Many people are looking forward to the day when humans can upload their minds to a computer, transcending these fat sacks of flesh, thus achieving immortality. While this may seem like a sci-fi plotline, we've actually come one step closer to making it a reality. A group of scientists have mapped the neural connectors in a roundworm, and created a software program that simulates them. The scientists then uploaded that software to a Lego car. While this is a small step towards human transcendence, it demonstrates the immense computer power we've still yet to harness.
2. Skype Translator
Skype just released an app that translates languages in real time. Computer translation is nothing new, but Skype's new program actually translates as the words are spoken. Translation tools like these will lead us to a world free of language boundaries, once the technology is widely adapted.
The number of planets discovered this year compared to other years is completely astounding. In 2014, NASA reported nearly 800 planetary discoveries. Compared with last year's count under 200, and only a few more the year before, NASA has completely dwarfed its own record. Astronomers are predicting another 20,000 alien planets will be discovered in the next five years alone, with new technology and spacecraft. Taking into account the extra $500 million granted to NASA by the US government for 2015, we may be searching for a new final frontier sometime soon.
Bionic and prosthetic limbs have signaled the beginning of a strange new world. The biggest shortcoming is that, for the most part, these prosthetics are purely cosmetic. However, in a recently-published journal on skin prosthetics, South Korean researchers of Seoul National University described "smart skin," or an ultra-thin material that accurately simulates the neural circuits associated with mechanical and thermal sensation. Within the next 10 years, I expect many disabled humans will feel very grateful to live in such a time. But within the next 30, we may meet a robot who can feel just like us.
Already known as the material of the future, graphene is only 1 atom thick, 100 times stronger than steel, and more conductive than any other material known to man. This means that most of our computer parts will be made of graphene in the next decade or so, making them stronger and faster than ever by a gigantic margin. And just recently, scientists figured out how to produce it extremely cheaply.
6. Jibo the Social Robot
Artifical Intelligence is making its way into the mainstream, and 2014 saw some incredible examples of friendly AI. Jibo, marketed as the first family-friendly robot, can remember and recognize faces, hold a conversation, and Google anything for you. Amazon also released its own home AI, though from a completely different approach. Amazon Echo is a short, black pillar with capibalities like voice recognition and complete access to the web. What's more, Amazon claims that Echo will actually learn as it gets older, thanks to its Cloud connection. We've seen our fair share of gimmicky robots in the past, but this is could be the year when helpful robots were taken seriously.
In March, Facebook announced its acquisition of start-up virtual reality company Oculus Rift for $2 billion. That probably seems ridiculous to those of us whose last idea of virtual reality came from Nintendo's ill-fated Virtual Boy in the 90s. But now, virtual reality is all grown up. Samsung just released a VR headset that could attach to your phone, marking the first of what will undoubtedly be many forays into the world of virtual reality by huge tech companies. And in the last month or so, VR technicians announced the use of ultrahaptic waves to give VR users a sense of touch, which means these virtual worlds will only become more immersive. Expect VR to become the primary way in which we consume media in the coming years.