Negativity often gets the spotlight on social media and in the news, so it’s easy to feel discouraged in a year filled with political and social turmoil. 2017 had its ups and downs, which is a great reason to take the time to celebrate the good that’s also being done across the globe.
Technological advancements are increasing at exponential rates, and from artificial intelligence through to medical breakthroughs, this year has been ripe with noteworthy innovations. Here are four technologies and their successes from 2017 that are poised to change the world.
Reversing Paralysis with Brain Implants
“If you have this [technology] it changes your life.” – Grégoire Courtine, French neuroscientist and professor with École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
French neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine and his team are working to reverse the impacts of severe spinal cord injury. By experimenting on monkeys, they were able to restore function to a once-paralyzed leg. They are developing technology that will work as a “neural bypass”, designed to redirect the brain’s instructions from certain parts of the body to others, which will stimulate movement when the body is no longer able to do so on its own.
While this technology may not be available for human use for another 10 to 15 years, it has advanced in leaps and bounds in 2017. With further advancements, this medical tech could significantly improve the amount of freedom that spinal cord injury sufferers have.
Facial Recognition Software
“Wherever you go in the world…you could, rather than carrying a card around with a PIN and all this complexity, just simply use your face.” – Lyndon Smith, professor of computer simulation and machine vision at the University of the West of England
Technology companies, like Face++ in Beijing, China, are making strides to implement facial recognition software. The new iPhone X, for example, can now be unlocked simply by looking at it. It’s clear that facial recognition systems have come a long way and are more accurate—and therefore more useful—than ever.
Not only can this hardware be used to unlock your new phone, but it can also be used as a method of crime prevention or to keep you safe. In China, the technology is being applied to driving services similar to Uber to help customers confidently confirm who their driver is.
Solar Energy Windows
“I believe that every new type of glass needs power.” – Ferdinand Grapperhaus, co-founder and CEO of Physee
Most buildings don’t have enough roof space to become fully solar powered through traditional paneling. That’s why Ferdinand Grapperhaus, CEO of solar start-up Physee, wants to convert windows into a solar energy generating technology. These solar windows could potentially generate 8 to 10 watts of power—enough to charge a phone twice a day—per square meter of window.
This new technology is constantly developing, and over time, better solar cells will make its design even more efficient and cost effective. With their energy saving capabilities, solar energy windows are another example of how 2017 strove to turn our attention to the effects of climate change and the urgent need for better, cleaner technologies.
Flying Cars have Lift-Off
“We have highly congested cities and we can do things to improve matters.” – Remo Gerber of Lilium, a German aviation startup
While we still don’t have the flying cars we were promised in Back to the Future, there are several noteworthy startups currently researching this technology. Whether they are working on flying taxis or personal aviation machines, these companies are attempting to solve problems of congestions by taking traffic loads off the roadways.
While this technology is still a ways off, this year has shown great advancements in experimentation, funding and planning. Companies like Lilium, Terrafugia and even Uber are working on making flying cars a reality in the near future.
Though there have been many ups and downs in 2017, the technological sectors have been on fire. Whether it’s reversing paralysis or making it possible to buy your morning latte using only your face, technology is advancing at impressive rates. Soon our lives will be more convenient and efficient than ever, and this is just the beginning.
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Photo Credits: Shutterstock / goodluz, Shutterstock / Hadrian, Shutterstock / Agnieszka Skalska