Things are looking pretty bleak right now. But, the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. So Business Week asked several futurists, including Futurist.com’s Glen Hiemstra, consultant David Zach, and author Howard Rheingold, to describe what they’d like to see arise from 27-Future Invention And Innovation Ideas.
Notably, our experts didn’t think of innovation merely in terms of products or services. These ideas will change the way humans interact with the earth—and with each other.
1. Ocean-Driven Hydro Power
Till now, hydro power has mostly been generated at dams. Now, turbines around the world are being designed to harness the power of the ocean. Blue Energy Canada is close to commercializing a turbine that captures energy from ocean currents and already has purchase power agreements in India, Indonesia, and New Zealand. With a set of subway-size floating turbines, Pelamis Wave Power is converting wave power into electricity off the coast of Scotland.
2. Miniaturized Medical Equipment
Truly tiny implants that can test, diagnose, and even alert doctors to problems with their patients will replace costly routine visits. Researchers in the Netherlands say they’ve developed a pill that can be loaded with medicine and programmed to travel to a specific part of the body to unload it. A pen-size device is being developed at the University of Texas that can detect skin cancer without the need for a biopsy.
3. Printing 3D
It has been around for a while, but 3D printing is becoming more affordable, which in itself will unleash a host of new inventions and applications, pushing beyond prototypes and models. Scientists have been experimenting using the technology to reconstruct human tissue.
4. Even Smarter Apps
Mobile applications can already identify what song is playing, point you to a nearby restaurant, or manage your social networking utilities, but that was just the start. The relatively low cost of entry and the speed at which an app hits or misses creates a environment ripe for breakthrough innovation. What’s next could be the first big business to arise from the downturn.
5. Next-Generation Bio-Fuels
The first round of biofuels caused a spike in global food prices. Now companies are developing the next generation from non-edible sources. Scientists at ADM (ADM) are creating cellulosic ethanol from corn stover and other companies are experimenting with switchgrass, woodchips, and miscanthus.
6. Electric Avenues
While Detroit struggles, would-be automakers are getting in on the action, with a host of electric vehicles now in various states of readiness to roll. Shai Agassi’s Better Place is proposing a network of stations where drivers of electric cars can exchange dying batteries for ones freshly charged. For its part, GM’s (GM) Chevy Volt is due in 2010.
7. Truly “On-Demand” Entertainment
As entertainment technologies converge, we’re better able to watch, listen, or read anything we want any time we want. The Netflix Player by Roku streams an ever-growing library of Netflix and Amazon content directly to the TV. Apple TV offers both shows and movies for purchase or rental. Open-source media software, Boxee, aims to run on all third-party streaming boxes and plans to release its own box, too. Soon, these systems won’t only be for the alpha geeks.
8. Nanotech Computing
In Chicago, two separate teams recently made breakthroughs that dramatically shrink the size of electronics. One team’s new transistors allow for processors that will make silicon chips seem gigantic. The other came up with film material that can store the equivalent of 250 DVDs on the space of a quarter.
9. Cure for Cancer
Huge advances are being made that could some day eradicate cancer, AIDS, brain tumors, prostate cancer, and other diseases. Nanotech medicine provides a more targeted delivery to cells than chemotherapy or other treatments, which means doctors can lower dosages to minimize side effects.
10. Learning to “Feel the Force”
New toys will hark back to the 1980s, when science and math ruled the store shelves, but will have a futuristic twist. This Star Wars “Force Trainer” toy, which comes out in July 2009, measures a child’s brain waves. The child then concentrates to control the ball in the tube.
11. Body Power
Researchers are coming up with ways to re-channel the body’s natural energies to power electrical devices. Scientists at the Energy Dept.’s Berkeley Lab announced breakthroughs in silicon nano-wire based converters that could let someone charge a cell phone with body heat or charge an iPod through walking.
12. Smarter Crowdsourcing
Harnessing the power of the crowd has been a big trend in recent years: See Wikipedia. The concept will become more sophisticated, as movies, video games, advertising and translating services are now all being developed to capitalize on thousands of hours of freely given labor.
13. Social Media Literacy
Sure, many people are deeply embedded in the world of social networks, but much of the world’s population still couldn’t tell a forum from a wiki. This will change, and as social media applications become assumed, rather than newsworthy, corporations would be wise to ensure their employees are up to speed.
14. New Banking Systems
Although many blame financial innovation for getting us into the current mess, experts agree on the need for a far-reaching overhaul of the global financial system, from the individual level right up to the top of the tree.
15. Pop-Up Businesses
Futurist David Zach, who consults with companies such as 3M (MMM) and Abbott Labboratories (ABT) on emerging business trends, sees success for companies that tackle a single project before disbanding. They will assemble teams, rent temporary office spaces, and satisfy a certain need. When the job’s over, they scatter, and all move on to a new project.
