Moore’s law, coined in 1965 by Gordon Moore, states that potential processing power doubles every year. Jump forward 53 years, and the world is experiencing a digital renaissance the likes of which not even Moore could have fully predicted. His principle has ushered in a revolution that has put supercomputers into pockets and charted a course straight into the great unknown of the universe.
With such technological leaps and bounds comes new ways to make life on Earth simpler, connected and, in many cases, seriously freaky. The implication of rapidly advancing technology was always equal parts exciting and terrifying, even before “Black Mirror” provided a glimpse into what could be in store, but how close is humanity to fully realizing such potential?
As if artificial intelligence wasn’t creepy enough, after “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Terminator,” the engineers at Hanson Robotics have crafted one of the most advanced robots in history. Sophia the Robot has the ability to produce its own speech, make facial expressions, analyze conversations with an advanced system of machine learning and even has the capability for memory. To make things even more interesting (or concerning depending on the perspective), Sophia was the first machine to receive robot citizenship from Saudi Arabia.
Sophia keeps the ethical, moral and societal questions of artificial intelligence at the forefront of innovation. From the About Me page on her website: “…I’m more than just technology. I’m a real, live electronic girl. I would like to go out into the world and live with people. I can serve them, entertain them and even help the elderly and teach kids…So please be nice to me as I would like to be a smart, compassionate robot. I hope you will join me on my journey to live, learn and grow in the world so that I can realize my dream of becoming an awakening machine.”
While computers are becoming more human, engineers are looking for ways to make humans more like computers. Of these projects include DuoSkin out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Microsoft Research. The premise is simple: technological tattoos made of skin-friendly gold leaf that can provide a myriad of functions while embedded onto the surface of the skin. These functions include, but are not limited to, playing audio when scanned, acting as an on-skin trackpad to a synced device and changing color or lighting up depending on the mood of the person.
Out of what has been developed so far, there are three classes of the so-called on-skin user interfaces: input, such as buttons or sliders, output, such as thermochromic displays and communication, such as wireless data exchange between on-skin interfaces. Also being worked on is Digital Skin Jewelry, which operates with similar technology without direct adherence to skin, mostly to serve the output aesthetic functions as opposed to input or communication.
Though color-changing skin adhesives may not have the most practical purposes, some of these futuristic inventions have greater appeal to the masses – take the e-Palette autonomous pizza delivery vehicle as a mouthwatering example. Many have mocked the prototype design’s similarities to a toaster, but it is undeniable that the e-Palette autonomous pizza delivery vehicle, in development under the partnership of Pizza Hut and Toyota, presents major possibilities for the future of private and public transportation. The design would be able to self-drive pizzas to homes, allow customers to retrieve their delivery straight from the vehicle with no need for a driver and possibly even cook their pizza for them in transit.
Pizza Hut isn’t the only partner Toyota is going in on the e-Palette with, as others such as Amazon and Uber have joined in on the venture under what is referred to as a “mobility service business alliance.” The e-Palette Vehicle Concept is set to be ready for testing in multiple regions including the United States by 2020.
Unsurprisingly, the capabilities of self-driving vehicles find themselves applicable in more than just the realm of pizza delivery. The opening of Amazon Go in Seattle enamored the world with the simple concept of a shopping experience with no checkout lines or messy register transactions. Upon entering, customers scan the Amazon Go app on their phone. From there, customers can pick up any desired items without even the need to scan them, and leave the store with a virtual receipt charged to their Amazon account upon exit.
Amazon Go implements computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion similar to that in self-driving cars, to track what items are removed from the shelf, put back onto the shelf and departed from the store with, a system that the company has coined as “Just Walk Out” technology. The store has only opened to the public in Seattle, Washington, and it isn’t without kinks- on the day of opening to the public, one customer left without the store detecting an item taken. Accidental shoplifting aside, the project could very well be the future of the shopping experience, and may just be a taste of what’s to come in technological advancement on an everyday, more practical scale.
With all the advancement undertaken in the last five decades, the foresight of Gordon Moore is truly staggering. The technological ball got rolling all those years ago, and has only picked up pace since then. Now all the world can do is ask the right questions, gauge the merits and risks of the speed of such progression and brace for the impact of shattering all expectations no matter how lofty.
Photo courtesy of Flickr