and another $ 1.25 billion will add to Toronto’s power. The plan implies a complete update of the transport system (all cars will be unmanned and ride sharing), as well as the creation of affordable housing. Strict requirements will be set to protect the right to privacy, especially with regard to government interference. In addition, autonomous transit lines and the most environmentally friendly energy systems will appear in the smart region.
An extensive network of sensors will help improve infrastructure by collecting information about everything from air quality and noise levels to daily activities of citizens. Sidewalk Labs will make all its software free so that IT companies can create new, interesting applications on its basis.
If the Toronto project succeeds, smart neighborhoods will be built in San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, and Boston.
4. AI for everyone
Today, Amazon, Baidu, Google, and Microsoft dominate the AI market. But technology giants have begun to deploy some of their developments on cloud platforms so that other companies can use machine learning for their own purposes. This will allow the industry to grow much faster and help revolutionize medicine, manufacturing and energy.
The problem is that few people can afford to hire AI specialists. Therefore, even the availability of information does not guarantee that it can be properly used. Understanding this, Google and Amazon are offering consulting services to help prepare new AI staff.
5. Competition of neural networks
Neural networks learned to recognize millions of images, but for a long time they could not think of anything on their own. They simply did not have imagination. The solution was invented by Ian Goodfellow of the University of Montreal, creating a competitive contention network (GAN). It represents two neural networks (simplified mathematical models of the human brain) that play cat and mouse with each other.
First, both neural networks are trained on the same data. Then one of them, which is called a generator, adds a new feature to an already familiar image – for example, a pedestrian has a third hand. The second neural network – the discriminator – must understand if she has seen a similar image before, or is it a fake. That is, she must understand whether a three-armed person can be real. Over time, the generator so skillfully learned to fake images that the discriminator could not distinguish them from the real ones. It turns out that the neural network imagined and created something new and realistic.
GAN has become one of the most breakthrough technologies of this year. Having compiled hundreds of thousands of images of celebrities, the developers from Nvidia created the faces of people indistinguishable from real ones – despite the fact that these people never existed. Another group of studies was able to make paintings indistinguishable in style from the paintings of Van Gogh, which he never painted. The technology opens up scope for high-quality fakes , but at the same time allows you to give the AI imagination necessary for better work with the surrounding reality.
6. “Babylonian fish”
Google released Pixel Buds for $ 159, an analogue of the Babylonian fish from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They can automatically translate from 40 languages, you just need to press a button or say something like: “Help me speak Spanish!”. True, this feature is available only in conjunction with another novelty – Google Pixel 2 smartphone.
One person puts on headphones, the other holds a smartphone. The man in the headphones speaks his own language – the smartphone automatically translates his speech over the speakerphone. A man with a smartphone answers – simultaneous translation is heard in the headphones. It is clear that communicating in this way on noisy streets will be problematic, since the system is not easy to recognize speech among hundreds of other sounds. And yet, this is better than talking through Google Translate, since each of the participants in the dialogue can control the microphone in the headphones and on the phone, bringing it closer as necessary.
7. Zero-emission gas power station
Startup Net Power built a zero-emission gas power plant in Houston . The technology is based on a fundamentally new 1/10 turbine of a conventional turbine, which fits in a room of 5.6 square meters. At the same time, it remains as powerful due to more efficient heat transfer using supercritical fluid.
In a small turbine, natural gas is burned in a combustion chamber in a pure oxygen environment, and only water vapor and carbon dioxide are produced. Moreover, the chamber is already filled with supercritical carbon dioxide under high pressure and temperature. The combustion chamber produces carbon dioxide and a certain amount of water vapor. Then this high-temperature mixture under high pressure is sent to a gas turbine, where the pressure energy rotates the shaft and generates electricity. The cooled gas mixture leaves the turbine, where it is divided into parts.
The required amount of carbon dioxide is compressed to a supercritical state and returned to the chamber to maintain the necessary gas circulation in the system. The remaining carbon dioxide stream can be buried underground or sold to other enterprises, and clean water is discharged. The fuel efficiency of such a power plant will be 80% (for comparison, the efficiency of many Russian power plants does not exceed 21-22%, for the US it is about 60%).
Despite the popularity of renewable sources, Net Power believes that with the massive shift to electric cars, demand for electricity will increase more than ever. Therefore, natural gas may have a good prospect: if the power plant remains no less efficient, but does not pollute the environment, why not use fossil fuels?
8. True online privacy
The new Internet identification system can confirm your identity without requiring you to provide a date of birth and other personal data, thanks to a protocol called zero-knowledge proof. Despite the fact that developers have worked for decades to create it, a special interest in it arose only last year, thanks to the Zcash cryptocurrency.
The developers emphasize that the currency is based on an advanced cryptography system that allows you to send money anywhere in the world so that they cannot be tracked. This is the main difference between Zcash and bitcoin. Each Bitcoin owner receives an address made up of letters and numbers, and any transactions go through a distributed registry – blockchain. Using data analysis, law enforcement agencies can find out who owns this address and track the progress of transactions. Blockchain has repeatedly helped investigators find drug dealers selling goods on the black market.
Zcash is based on the zk-Snark cryptography method, developed by Israeli scientists in conjunction with colleagues from MIT. All transactions are verified in the network, but it is impossible to track the addresses of the participants in the operation.
However, with all the benefits of zk-Snark, this is a very complex and slow technology. Therefore, now developers are looking for ways to simplify it and make it more accessible.
9. Genetic predictions
The day is not far off when at birth, children will receive a genetic passport. It will indicate what is the likelihood of a heart attack in the future, a tendency to certain types of cancer or diabetes. Examining an enormous amount of data, scientists derive “polygenic risk assessments,” which in the future will help identify serious diseases in the early stages and successfully treat them.
Pharmaceutical companies will also need this information to test medications that prevent Alzheimer’s or cardiovascular disease. For trials, they can attract patients with a tendency to these diseases in order to create the most effective drugs.
10. Quantum computers
Most of all, the appearance of quantum computers is waiting for chemists. They are already looking forward to creating new molecules with their help. New proteins for much more effective drugs, new electrolytes for batteries, and compounds that can turn sunlight directly into liquid fuel. Ordinary computers do not have sufficient computing power to build such, and with the advent of quantum it will become part of the everyday life of chemical scientists.
California startup Rigetti Computing has proven that a quantum computer can be used for machine learning. The company also opened access to its quantum Forest computer, located in the cloud and able to perform calculations using a 19-qubit processor.
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