Technologies come and go with dizzying speed, but some have enough staying power to affect the world for more than a moment. Some exert change on politics and the economy while others have the ability to change our culture and even enhance medicine. While certain technological advances will take years to develop, others are making big strides now. Below are the top three technological innovations that made 2017 a significant year.
Top Medical Technological Innovation: Reversing Paralysis
Spinal cord injuries often result in varying degrees of paralysis. Until recently, victims of such injuries had little recourse to regain movement of their limbs and body. Now, with the invention of wireless brain implants, paralysis may be a thing of the past. By placing an implant on the brain and flexible electrodes around the spinal cord, scientists have succeeded in bypassing the neural disconnect preventing the brain from connecting to paralyzed limbs. The goal of the implant is to allow people to control their limbs with their thoughts.
The rise in what scientists are calling neural prosthetics is meteoric. Cochlear implants are one of the best-known uses of neural prosthetics, restoring deaf individuals’ ability to hear. Scientists hope to expand this to restoring sight to the blind and memories to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. However, trying to take neural prosthetics from the lab to clinical trials has proven difficult. Even so, scientists are making major breakthroughs. Using brain implants, scientists have helped paralyzed monkeys walk again. They have seen human success as well, helping a quadriplegic open and close his hand as well as lift his arm. While the technology is complex, it is progressing. Scientists expect it needs another 10-15 years to perfect and make available to the public. Reversing paralytic conditions is within humanity’s grasp.
Top Economic Technological Innovation: Facial Recognition Payments
People always demand more—it is the nature of innovation. Why should they try to hoard and protect all their money when there are banks? Why should they carry around their money as unprotected cash in a wallet when they can use a credit card? Why waste time digging through a purse or wallet pulling out a credit card and swiping it when their face can act in its stead?
In China, Face++ made that last question a reality. Facial recognition technology is nothing new, but how we use it can have significant economic implications. While most people use the technology to transfer money using their face as their credentials, there are a variety of uses. Individuals using apps to secure rides can use the technology to confirm their driver is legitimate while the government uses it to track down criminals. While many in the United States raise privacy concerns at the broader implications of the technology, there is an undeniable appeal to the convenience of paying with your face.
Top Robotic Technological Innovation: Reinforcement Learning
Machine learning is a booming industry, consuming the focus of scientists around the world. A machine that can learn without programming instruction has mindboggling implications. While machines that can think for themselves inspire Terminator-like fears, the abilities are far less complex than a walking, talking human-like robot. Instead, scientists focus their machine learning efforts on stopping malware, preventing money laundering, and discovering new uses for existing medicines. Now, with reinforcement learning, robotics technology can make even greater strides.
Machine learning relies on exposing a machine to sets of data and allowing it to build algorithms based on the data it receives rather than programming and telling the machine what to do. It is similar to data mining or predictive modeling. Reinforcement learning differs in that machines perform a task and learn from their mistakes.
For example, self-driving trucks will soon become commonplace on the roads. Scientists achieved this by having machines practice driving. The machines changed lanes, merged, and performed several other complex driving actions. At first, they made several mistakes. However, whenever they made a successful maneuver, they recorded the positive outcome and incorporated it into their future performances. While the technology seems futuristic, scientists expect to see real-life applications in the next one to two years.
Technological innovations have exploded in recent years, changing the way people live their lives. Understanding how the implications will affect business operations is vital to remaining relevant in today’s competitive market. No industry can afford to be left behind. To learn more about how technological innovations can improve your company, contact the experts at Trion today.