4 More exciting emerging & future technologies

Technical knowledgeInsights06 September 2023Ephiny Gale
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Following on from our “4 Exciting emerging & future technologies” article published earlier this year, Calico is pleased to bring you an additional four of these amazing technologies that are captivating our team. As a digital agency committed to innovation, we continue to keep our fingers on the pulse of recent developments throughout the wider technology sphere.

1. Longevity extensions and de-ageing

Some of the items on these lists have the potential to radically alter our experience of being human, but perhaps none so much as the ability to turn back the ageing process and continue living for hundreds of years longer than our current lifespans.

At Harvard Medical School, a team of scientists has already succeeded in reversing the ageing of brains and muscles in mice, seemingly tapping into a cell’s ‘reset switch’ and renewing its ability to read the genome and regenerate itself. Elderly mice with damaged retinas can suddenly see as well as their offspring. Mice with dementia regain their memory. Although this technology may still take many years to be available to humans, these scientists are optimistic that it will happen and that they can turn ageing from an inevitability into a disease.

Aside from wanting to live in a youthful body at the age of 400, I’m also captivated by other potential consequences of this de-ageing technology becoming mainstream. Could we soon have pets that never die of old age? And if people think that they’ll be around for a potentially infinite amount of years to come, will that help to spur serious action on climate change? If everyone might still be alive in 200 years, wouldn’t they also want to have a livable world?

More information can be found here.

2. Self-driving cars and autonomous taxis

If it feels like you’ve been waiting for a self-driving car for a long time, good news: you may not have to wait much longer.

Mercedes-Benz has met the legal requirements for the first cars with Level 3 autonomy, allowing them to roll out their DRIVE PILOT equipment for use across 13,191 kilometres of German motorway. This Level 3 autonomy will allow users to “drive in conditionally automated mode at speeds of up to 60 km/h in heavy traffic or congested situations” while on these areas of motorway, says Mercedes-Benz. “The special DRIVE PILOT equipment takes the strain off the driver and allows him or her to perform ancillary tasks on the central display such as online shopping or processing e-mails in the in-car office.” This means that the car can drive autonomously under these conditions, and that while it’s self-driving it’s empowered to make decisions by itself, without insisting that the driver takes control. Test drives for this same system have also begun in China and the United States.

However, the future for autonomous driving may not be in the form of personal vehicles, but rather in the form of shared robototaxis. These robotaxis would be fully autonomous (as opposed to the Level 3 autonomous vehicles we’ve been discussing above), be specifically designed to take you directly from A to B, and when you weren’t using them they would be driving someone else. Already, limited robotaxi services are being offered in a small number of American cities, such as San Francisco, where two different robotaxi companies are seeking regulatory approval to take customers at all times of the day or night. Currently, Cruise is charging users for robotaxi rides in only less-crowded areas of San Francisco at nighttime, and Waymo has been offering free driverless rides throughout a wider range of the city.

More information can be found here.

3. Lab-grown meat and cellular agriculture

This is another emerging technology with the potential to transform our world. Lab-grown meat is becoming more and more accessible: where it cost 250,000 Euros to produce some cell-cultured hamburger meat in 2013, the same meat cost as low as $50 a pound in 2022, and the price is predicted to keep coming down. This technology works by extracting the cells of a living animal and then growing the meat directly from those cells, so that no animals are harmed to create this food.

Cellular agriculture doesn’t need to stop at just meat, either. Theoretically we could grow anything from cells that are currently sourced from animals or plants, including egg whites, milk and leather. Right now it’s already possible for us to buy dairy ice cream that’s made from cellular agriculture.

At scale, this technology could completely revolutionise the world’s agriculture and manufacturing industries. In addition to relieving animal suffering and replacing concerning or unsustainable farming practices, Isha Datar says that, “early estimates of cell-cultured meat's potential show that cultured meat would require 99 percent less land, 96 percent less water and produce 96 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions.” About 27% of the world’s land is currently used for livestock. If we can significantly reduce that amount due to cellular agriculture, we can expand and revitalise the ecosystems on those lands, which will help enormously to combat climate change. Reducing the number of cows on our planet will also help: 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions currently come from cows alone.

Additionally, there are exciting prospects for creating new, delicious foods that simply don’t exist today. For example, in addition to the sorts of meats we have right now, lab-grown meat could also be in liquid form, or it could be crunchy, or it could be translucent. I’m looking forward to the future of food.

More information can be found here.

4. Shared virtual spaces (AR & VR)

Lastly, let’s talk about the ability to share a space with someone who may be in another state or country. Remote working has exploded in popularity over the past couple of years, and even though most people don’t know about it yet, the next step in remote collaboration is already in use: holographic meetings.

The AR platform Spatial allows colleagues to feel like they’re sitting next to each other, regardless of how physically far away they may be. It works like this: Amy in Queensland creates an avatar of herself using Spatial and puts on an AR headset that tracks her body movements. James in Victoria puts on his AR glasses and can see Amy’s avatar display next to him, and he can see her gestures as she points to something floating in front of them (she’s sharing her screen). In this way, most of the benefits of physically working beside someone can be replicated virtually.

This same technology can be used for workshops and project rooms. Instead of teams sticking physical things on the wall of a meeting room (and then needing to strip their work down later) they can now do this virtually. They can fill a room with virtual sticky notes, pictures and diagrams that everyone can see, regardless of their location, and the configuration of this work can then be stored and accessed indefinitely.

More information can be found here.

Thank you for joining us as we explored some of the most exciting cutting-edge advancements that are currently being developed. In our ongoing quest to drive change, solve complex problems, and foster creative thinking, Calico will continue to stay across emerging and future technologies.

[Ephiny Gale is a Senior Project Manager at Calico. She has managed projects in the information technology and digital spaces for 7 years, and is a keen follower of emerging technologies across many disciplines.]

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