Staying updated on new technology is an exciting, but often also massive, undertaking. New technologies are constantly changing what’s possible, and it can be quite a challenge to find out what to make of them – conceptually as well as in terms of actual, tangible products.
But even if you don’t consider your products high-tech, following the trends in advanced technology can offer a glimpse into the future that could change your products relevance, for better or worse. Here are five themes in advanced technology that are definitely interesting – and worth paying attention to.
Autonomous vehicles will be everywhere
Parking assistants are already common in modern cars, and we’ve seen plenty of examples of vehicles capable of driving themselves. Meanwhile, drones are developed for a wide range of purposes – not just in the air but also at land and sea.
There are still obstacles for a full commercial roll out of autonomous cars and drones. But recent years’ advances in technology has brought these two product categories a lot closer to maturity. With the technology already here, it’s mostly a question of regulation before they’ll be a stable part of our daily lives.
Certainly this will eventually affect a lot of different product categories, creating both threats and new opportunities.
A new breed of robots
In the near future, another kind of autonomous units will come to play a part in our daily lives: Robots.
Most of us probably still think of production and assembly lines, or maybe automated vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers, when talking about robots. But recent advances in a variety of technology fields are making robots much more advanced and capable. One example of how far researchers have come is the Atlas developed at Boston Dynamics.
Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence make way for more ‘intelligent’ robots that are designed to interact with humans in various settings. It’ll be interesting to see if – or rather when – this will also lead to products designed for robots as well as humans.
[More about robots developed to be more human right here]
Engineering of new materials
Development of new, superior materials has always been a very potent driver for product development. But today, it goes far beyond developing new materials and then applying them in new products.
Advances in science and technology are making it possible to engineer new materials with very specific – and until now unattainable – properties, potentially making the development of new materials an integrated part of product design.
One of the most promising fields is the development of nanomaterials. While there are still many concerns to consider and research further, there is also a whole new world of opportunities to unfold. Read more about nanomaterials here.
Augmented reality expands your world
Virtual reality is just starting to take off as a commercial product category, but the technology in recent VR-headsets is already expected to have an even bigger impact for a different concept: Augmented reality.
Augmented reality, which is basically the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time – is not something entirely new, and the Google Glasses project is just one of the obvious examples. Others include various smartphone apps that combine images from the camera with a digital overlay, heads-up displays.
One of the more recent concepts is the much anticipated Hololens from Microsoft that projects holograms on a glass lens worn by the user. But there are already very practical examples of how to use the technology in products for specific uses, for example VeinViewer that helps doctors identify veins on patients for injections by projecting an image directly on the skin.
New levels of 3D printing
3D printing is increasingly being used for not just prototyping, but also actual production. As printing with an even wider range of materials is made possible – including advanced nickel alloys, carbon fiber, glass, pharmaceuticals and biological materials – the practical application of 3D printing will expand into industries such as aerospace, medical, automotive and military
Recent advances also make it possible to mix multiple materials together, making it possible to 3D print complete products in one build, even if they include electronic parts. This will be useful in a variety of settings, for example for printing specific tools or parts for repairs, or in field operations.
More inspiration on how 3D-printing can change how we understand and develop new products right here.
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