Happy (almost) 2011! 2010 has been a fun year in tech, especially when it comes to future tech. This year we saw a number of exciting, useful, and in some cases, downright weird new technologies emerge. We haven't quite reached Back to the Future Part II's vision of the 21st Century, but, well, we're getting there. Without further ado, here's our top eight future-tech developments of 2010, in no particular order...
The Star Trek Replicator Is (Sort of) Real
3D printers may still be a novelty, but that might not be the case for long. This year we spotted a car built entirely out of 3D-printed parts, 3D-printed glassware, a 3D printer upgraded with 3D-printed parts, and even 3D-printed food! But perhaps the most disconcerting 3D-printing development was a robot that built robots using a 3D printer--clearly, robots just don't need us humans any longer. The next thing you know, they'll be trumping human intelligence.
Biotech and computer science collided numerous times in 2010. Will future computers be powered by DNA? Might E.Coli store your digital photos in the future? Or perhaps it'll solve your Sudoku puzzles for you? Not impressed? Just wait until rat neurons power robots. Oh wait...
We Are Borg.
OK...maybe we're not Borg just yet, but human-machine integration is closer than ever. A New Zealand company developed a set of bionic legs that'll let wheelchair users walk again, But exoskeletons are only part of the equation: Researchers are working on mind-controlled exoskeletons. And thanks to developments at UCLA and Canadian company Interaxon, we could be moving closer to telekinesis of sorts. Of course, if you want to try mind-controlled tech for yourself, you can give NeuroSky's gaming headset a try, or control your iPhone using XWave.
HTML5: This Revolution Will Be Online
2010 was the year where we really started to see what HTML5 is really capable of. We saw HTML5 used for everything from gaming to video to Web-based drawing apps. Some musicians even created some very cool HTML5-based interactive music videos. Like every new technology, there are things that still need to be hashed out. In the case of HTML5, there's still debate over which video format to use. And we're seeing how HTML5 can be misused to track your Web browsing habits.
In any case, watch this space; HTML5 is just getting started.
Who needs 3D Glasses?
It's hard to say whether 3D HDTV may be a passing fad or have long-term staying power, but that hasn't stopped the development of autostereoscopic 3D displays in 2010. These screens can display a 3D image without forcing you to weak dorky glasses. You likely won't find an autostereoscopic 42-inch LCD HDTV in stores anytime soon, but the technology is finding a place in smaller devices such as smartphones and tablets. Nintendo is also using the technology in its upcoming Nintendo 3DS portable gaming console.
Holograms: Because 3D Isn't Enough
But why settle for 3D when you can have holograms? In 2010, as part of its bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Japan proposed broadcasting the games in holographic form. Sadly, Japan's World Cup bid fell short, but we could still see holographic TVs sometime in the next ten years. Until then, we'll just have to settle for holographic pop stars...
Is There Anything Graphene Can't Do?
Maybe we're overstating graphene's capabilities here--it can't make you breakfast--but this wonder material made waves in 2010. Thanks to graphene transistors, nanobubbles, and so-called "spin computers," future gadgets could end up being a whole lot more poweful, and they might charge more quickly, too.
Did we mention that graphene helped two British win a Nobel Prize?
The Car of the Future
What's a future-tech story without the obligatory mention of the car of the future? If 2010's developments are any indication, it'll drive itself, run Google software, obey your commands, and be powered by coffee. KITT, eat your heart out.
What will the future hold? What will 2011 bring? That's anyone's guess, but feel free to make your own predictions in the comments.
This story, "The Top 8 Future-Tech Stories of 2010" was originally published by PCWorld.