One day – and that day is not far off – the technology mentioned in this article will allow you to actually teleport over long distances and live to feel the handshakes and hugs of other cyber travelers. Also, anthropomorphic robots (as well as robots resembling animals) designed to communicate with people are about to become a daily occurrence; a system capable of pinpointing the exact source waste; DNA-based data storage systems, where a huge amount of information can be securely stored; and much more.
Can the proposed technologies bring significant benefits to society and the economy? Can they change the way we act? When necessary, the group sought additional information and refined the list of candidates during four meetings in absentia.
We hope that you will be satisfied with the result, and we will be glad to receive your comments.
Environment: bioplastics can solve a serious problem of pollution
Advanced solvents and enzymes turn wood waste into better biodegradable plastics.
Javier Garcia Martinez
Our civilization is built on plastic. At the same time, less than 15% of the used plastic is recycled. Most plastic waste is incinerated, ends up in landfills, or is released into the environment, where, being resistant to biodegradation, plastic can last for hundreds of years. Plastic debris that accumulates in the ocean causes many problems, from the death of animals ingested by mistake, to the release of toxic compounds into the water. Through infected fish, plastic can also enter the human body.
Biodegradable plastics can partly relieve us of these problems and bring us closer to the goal – a “zero waste” economy, in which plastic is made from biomass and transformed into it after use. Just as standard plastics are made from petrochemicals, their biodegradable versions are made up of polymers (long-chain molecules) that can be molded into a variety of shapes when in a liquid state. However, currently available versions of such plastics – mainly made from corn, sugar cane or waste fats and oils.
as a rule cannot boast of mechanical strength and visual characteristics that meet accepted standards. A recent innovative solution to produce plastics from cellulose or lignin (the stiff walls of plant cells) will most likely help to get rid of these shortcomings. Another positive for the environment is that cellulose and lignin can be obtained from non-food plants, such as arundo cane, which can be grown on marginal land that is not suitable for food crops, or from wood waste and agricultural by-products, which otherwise they would be of no use.
Genetically engineered enzymes, like those found in fungi and bacteria, are then able to break down dissolved lignin into its individual components.
Either way, new methods for producing biodegradable plastics are a great example of how cleaner solvents and more efficient biocatalysts can help create a circular economy in large-scale industry.
Technical developments: social robots that are easy to get along with
Robots – friends and helpers penetrate deeper into our lives.
Corinna E. Lathan and Geoffrey Ling
In industry and medicine, the use of robots in the construction, disassembly and inspection of things has become commonplace; they also assist surgeons during surgeries and dispense prescription drugs from pharmacies. Neither they nor the “social” robots – designed to interact with people and establish an emotional connection – behave like the maid Rosie from the Jetsons series or some other anthropomorphic robot we love from films and books. And yet, in the next few years, social robots should become more sophisticated and widespread. The field appears to be at a turning point: Robots today are more interactive and perform more useful tasks than ever before.
As a result, social robots are beginning to play more and more diverse roles. So, a 47-inch humanoid robot named Pepper (from SoftBank Robotics) recognizes faces and basic human emotions and participates in conversations through a touch screen located in his “chest”. About 15,000 of these Peppers around the world serve as hotel receptionists, serve customers at the airport.
help with shopping and process fast food orders. Temi (from Temi USA) and Lumo (from Segway Robotics) are next-generation personal assistants that are similar to Amazon Echo and Google Home, but are mobile and provide a new level of functionality. So, Lumo not only plays the role of a companion, but on command can transform into a scooter for movement.
Social robots are especially needed in order to help the elderly, whose number is steadily growing in the world. PARO Therapeutic Robot (PARO, developed by the Japan National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology), which looks like a fluffy fur seal, is designed to stimulate and reduce stress in people with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other patients in medical institutions: the robot responds to its name with a movement heads and asks for affection.
Mabu (from Catalia Health) provides patients, especially the elderly, with wellness assistance by reminding them to go for walks and take their medications, and to call their family members. Social robots are also gaining popularity among consumers as toys. Early attempts to imbue toys with social behavior, such as Hasbro’s Baby Alive and Sony’s AIBO robot, met with limited success. But today, both robots are getting a new life: the latest version of AIBO has sophisticated voice and gesture recognition, can learn tricks, and develop new behaviors based on previous interactions.
However, the robots continue to line up to replace those that have already fallen into disuse, such as BUDDY from Blue Frog Robotics, a big-eyed mobile device that not only acts as a personal assistant and provides home automation and security, but also can play with you.
Technical Solutions: Tiny Lenses Will Enable Miniature Optical Devices
Now it will be possible to control light with the help of thin and flat metal lenses, which will replace bulky optics.
As phones, computers, and other electronics shrink before our eyes, their optical components stubbornly refuse to follow suit. It is worth noting that making tiny lenses using traditional glass cutting and bending techniques is quite difficult, and glass lens elements often need to be stacked in multiple layers in order to properly focus the light. Recently, engineers have discovered the physical laws behind the much smaller and lighter alternatives known as metalens.