Co-written by Sophi Kravitz.
Someday you will speak a phrase into your smartphone — “dinner for two on Friday and movie after” — and the software will go to work. It will connect to your personal data — your location, your dining and film preferences.
This was a prediction made by Qi Lu in 2011 that came true by the end of the decade. As we go into 2020 our smartphones can do that and so much more: they know where we are, they report where we are, and they’ve fractured our attention.
These are our picks for some of the most incredible tech breakthroughs of the last decade.
In 2010, We Got Implants
- Implantable medical devices found their footing with Tuft University biomedical engineer Fiorenzo Omenetto’s design that used silk as a basis for devices that could track vitals, perform blood tests, and break down within the body when no longer needed.
- In 2019, biomedical implantable devices are still a major topic of discussion, namely the moral, legal, business, religious, and philosophical concepts associated with it.
In 2011, We Glimpsed The Future
- We loved reading a 2011 prediction about Microsoft’s Bing from Qi Lu, one of the people behind the search engine in this New York Times article. The goal [of Bing], Mr. Lu says, is that someday you will speak a phrase into your smartphone — “dinner for two on Friday and movie after” — and the software will go to work. It will connect to your personal data — your location, your dining and film preferences. It will then connect to dining and restaurant reservation applications… (Source: The New York Times)
In 2012, Virtual Met Reality
- In 2012, one of the first consumer Virtual Reality headsets (the first head mounted VR set was patented by Morton Heilig in 1969) was developed by Oculus. The early part of the decade was filled with early consumer VR headsets by Oculus, SONY, HTC, and others.
- By 2013 Virtual Reality had well known projects like Paperdude: riding a real bicycle in a virtual world, and Birdie: flying over the virtual world in a real world flying contraption, were traveling around fairs and helping make VR known to the mainstream.
In 2013, The Oceans Mattered and Watches Became Smart
- In 2013 Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, aged 18, founded The Ocean Cleanup, a program to remove garbage from the world’s oceans.
- The Ocean Cleanup completed Mission One in December of 2019. The plastic gathered will be transformed into sustainable products that in turn will finance future operations.
- Their current goal is to reach a 90% reduction in floating ocean plastic by 2040.
- In 2013, smart watches hit the mainstream, fueled in part by Pebble’s 2012 $10.3M Kickstarter. As of July 2013, smartwatch development was happening at Acer, Apple, BlackBerry, Foxconn/Hon Hai, Google, LG, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony, VESAG and Toshiba. (Source: Wikipedia)
In 2014, Old Ideas Became New Again
- In October of 2014, Lockheed Martin announced that their Skunk Works® team was working on a new type of compact fusion reactor (CFR)
- Fusion reactors are nothing new, but this new project promised a 90% reduction in size over prior concepts and alternative magnetic confinement.
- Lockheed Martin completed their fifth prototype, dubbed T5, in July of 2019.
- Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy filed a patent for their own CFR design in October of 2019 as well.
- The design comes from Salvatore Pais, who is known for creating outlandish patents that border on the realm of science fiction.
In 2015, Reusable Rockets Became a Reality
- After a rough launch in June of 2015 where SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded on its way to the International Space Station, the private space firm had a stroke of luck.
- In December of 2015, SpaceX successfully landed a Falcon 9 rocket upright at the landing pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the first time anyone had landed a rocket that went this far into space.
- In 2019, Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin successfully launched and landed their New Shepherd rocket five times.
- Both space tourism and the private space race are strong concepts going into the next decade, with lofty goals on both sides.
In 2016, Our Devices Wanted to Help
- Siri was the first Voice Assistant, released as an app in 2010, and on iPhone in 2011.
- By 2016 Siri is used widely, as is Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana. In 2014, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and the Echo smart speaker joined the voice assistant party.
- In 2016, Google announced at Google I/O that 20 percent of all Google search queries are by voice. (Source: Vox)
In 2017, Toyota Made a Promise
- Toyota announced plans in 2017 to have solid-state batteries in electric cars by 2020.
- Solid-state batteries use solid materials for both the electrodes and the electrolyte, as opposed to liquid or gel in typical batteries.
- In November of 2019, researchers at Australia’s Deakin University announced that they achieved double-density solid state lithium batteries using common industrial polymers.
- Solid-state batteries in vehicles could offer significantly extended ranges, smaller and lighter designs, and don’t run the risk of exploding or catching fire if they overheat.
In 2018, Machines Acquired Imagination
- A generative adversarial network (GAN) is a class of machine learning systems invented by Ian Goodfellow and his colleagues in 2014. (Source: Wikipedia)
- Given a training set, a neural network using this technique learns to generate new data with the same parts as the training set.
- StyleGAN is a GAN designed by Nvidia researchers in 2018. It was open sourced in February 2019.
- This Person Does Not Exist was created by software engineer Phillip Wang and was developed using StyleGAN. This is a great example of machines coming up with their own compilations.
In 2019 Meat Became Impossible and Flexitarian Diets Became Mainstream
- Meat consumption is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting down on meat consumption is good for the environment. (Source: Environmental Working Group)
- Beyond Meat, a meat alternative that looks and tastes like real meat hit the flexitarian mainstream with their offering first.
- In 2019, Burger King launched the Impossible™ Whopper® and it generated headlines around the world.
In 2020, We Have a Choice to Make
- Our privacy is in danger, but it’s not gone yet. It’s just extremely difficult to manage your data in a world that’s designed to gather as much as possible.
- New companies are emerging to help people take back control of their data. Jumbo is one such example that you can use on your smartphone.
- Prediction from Sophi Kravitz: In the coming decade, we will separate the alarm clock, MP3 players, and other functions from our smartphones. Minimalist phones will achieve mainstream adoption. Attention de-fracturing will become a big industry.
- Prediction from Sophi Kravitz: We will also see the rise of verified media outlets that are fact-checked by bots in the next two years.
- Prediction from Bradley Ramsey: Thanks to recent breakthroughs in quantum computing technology, we’re going to see a faster adoption of this tech in the coming decade than we originally predicted. This will lead to numerous new breakthroughs, use cases, and even possible answers to the fundamental mysteries of our universe.
- Prediction from Bradley Ramsey: Immersive tech like AR and VR has been on the fringe of mainstream success, but in 2020 and beyond we will finally see it take hold in a variety of industries as it evolves to the point where technology is no longer holding it back from being truly immersive.