Don’t give up on teleporting your body, flying cars or hoverboards just yet! As technology marches relentlessly on, everything goes into development sooner or later—as demonstrated by the existence of these things, which we’ll almost certainly see within our lifetimes.
Regeneration of body parts in humans seems permanently consigned to the realm of science fiction, even though many species of animals are able to completely re-grow lost parts. It’s long been known that alligators are able to re-grow lost teeth, for example, but it was assumed to be a cyclical process, like snakes shedding their skin periodically. Scientists have recently discovered that this is not the case: An alligator’s tooth will grow back automatically to replace a lost one. This is quite significant because the structure of alligators’ teeth is pretty similar to ours (humans).
The problem has been that the inner areas of teeth contain living tissue known as “pulp” that doesn’t grow back. But the solution may have been found in stem cells: Scientists in multiple countries are trying to figure out how to get them to produce the correct tissues and structure for the given situation on demand. A University of Utah study in November 2012 confirmed that this could be done in a lab. Perfection of this technology could result in the potential end of tooth decay, gum disease, fillings, and root canals. Therefore, if you are a Dentist today or in the future then your consultation and professional services line items are on the increase.
While Ultra High Definition TV is on the way, there are really only so many pixels you can cram into a flat display—most existing models are 214-centimeter (84 in) monsters for that very reason. But the next generation of TVs, if you can call them that, won’t have screens so much as they’ll have a viewing area. As seen above, it could be a desktop display, or it could be an entire room—but holographic displays are definitely in the works.
Researchers at MIT, who are apparently good at the cutting-edge technology thing (hence the “T”), have created a chip that can support a holographic display of 50 gigapixels per second—enough to simulate real world objects, as reported in the journal Nature. Such amazing technology will have to wait to come to marketplace, though, until costs can be driven down—right? Well, says Michael Bove, head of MIT’s Object-Based Media group: “The technology itself is one that’s easy and inexpensive and, as far as we are aware and Nature is aware, has never been applied to displays before.” He foresees holographic displays on the market within 10 years—at the same cost as today’s regular, flat TVs. Another company, Provision, has built an inexpensive projector that displays a 45-centimeter (18 in) image. As of this writing, they’re working on ramping that up to a two-meter (six-foot) image, displayed by a unit the size of a toaster.
At RAL Space in Oxford, scientists are building two video cameras quite unlike any other. Meter-long tubes packed with electronics and mirrors, these cameras are to be mounted to the outside of the International Space Station. But their purpose isn’t to capture images of space—they’ll be pointed toward the Earth. And while the resolution won’t be great (roughly a meter per pixel) it will be a real-time, streaming, live video of the entire planet.
Meanwhile, some Georgia Tech researchers are taking a slightly different approach toward the same ends. They take footage from the many live video feeds around the world and use it to layer complex animations on top of Google Earth, sometimes piecing together multiple camera angles to extrapolate the desired information. While currently focusing on people and cars, they’d like to add animals and weather conditions soon.