It’s that time of the year again!
We’ve put together a list of the cream of the crop of new innovations that we think have pushed the envelope in what technology can do.
These technologies define 2016—be it innovations that expanded what current technology can do, new creations that solve seemingly unsolvable problems, technologies that should have been obvious to us from the start, and even new innovations that are just plain cool.
So sit back and marvel at the height of human imagination. Who knows what we will come up with in 2017?
Toyota’s Kirobo Mini
It would not do to have one of these lists if it does not contain at least one entry from Japan’s robotics.
Kiribo Mini was built to serve as a caregiver for the growing Japanese elderly population. It’s described as “a miniature communication partner developed to provide companionship”.
The 4-inch high gizmo can apparently hold conversations and even respond to facial expressions. The Kirobo Mini will also remember its companion’s likes and dislikes, as well as the ups-and-downs that they share with the companions.
Between this, last year’s receptionist robot and robots that can come up with solutions among themselves and teach each other, we might as well just start preparing our offerings for when our robot overlords finally take over.
Sisyphus—The Kinetic Art Table
Science developed by an artist at heart. Creator Bruce Shapiro has designed a table with a glass top, with a thin layer of sand underneath.
Rolling through the sand is a robot-powered magnet that makes intricate patterns in the grains. Much like Sisyphus rolling his boulder, the little metal ball will continuously roll through sand, erasing and creating in an endless loop. Watching the hypnotising sand would change your coffee breaks forever. Ask your boss about getting one of these for the office.
“What music brings to your ears, Sisyphus brings to your eyes.” says Bruce Shapiro. And what music indeed.
Perhaps one of the newest entries on this list, the supercapacitor battery can soon replace your phone’s lithium-ion batteries and charge in a matter of seconds.
“If they were to replace the batteries with these supercapacitors, you could charge your mobile phone in a few seconds and you wouldn’t need to charge it again for over a week,” said one of the researchers, Nitin Choudhary, from the University of Central Florida.
Supercapacitors have incredible potential for powering our devices, but until now they do not store as much energy as batteries. However, a newly discovered manufacturing technique could change all that, and give us the battery life that we all truly deserve.
China’s Elevated Bus
Perhaps the government can find it in their budget to work on this along with the MRT project. What may look like a tunnel is actually the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB), which is a bus that is able to run on ordinary roads: by gliding over top of the traffic as other vehicles pass by harmlessly under it.
While it is not a new idea, Chinese engineers were finally able to turn its computer renderings into reality this August when the first version of this unusual bus, with a maximum capacity of 300 pax.
It went on its maiden test run in Qinhuangdao City in the northern Hebei province. Maybe there will finally be an actual solution to our Federal bottleneck woes.
We should note that experts have already started questioning the safety and practicality of the technology. Only time will tell if this idea manages to take off.
TAPP: The World’s First Smart Fingerprint Padlock
Did you know that the lighter was invented before the match?
Sometimes innovation means simplifying something that should have been obvious. I bring this up because it does seem odd that we came up with the concept of fingerprint scanning for our iPhones before our padlocks.
Never worry about losing your keys, forgetting your combination code or getting your locks picked again. Tapp is also made from a material that is both lightweight and strong, which increases its practicality. Again, so simple.
As if plucked straight from a Star Wars fan’s wet dream, Microsoft’s Hololens technology first debuted in June last year, but it wasn’t until Microsoft finally dropped a video that the hype became real, as it showcased the full potential of what “holoportation” can do.
“Holoportation” refers to the process that creates holograms from live video. The video shows that the viewer is able to interact with the projections as if having face-to-face conversations with someone who is actually there.
Very soon, perhaps even something of this calibre can one day be in an app on your iPhone 12S.
EVO : The Ultimate Companion for your smartphone
If some innovations lie in simplicity, others may lie in making life simpler.
This is where Evo comes in, marketed as the ultimate smartphone companion. Its functions include a charger, battery, Bluetooth tracker, remote, SD card reader and Smart Stand.
Unfortunately Evo’s Kickstarter project funding goal was not reached in March this year, but perhaps there is a way for the developers to rethink and resubmit their idea again, perhaps to a more global audience?
Microsoft appears again as an innovator with the widely talked about Surface Dial.
To be sold as a companion to their Surface series, the Surface Dial simply looks like a 2.5-inch aluminium cylinder. If you have a Windows 10 device however, the Surface Dial serves as a physical incarnation of the radial menu that Microsoft has created.
In a way, they have made tangible what was not before.
Pressing and holding down the Surface Dial will activate the menu, which can be interacted with by rotating it left and right. It is also able to provide tactile feedback. Perhaps there is a potential for a game developed for the Surface Dial? Only the future may know.
Who in Malaysia can forget the iconic Subang Jaya music video? The 360 camera needs no explanation and seemingly came out of nowhere to wow everyone with its amazing features.
While it has somewhat died down by now, there was once upon a time when the 360 camera was used for everything, ranging from panorama shots to donation requests. There is even potential for journalistic photography in the camera, with the ability to better convey a scene to viewers.
This technology came in the time where smartphone usage of Facebook is off the charts. It came and went, but hopefully this is not the end for the little camera that could.
The geniuses behind this company pinpointed the exact problem with Virtual Reality headsets and solved them immediately. Instead of just standing in place, waving joysticks around, a Virtuix Omni rig enables the user to have the ultimate immersive experience in games that are controlled by first-person.
After Pokémon Go, the Omni might just be the next best way for hardened couch potato gamers to exercise. Pretty soon, the stereotype for Geek is going to include the figure of a gym-rat.
Speaking of Pokémon Go…
Augmented Reality Games
Augmented reality has existed for a long time, but it was not until the Smartphone age that this piece of technology finally gained its momentum. Everyone knows (and perhaps tried) Pokémon Go, but it was of course only the stepping stone that brings on the public’s thirst for more.
It might come as no surprise that other games have picked up what Pokémon Go was throwing down, with entries like Mystic Messenger (Augmented Reality dating game from S. Korea) and Night Terrors (Pokémon Go for horror fans currently still on Indiegogo).
Pokémon Go might have gone with the hype train, but it seems that augmented reality is here to stay.