16. Reformed Urban Transit Systems
In cities such as Chicago, technology enables commuters to track the (natural gas-powered) buses. Vehicle-sharing companies like Zipcar and iGo (IGOI) are gaining momentum, and bicycle sharing services are becoming popular. European cities have already had success in creating networks of eco-friendly cars, bikes, and trains for commuters to share, but other parts of the world are lagging. This will change.
17. Cure for Alzheimer’s
Biotech drugs, which are made from living cells, provide some of the best efforts at curing diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and HIV. Recently, the Food & Drug Administration approved a drug made from bioengineered goats that treats patients with a rare blood clotting disorder. A report from the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America from late 2008 claimed there are 633 new drugs from bioengineered materials in the works.
18. Pop-Up Housing
PFNC, an El Paso company, is refurbishing leftover shipping containers into housing units for people living in dangerous or substandard conditions. The company says that each unit will include First World amenities for less than $10,000 (they should be available mid-2009.) They’re first going to folks in Juárez, Mexico, where chronic housing shortages have led to huge slums.
19. Super-High-Speed Internet
While parts of Asia and Europe enjoy speedy Internet, much of the rest of the world can often feel as if it’s still on dial-up. Efforts to build nationwide WiMax networks (high speed wireless) have fizzled. Without fast connections, services like Internet video, online banking, and business telecommunications are stymied. The ability to access the marketplace from anywhere will reduce costs, expand networks, and save time.
20. Supercharged Batteries
Millions of dollars are being poured into research to develop the next great battery technology. Longer charges on fewer cycles are needed to power electric cars, handheld devices, home appliances, and backup systems for when, say, the wind turbines stop turning.
21. Food Pills
It’s an imagine researchers to make a food pill which can fulfill the daily calorie demands of human. If they invent a pill which can provide calorie and other nutrients then it isn’t only assist ladies to get rid of food preparation and use their time effectively in more other productive work however it’ll eliminate the need to grow crops and expolite natural farmland and forest. Plus no have to kill animals for its protein. Though it looks like an uninteresting idea due to the fact that we eat food due to the fact that it tastes good not just for calorie sake. Still it’s a development we all would like having it.
22. Self-Driven Car
We all choose to have an individual vehicle to have privacy and freedom to stop anywhere or pick our favorite means to reach the destination however at the exact same time we dislike to drive every day from home to and office to home, driving all the method to highway to reach another town. We want the comfy bus or train flight so you can chat with co guests, drink or have a nap while motorist takes you to your destination. That implies all of us should’ve a chauffeur-driven automobile, No we want to have a personal vehicle which can drive itself. Well, it’s under research and some tests have actually already been taken. However it’s still not ready for common individuals.
23. Personal Jet Pack
Personal jetpacks are there to go from one location to another without having requirement of an airplane. A jetpack is developed in 2011, by a New Zealand company which can remain up for half an hour and go up to 5,000 feet high altitude, however, it isn’t for public yet.
24. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial knowledge, is something all of us have actually been discussing for numerous decades now. But it doesn’t appear to develop into a truth. No doubt computer can work quicker than human, can calculate faster, and does multiple things at one time in much faster and effective means than we can ever think of. However can a computer actually work like human brain, can it truly accomplish intelligence as human brain? It doesn’t appear a truth because computer system can just work on commands, which is fed by human in its system. Human brain works different than a computer system. We’ve no idea how human brain in fact work, so how we can replicate it? However experts are still hopeful and so do we!
25. Robot Servants
How great it would be to have a servant or maid who’d work 24 hours and don’t whine, do not take vacations and don’t get tired even if it does, just recharge it for few minutes. We wear’ have to worry about them taking our belongings or gossip with neighbors. We currently have a robot which can do house hold tasks very well like vacuuming and cleaning but only the stuff which is programmed in it. Now we’re waiting for a robotic that can have the ability to perform on commands given by us and have AI (Expert system).
26. Underwater City
Underwater world is something we’ve seen in sci-fi films or mythical dramas. However for a typical people there’s no requirement of going under water to discover an environment. Although it’s shown that human can stay under water for lengthen duration. There are few projects had been introduced however didn’t ended up being effective because it isn’t only pricey but not needed at the minute however people still fantasied about living under sea water and be the part of ocean.
27. Flying Cars
Flying vehicle is a fiction gizmo all of us were dreaming since we’ve got planes, researchers are dreaming to have a car which is a mix of a car and a plane, which can be utilized as a car for everyday use. It can resolve the problem of traffic and roadway mishaps. Have you considered an automobile coming banging with your window? No concerns, we’ll get utilized to it.