2013 may have been a turbulent year financially and politically, but for technological innovation it ranks as one of the best and most exciting 12 months for a long time. It seems that times of trouble breeds inspirational ideas, and there have certainly been plenty of those flying around (and in #5’s case, quite literally!). Let’s take a quick look at the top tech innovations of 2013:
#1 – Plastic Logic’s Papertab
This could quite literally change the face of technology for the average user. Plastic Logic’s aim has been to produce a flexible screen to replace that oh-so-nineties glass screen on your i Pad, laptop or iPhone. And by jingo, they’ve done it! The paper tab is a remarkable piece of technology that’s entirely made of plastic and uses e-ink to produce an image. It’s bendable, crush-able, flexible and any other word ending in ‘-able’ you can think of. It’s got the company excited too, as their CEO Indro Mukerjee explains: “Plastic Logic’s flexible plastic displays are completely transformational in terms of product interaction.”
“At Plastic Logic we are now starting to demonstrate the far-reaching potential of the underlying technology. Our ability to create flexible, transmissive back-planes has led us not only to co-develop a flexible image sensor, but is also key to flexible OLED displays as well as unbreakable LCD s.” That means your old fashioned, rigid screen device that cracks as soon as you ‘accidentally’ sit on it could soon be a thing of the past. Paper tab really does represent the next generation of devices.
#2 – Update-able Retinal Implant
The big medical advance of the year was the fact that the bionic eye has finally become a reality. The Argus Retinal Prosthesis is a retinal implant that helps people to see in the same way that a hearing aid enhances the audio abilities of deaf or hard-of-hearing people. The Argus II was approved and released commercially in the United States in 2013, and has just had a firmware update that allows users to see in color.
#3 – Helium filled hard-drives
Western Digital changed the game in 2013 when it came to data storage technology. Their helium-filled hard drives are filled with helium rather than air, making them far more efficient. They can now cram six terabytes (yes, that’s six terabytes) of capacity into a single drive. However, don’t expect to pop down to your local PC World and pick one up – they’re currently retailing for thousands of dollars and are primarily aimed at cloud-based companies.
#4 – Wearable tech
Google Glass blew people’s minds when it was launched. The concept of AI? (or Augmented Reality) is extraordinary – we’re all part of the Matrix now! Wearable tech is probably going to be the big thing in 2014, and not just for fashion victims, either. With milestone releases that also included the Samsung Galaxy Gear, the Nike+ Fuel band SE and the Pebble Smart-watch, wearable tech has been taken out of the medical and military arenas where it first started life, and onto the high street. There are even rumors that Apple fans will be granted the iWatch in 2014 too. Watch this space…
#5 – Drone technology
Flying off the battlefield and down your street, drones could be buzzing around our heads like oversize wasps in the next couple of years. Drone technology isn’t new, but giant online retailer Amazon has seen a potential use for this tech in our everyday lives – to make deliveries. Courier companies across the globe are up in arms, but the truth is that drone technology is efficient, reliable and it’s entirely possible that in the next few years it could become part of our everyday lives.
#6 – Voice Recognition
Let’s face it – voice recognition is pretty awful. The first version of Siri in 2012 was so bad it was almost funny. But something happened in 2013 and it’s actually now quite good. iPhone’s new version of Siri understands and responds (and even has a sense of humor), Xbox One’s new Kinect has done away with the remote control device forever, and Google’s integrated voice search can even understand regional accents (to a degree).
#7 – 3D printers
Finally, 3D printers really started to make their mark in 2013. Sure, the headlines were dominated by some Jo Blow printing out a 3D gun, but aside from that one incident, 3D printers actually did more good than harm during 2013. The system works, and printers are now capable of producing increasingly complex parts for jets, and even a human embryonic stem cell. 3D printing could transform the future of manufacturing.