Futurizon’s top twenty inventions for the next decade
Futurizon works with almost every industry sector. When studying the new science and technology coming over the horizon all the time, it is hard for an engineer not to invent things. Here are just 20 of Futurizon’s inventions that could become real in the next decade, some are already starting.
1.Active contact lens
This one actually goes back to 1991. A contact lens with an array of LEDs would work OK, and Google are working on that now, but in 1995, I updated the design to use three lasers on the edge directed to a micromirror in the centre that raster scans the beam across the retina. That is far more scalable and likely to offer far better performance than using the LED array. The lens can also record video of anything the user looks at, and can offer variable transparency to allow anything from total reality to total virtuality, via augmented reality in between.
2.Smart pastes/digital fluids
Suspensions of processor, storage, sensor and comms particles can be used to make smart gels and pastes that can stay in a jar or be painted onto surfaces to offer distributed sensor nets, processing engines, or assorted components of cloud infrastructure. Adding micro-mechanical or shape change components could produce pastes with variable appearance that can actually make physical inputs to the environment.
3. Gel processor
A gel processor is a specific example of a digital fluid that offers a large number of processing cores (and memory) held in suspension that can use free-space optical to communicate, making wiring much easier. The gel cools the cores, which are powered by rapidly changing EM fields
4. Conscious computer
Machine consciousness could be developed using smart gel processors with sophisticated evolutionary algorithms. The gel would contain large diversity of processing particles that can form adaptable circuits rather like dynamic FPGAs, only allowing adaptive analog circuits as well as digital to be made. Symmetrical sensory circuits with strong feedback would be one of the main components.
5. Sponge nets
Sponge nets are a form of ad-hoc or mesh network with an extremely high number and diversity of links. Probably using digital jewellery, many devices on one person would communicate with many devices on others nearby to offer large number of channels and high aggregated bandwidth. It is likely to occur as a response to increasing surveillance since sponge nets could be made hard to monitor.
6. Smart makeup
Smart makeup is a special kind of digital fluid or paste that contains microscopic plates that can be oriented by means of electric or magnetic field or chemical phase change in the suspending medium. Self-organising into clusters on applications, and picking up their relative location, they could be used all over the face with their behaviour determined by their location. Changing the alignment of these particles could create a large range of potential colours using diffraction or other optical effect.
7. Smart fuses
Instead of having complex management systems linking to embedded electronics in everyday electronic devices like usual internet-of-things thinking, a smart fuse would simple replace a conventional fuse in an electrical plug, with miniaturised electronics inside it to do the task needed. This can achieve a range of electrical and electronic goals. Smart meters could easily be replaced far more cheaply by smart fuses.
8. 3D printed minis instead of business cards
3D printers can make miniature replicas of a person that could be used as business cards or as collectables. Although we had the idea a few years ago, Amazon have since started offering something along these lines. Ideas such as this probably occur to 90% of engineers within minutes of their first thoughts about 3D printing. That doesn’t detract from its potential for fun.
9.Variable grip tyres, gloves, shoes
Tiny A-shaped components could be embedded within the rubber of a tyre, or gloves or shoes obviously. By pulling together the base of the A, the tip is pushed up and would therefore stick out from the surface, increasing grip. Obviously only the ones near the surface would have any effect, and as they wear away, new ones would reach the surface. Pulling the base together would use polymer muscle fibre or any shape-change mechanism that enables contraction. Control would be electrical. Variable grip tyres could be optimised to give good wear during straight cruising and increased grip for cornering acceleration of braking.
10. Facebook/Player Cards
Cheap playing card sized displays, either linked to the net or to an app on a smartphone for updating. Each card would be a dedicated display showing a photo of a close friend or favourite celeb or football player, together with updates from their Facebook or twitter accounts etc.
11. Dream linking
A smart alarm clock would detect when you are in REM sleep via sensors in your pillow or worn. It might delay an alarm a few minutes to avoid wrecking a dream (though you’d have to allow for that when setting it). Recognising signals associated with certain though patterns, it could determine the likely content of your dream and input relevant audio to enhance or reinforce it. If a friend is also in a dream state, the dream of one person could be used to determine inputs to the other, hence dream linking.
12. Active skin
A very large field covering electronics printed on any of several layers of the skin, from within the skin itself, connecting to nerves to record and replay sensations, or blood capillaries to monitor health, through security tattoos, video displays and smart membranes on the surface and detachable devices that link your body to the web.
13. Wind harvester
Using plastic capacitors that are forced to change shape as they spin on specially designed spindles, and directly generate electricity, millions of these would form a large sail that collapses and vanishes from the distant view when the wind stops, inflating only when it blows. It wouldn’t chop up eagles, create lots of noise, wouldn’t look as unsightly as turbines, and are likely to fall in cost according to Moore’s Law. The starting point is about the same price level as conventional turbines for the same power level.
14. Plastic reefs
Disposing of plastic by making it into large weighted bales, these could be used in the sea as coastal protection instead of concrete (which makes a lot of CO2 during fabrication). Over time, the bales would be colonised by marine life to make reefs. Creating new marine ecosystems, eventually reclaimed land, reducing erosion, and avoiding CO2 production and reducing cost as well as landfill use, there are only a few small disadvantages so they should be worthwhile overall.
15. Waffles to prevent soil erosion
Printing a waffle pattern onto a field after ploughing and levelling it, the walls of the waffle would slow rainwater from running off long enough for it to soak in. This would greatly reduce soil erosion. The waffles could be imprinted easily by the tractor towing a roller behind it, perhaps immediately behind the levelling tool.
16. Virtual watches and digital jewellery
With all the fuss over new smart watches, it is worth realising that watches could soon be purely virtual, appearing in an augmented reality HUD that we’re all likely to wear in the future. HUDs are likely to replace most displays we carry today, and would link to an assortment of digital jewellery devices. If you take away a display and keyboard, and associated batteries, the rest can shrink to jewellery size with correspondingly lower power consumption too.
17. Packetised electricity
Peer to peer energy marketing will grow as more homes and offices generate renewable energy. Adding a signal to the electricity is old technology but could be sued to create packets so that the energy could be labelled according to source and purpose. This allows a range of sophisticated services to be made, even using smart fuses. Some devices could be made to only uses certain packet types, allowing another mechanisms or power companies to ration electricity to certain appliances during busy times or to balance load to allow more efficient use of renewables.
18. Plasma force fields
Using high conductivity materials such as graphene, strong magnetic fields can be produced. Plasma can be contained and current can also be transmitted through the plasma. Making alternate thin layers of plasma, interactions between them would provide some physical resistance to movement as well as offering electrical shocks.
19. Graphene straw
Graphene readily allows water to pass through but not most impurities. A special straw with a graphene coating on the end could be used as an emergency water supply, allowing someone to suck pure water from a dirty disease-ridden puddle.
20. Linear induction bike lanes
A rubber mat could house a linear induction circuit that could propel a bicycle fitted with a metal plate attached to the front forks. The plate would ride close to the road surface so needs to be hinged, but otherwise would have minimal production cost and the system would have no other moving parts. Electrical supply could come from lamp posts so councils could lay electric bike lanes very cheaply. Enabling faster and easier cycling with no need to change and shower at the office would make more people use bikes more often.