In last week’s blog article, we talked about how Gutenberg’s 16th century printing press unequivocally impacted the future of mankind and forever spurred forward the dissemination of knowledge, literacy and learning.
Sure, Gutenberg probably knew his creation was a big deal and would put books in the hands of many more people during his time. But he couldn’t have known how the tidal wave of knowledge summoned up by his printing press would ripple through time and influence billions of lives and centuries of history.
Unlike Gutenberg, the brilliant minds behind the four ingenious inventions listed below know and believe in the potential for change held within their concepts and prototypes.
If taken mainstream, the Hyperloop, 3D printing, the Slingshot water purifier, and virtual reality will likely leave an indelible mark on humanity.
CEO of SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and co-founder of PayPal, Elon Musk, may have masterminded the concept of the futuristic Hyperloop back in 2013, but other companies and businesses have since been hard at work turning his literal pipe dream into reality.
Musk’s theoretical Hyperloop system is comprised of two tubes stretching between Los Angeles and San Francisco, where levitating pods containing passengers are propelled through the tubes at max speeds of 700 mph via air pressure propulsion mechanisms and magnetism.
According to Musk, the Hyperloop is a hybrid between a plane and a train, which glides along using the technology of an air hockey table. Allegedly, the 400-mile commute from L.A. to San Fran would be reduced to just 35 minutes aboard the Hyperloop and could completely alter the future of global travel.
Development of the Hyperloop is speeding along faster than anticipated. On May 11, 2016, in the Nevada Desert, Hyperloop One, an LA-based company working to bring Musk’s vision to life, conducted the first open air public test of its propulsion system which lasted all of 2 seconds. In September, SpaceX began construction of its 1-mile long test track in Hawthorne, CA, and is sponsoring a Pod Design Competition where qualifiers will test their prototypes on the track come January 2017.
Conceptualized in the 1980s by Charles W. Hull, 3D printing technology has advanced greatly in the last few decades.
Today, various 3D printing techniques exist. At the most basic level, 3D printing is a form of “additive layer manufacturing,” a process in which metal, plastic or another material is melted and deposited layer by layer to create a three-dimensional object.
3D printers have already been used to create a car, a five story office building printed in sections, and objects significantly smaller than the eye of a needle, proving that opportunities to create something new exist within this manufacturing technology.
The invention and implementation of 3D printing systems has already influenced the industry of innovation by enhancing the process and feasibility of producing prototypes. It’s estimated that, in the future, 3D printers will become commonplace in households and will produce various medical instruments from hearing aids to artificial organs, and might even accompany NASA’s astronauts on their interplanetary expeditions to create replacement parts and other supplies while suspended in space.
There is not a person alive on this planet that can survive without water. In the United States and other 1st-world countries, access to water is as easy as turning on the tap, but in developing countries around the world, millions of human beings walk miles just to get a drink of clean, safe water.
Measuring about the size of a hotel refrigerator, the Slingshot uses the natural process of vapor distillation compression to purify water poured into the device. Essentially, the water is boiled and then re-liquified at precise temperatures.
In order to function, however, the Slingshot requires electricity. And though it can be hooked up to a diesel generator in the absence of an electrical grid system, power sources of any kind can be few and far between in the most desolate parts of the developing world.
Kamen has proposed a solution for that hurdle as well, with his Stirling Engine that requires only a source of cold and heat to function. In third-world nations, cow dung and/or air suffice.
In a 2014 documentary highlighting Kamen’s innovation, trial runs in rural Ghana show children turning on a tap for the first time in their lives and receiving clean drinking water.
Could this be the future of access to water for everyone?
Mostly affiliated with next-level gaming, virtual reality is on the rise. And though it is hard to pinpoint exactly who first invented the fascinating technology - here are several who’ve contributed to its development over time - it is easy to see why virtual reality is sure to extend far beyond video games and into our everyday lives.
VR headsets like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, offer an immersive 3-D digital experience and utilize hi-tech computer graphics and sensors to detect your head and upper body movements, and then alter what you see and hear accordingly.
Entertainment and recreation are two obvious areas of interest that will be significantly impacted by virtual reality technology, e.g., video gaming, watching movies, and even exercise.
With some foresight and creativity, it’s possible to envision how other aspects of life might be positively influenced down the road. Other useful purposes for VR discussed on the web include military training, virtual travel, communication capabilities, psychotherapy, surgical procedures and training, and even space exploration.
We live in exciting times, where these budding concepts and inventions prove to be only the tip of the iceberg for what lies in store in the ever-changing realm of innovation. Just as we look back and appreciate Gutenberg’s astounding innovation, we may one day look back, too, in admiration of these inventions.
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