It’s a well-known fact that technological progress is happening at a fast clip. Thanks to advances in computing, so many other areas of human endeavour (e.g., energy production, medicine, transportation, space exploration, etc.) have seen great leaps of innovation. But with so much cutting-edge research going on today, one can have trouble keeping pace with the most mind-blowing and life-changing scientific discoveries.
So, let’s take a look at 10 big technological achievements you may have missed in 2018.
1. Using Quantum Computers to Create Particulate Materials
In 2018, Harvard computer scientists successfully used an IBM-designed quantum computer to produce the most complete simulation of a molecule of beryllium hydride. Why is this so important? Because creating tailor-designed particles with specific properties will enable the scientific community to solve many problems at subatomic levels.
2. Lab-Grown Mini Brains
In 2018, a team of researchers at the University of California successfully used stem cells to create ‘mini brains’ in a dish. For the first time in human history, scientists were able to get organoids to spontaneously produce electrical brain waves similar to those in premature infants. This groundbreaking discovery will allow them to study brain development in babies and better understand such congenital diseases as epilepsy.
3. Instant Translation Earbuds
Understanding languages spoken by people worldwide is an age-old problem. Over the decades, many tools and solutions have been created with varying degrees of success. However, one of the most elegant solutions yet was released in 2018 by Waverly Labs. It’s Pilot smart earbuds are capable of performing the bilingual translation in real time in over 40 languages.
Google, in its turn, came up with its Pixel earbuds which it says are capable of real-time language translation. The device takes its name from Babel fish, a yellow alien in the highly popular comic science fiction novels ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ which could perform instant translations.
4. Carbon-Free Natural Gas
This might easily sound like the grandest contradiction or oxymoron you’ve ever come across. But what we mean by ‘carbon-free natural gas’ is that as of mid-2018, it became possible to refine natural gas without releasing any carbon gases in the process. This technological feat was accomplished by Net Power, a US energy company which fired up its natural gas power plant in May 2018.
Given that fossil fuels account for about 80% of global energy consumption, the importance of this technological milestone can hardly be overestimated. The devastating impact of global carbon emissions on our planet manifests itself in global warming and its resulting problems.
5. Advanced AI Services in the Cloud
Artificial intelligence is unquestionably a new frontier of technology that will transform our lives in ways we can’t comprehend yet. Tech giants like IBM, Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, and even national governments, have been investing heavily in AI research. Since further progress in this area is impossible without strong computing and performance capabilities, it is often an expensive endeavor for the average researcher, developer, business, or custom paper writers.
However, that is changing thanks to companies like Google, Microsoft, and IBM that are making cloud-based AI tools and computing infrastructure. The increasingly intense competition between Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Service we witnessed in 2018 means that regular consumers and businesses will benefit from reduced prices and advanced AI solutions over the next few years.
The Frigondas is a food appliance that was commercially released in 2018 by a Spanish company bearing the same name. The device is described as being capable of freezing and heating food items.
But what makes it truly outstanding is its cost-effectiveness. With its ‘instant cooling and microwave technology’, the appliance can freeze objects and chill drinks 15 times faster than a traditional freezer. Having an inbuilt microwave means that food products can be warmed or heated without the need to buy a microwave oven. The clear edge of this device is that it saves its users substantial amounts of money and is much smaller than expensive refrigerators or ‘instant freezers.
In recognition of its innovation, the company received the 2018 CES Global Innovation Award in home appliances.
7. Expanding Growth in 3D Printing
As a technology, 3D printing has been in use since 2018. But much of its application involved the use of non-metal materials like plastic polymers. Also, few 3D printing equipment suppliers had the required APIs, while some companies opted to have their own proprietary standards.
However, with the arrival of cost-effective 3D metal extrusion printers and the adoption of open technical standards like the MTConnect 3D printing became even more readily available. Markforged and Desktop Metal brought to market affordable 3D metal printing solutions, with HP following the suit later in 2018. 3D metal extrusion printers not only save time but also decrease printing costs, thus producing more stable and detailed metal prints.
8. Robots Becoming Dexterous
One of the biggest challenges in humanoid robotics is getting robots to execute human-like motions. And that primarily applies to visible parts of the body such as eyes, skin, and fingers.
For robots to truly manipulate objects, they need to have a lot of freedom and ability to perform fine-coordinated movements. Fortunately, advances in reinforced learning and neural networks made accomplishing that task quite feasible. Availability of cloud-based AI services has also played a role in making AI technologies available to researchers.
9. Perfecting Digital Privacy
Security and privacy are perpetual issues in the digital world. For many years, companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies have invested enormous amounts of time and financial resources into the development of effective digital privacy solutions.
In cryptography, a field that has recently become popular thanks to the boom in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, powerful protocols like zero-knowledge proof have been deployed to protect the identity and personal information. Although a zero-knowledge proof has been researched for years, it wasn’t until 2018 that we saw this elegant privacy solution being adopted on a mass scale. To a great degree, the protocol owes its increased popularity to Zcash cryptocurrency with its zk-SNARK protocol. What makes it such a big hit with the cryptocurrency community is that it allows users to transact anonymously through a series of shielded transactions.
10. Space Exploration Breakthroughs
There was a whole bunch of important space-related accomplishments in 2018. Sitting firmly at the top of that list is SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket on February 6, 2018. It was a significant event not only because it was the most powerful rocket developed by a private company but also because it carried a modified Tesla Roadster which it’s supposed to put into an elliptical orbit between Earth and Mars. Founded by Elon Musk, the company is set to reuse the massive launch vehicle in April 2019.
Another feat was the 2018 discovery of Neptmoon, a moon about the size of Neptune orbiting a Saturn-sized planet located some 8,000 light-years away from Earth. A successful landing of NASA’s Insight Lander on Mars on November 26, 2018, was another major milestone.
To sum up, if you’re into all things tech, you are probably aware of a number of other important achievements that didn’t make it to our list. So, stay tuned for more exciting stuff from us!